FMCSA, CSA, and the FAST Act
So first of all…what are all the acronyms? FMCSA stands for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA operates within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and aims to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities related to large trucks. They are responsible for things like rule issuances, safety regulations, hazardous materials regulations, providing educational materials to carriers and the public, and so forth (read more about the FMCSA here).
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is the new highway bill signed into law by President Obama on 12/4/15. According to the DOT, it is the first law in over ten years that secures long-term funding for projects involving surface transportation, such as new highways, transit lines, and any other “critical transportation project” (more on that here).
As part of the requirements contained within the law, the FMCSA pulled the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) Safety Measurement Scores (SMS) from public view, including carriers’ BASIC safety analyses and evaluations.
So, CSA SMS scores aren’t public anymore. What’s the big deal?
CSA is FMCSA’s safety compliance and enforcement program. In a nutshell, the CSA program is the method by which motor carriers are measured and evaluated to determine their rank within defined safety-related categories. It also determines the interventions necessary to improve the unsafe carrier’s safety concerns, or remove the carrier from operation altogether.
Shippers and other entities could view a carrier’s CSA SMS scores and inspection/violation data as part of a process to determine the carrier’s level of safety and ultimately to determine if they are a good fit to hire for their shipment needs.
The decision to remove CSA SMS scores from public view stems from discussions surrounding the applicability of the interpretations (scoring/ranking) of the FMCSA and whether they are a clear indicator of the safety (or lack of safety) of carriers. For example, if a crash is reported, what are the circumstances surrounding the crash? Was it the driver’s fault or was it out of the driver’s control? Is each instance valued differently depending on the driver’s role in the crash?
Some data is still allowed to be viewed publicly, like inspection violations, but FMCSA has decided to remove the scoring/ranking from view until validation can be determined and applicable changes can be implemented.
FMCSA Listening Sessions
With the removal of these safety scores from public view, the FMCSA is required to develop and implement a new incentive program for carriers as an attempt to put safety compliance more so back in the hands of the carriers themselves. Carriers who voluntarily employ certain safety measures and operations to make their trucks safer on the roads will receive credit, either back towards their SMS scores or some other CSA program (yet to be determined).
The Commerical Carrier Journal describes the possible credit options available for carriers as outlined in the bill’s text:
- install advanced safety equipment
- use enhanced driver fitness measures
- adopt fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs
- or satisfy an as-yet-unspecified set of other “standards determined appropriate by the Administrator”
- open credit possibilities (to be determined)
However, this idea of voluntary carrier compliance is becoming more and more of a controversial subject. For example, some carriers believe that just because you have electronic devices installed in your trucks (the cost of which can take quite a toll on smaller companies), that doesn’t automatically mean you are a “safe” carrier. The concern is that carriers that are not actually safe on the roads are receiving credits for installed safety devices in their trucks while still causing crashes and receiving speeding violations.
In order to field concerns and hear from drivers and carriers on the subject, the FMCSA will be holding two listening sessions that are open for public commentary and Q&A (see the six questions on which FMCSA is seeking input in this Land Line Magazine article).
The sessions will be held:
- Tuesday, Jan. 12 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Ky., from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 31 from 2-4 p.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta
Both listening sessions will be webcast live. Details about the webcast and how to participate will be posted to fmcsa.dot.gov before the listening sessions.
There are still measures that can be taken in order to determine a carrier’s safety and risk without the public CSA SMS scores, but the new FMCSA incentive program will provide some critical changes in determining which carriers are allowed to operate on the roads.
If you’d like to share your opinion on the program, you can send a comment to the FMCSA by searching Docket No. FMCSA-2015-0124 at www.regulations.gov
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