The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) compliance, safety, and data (CSA) tracking system has been criticized for its inability to accurately evaluate individual drivers and rate carrier safety.
While the program aims to pinpoint safety violations, crashes, and other roadside data, it currently accounts for incidents that inaccurately represent driver and carrier safety. This can include the truck being hit while motionless or unoccupied and other events where the driver is not at fault. This information affects which companies that shippers, consumers, and enterprises choose to hire.
How the Current CSA System Works
The five-year-old system currently tracks data based on BASICs (behavior, analysis, and safety improvement categories) as well as crash involvement. While congress is being urged to re-evaluate the effectiveness of this accountability system, it currently aims to identify safety problems and advise carriers and drivers not only of the occurrence of these issues, but how to improve safety data and prevent future problems. This works in the following ways:
- Data from roadside inspections, safety violations, crashes, injuries, and fatalities is assessed alongside motor carrier census information. This can track the frequency and severity of incidents and violations.
- Using this information, the FMCSA implements Safety Measurement System (SMS) Scores to track behavior and bring the carrier’s and driver’s attention to issues. This can manifest as a letter of warning, inspections, or audits. In the event that these countermeasures fail to improve SMS scores, the carrier may be forced to cease operations.
Currently, the process for improving CSA scores (even those with misrepresented data) includes the following:
- Addressing consistent problems. Violations and compliance information will need to be checked against driver behavior or vehicle conditions.
- Showing agreement. Companies under review will need to take advantage of the training and counseling recommended by CSA reports.
- Taking initiative. Carriers should stringently track driver and vehicle data on their own. Making preemptive efforts to keep vehicles functioning and drivers at the top of their games can help, but of course, this will not fix the SMS scoring problem currently being debated.
With SMS scoring systems relying on data related to any and all incidents, and currently accounting for so much data beyond the driver’s or carrier’s fault, the American Trucking Association (ATA) is pleading that congress revise how CSA scores are collected.
According to the ATA, the FMCSA has limited resource with which to audit trucking companies. With a restricted ability to screen companies, refocusing on how roadside information is collected and which enterprises are evaluated will enable a more effective and efficient process, and ultimately, safer roads for everyone.
Unfortunately, data solutions relying on the current CSA scoring system are proving difficult. Apps and similar methods of publishing SMS safety data, such as QCMobile, present the problem of simply spreading inaccurate information. Therefore, it may be necessary to implement change at a grass roots’ level, applying what the ATA has deemed “common sense” solutions.
Possible Data Solutions
The key to eliminating specious info and separating causation from correlation relies on accurately collecting roadside data and implementing a system to more comprehensively evaluate the factors at play. While safety violations still need to be tracked and reduced, it is important to account for incidents that do not penalize a faultless driver.