Could it be that the future of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, otherwise known as the CSA program, is in doubt? This Obama-era rule was designed to radically alter how US trucking regulations are enforced. Yet, it could now be in danger of losing its bite.
As of last week, US regulators essentially scrapped a rule that would have been the essential part of what gives the CSA program its regulatory muscle.
The notice, published in the Federal Register, by the FMCSA, withdrew the proposal that was issued in January of 2016 to create a new safety fitness determination system. The system was essentially designed to assign specific safety ratings to trucking companies, which would in turn govern whether or not they could operate.
So, what happens now? In essence, the CSA program is now on a hold until the National Academy of Sciences revisits CSA’s methodology and data. Depending on the outcome of the report, CSA could be significantly changed. This follows years of complaints from nearly every industry-trade group and participant who operates within its guidelines.
But what were the main sticking points? Among shippers and brokers, the main problem was a fear that vicarious liability lawsuits would target them for hiring “unsafe carriers” and rely on CSA data to do it.
While CSA scores have been removed from public view, shippers still feared that regulators weren’t clearly spelling out what their responsibility should be in light of the rulemaking.
What Was Supposed to Happen
The SFD rule was initially designed to increase safety investigations on part of the FMCSA. But trucking groups, including the American Trucking Associations, argued that the data was unsound.
The problem that resulted in the CSA rulemaking was that a large number of brokers – up to two-thirds of them – had no safety rating at all. Not having CSA in place could lead to shippers not having a clear determination on who they should or shouldn’t use when it comes to hiring a broker.
Many report that they don’t have a problem with the CSA program specifically, just how it is currently designed. Many refer to working with the program as nothing more than reading tea leaves. So, what’s the problem? Most refer to a “flawed foundation” of data related to trucking violations. Considering the data is applied from across a wide range and over a number of states, they argue there are inconsistences in the numbers.
A Request Was Made
The process of removing CSA’s effectiveness came when a number of industry groups petitioned the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, to amend the rulemaking.
Now that the proposed rule has been removed, it doesn’t mean that CSA is gone altogether. The proposed rule leaves in place the system of assigning a rating, although once the NAS has completed their review, that too could change.
What isn’t clear is how the program will evolve over the years. CSA got its start under the administration of George W. Bush, but grew under the Obama administration and went live across the country in 2010.
The fact is, the NAS report will ultimately determine how the system will be changed over the coming years. Until then, the FMCSA will wait, stating that they are not close to finalizing a rule, instead content to wait for the NAS to finish their analysis.
As the FMCSA determines what the changes will be, trucking companies will have to work under a system under constant flux. Whether you agree with the decisions made by various political administrations, the constant change certainly doesn’t make anything easier.