ATA Voices Criticism With FMCSA's CSA Accountability Program

by Jana Ritter - Published: 2/06/2014

The American Trucking Associations has publicly addressed their concern with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s inaccurate self-assessment of its Compliance, Safety Accountability program. The ATA is criticizing the FMSCA for an overly rosy self-portrait a few days after an independent review found serious flaws with the agency's safety monitoring and measurement system.

Fmcsa meeting

ATA's judgment was backed by the very researchers FMCSA had contracted with to peer review the study. One characterized the nature of the analysis as "limited" and said it "does not necessarily serve the purpose of determining the effectiveness of the [system]".  Though the report boldly claims that the analyses provide solid evidence that the system is "improving safety and compliance," a second reviewer pointed out there is no evidence to support this conclusion and urged the authors of the study "to revise the conclusions to reflect the realistic inference that can be made from their various analyses."

While downplaying several findings that would call CSA's effectiveness into question,

FMCSA's self-assessment concluded that CSA was an improvement upon the agency's previous carrier assessment tool - SafeStat. For instance, the FMCSA assessment mirrored GAO's findings with respect to the limited amount of data available on smaller carriers, and despite the fact that fleets with 5 or fewer trucks represented 75% of the carriers in the study, the authors acknowledged that there is very little available safety information on these carriers to "make a meaningful safety assessment." Most importantly, the report acknowledged that while the aggregated CSA data may be helpful for enforcement purposes, it can be misleading with respect to assessing the performance of individual carriers. In fact, 93 percent of the carriers monitored in the study had no crashes.

"While we support the aims and objectives of CSA, it is important to accurately assess the program and its shortcomings in a balanced and honest fashion," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "Just because CSA is an improvement over previous programs does not make it a 'good' program for assessing the safety performance of individual carriers as the Government Accountability Office demonstrated earlier this week. The report demonstrated that if you compare the performance of the relatively few fleets that have scores in the system against other carriers, including those with minimal data in the system or no scores, you can paint a positive picture of the program," said Graves.

"ATA continues to support FMCSA's efforts to rid our nation's highways of unsafe carriers, but the concerns independent researchers, the GAO and ATA have raised show that while CSA may be a modestly better tool for enforcement prioritization, it can and must be improved," Graves concluded.