Freight brokers want truck safety scores removed from Web

“Today’s CSA is not only unreliable, but is proven useless for commercial carrier selection purposes,” said TIA Chairman Jeff Tucker, CEO of Tucker Company Worldwide. “Worse yet, accident-chasing lawyers have maligned CSA by misinterpreting scores in order to line their pockets, at the expense of good businesses,” Tucker said in a statement. At question are five Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category percentiles or “scores,” commonly called BASICs, awarded to carriers based on roadside inspection data. The publicly available BASICs include Unsafe Driving, Hours-of-Service Compliance, Driver Fitness, Vehicle Maintenance and Controlled Substances (drugs)/Alcohol.

Since 2010, these BASICs have been posted on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website and released through other means, such as a mobile FMCSA app. The system was designed to help regulators quickly identify bad truck and bus operators, and to provide a dynamic basis for a new safety fitness rating determination system.

However, groups from TIA and the American Trucking Associations to the U.S. Government Accountability Office have questioned CSA’s methodology and the accuracy of its data. “Specifically, GAO has noted that (roadside inspection) data quality is inconsistent as states vary on inspection and enforcement practices,” the TIA said during its annual meeting here. “GAO has recommended that FMCSA revise its SMS methodology, to at least account for limitations in available performance information,” the association said in a statement.

CSA, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s key truck safety initiative, got its start in 2005 under the Bush administration and has evolved rapidly under the Obama White House. The program, along with hours-of-service reform and electronic logging, became part of former FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro’s plans to focus truck safety regulation on driver behavior. But 10 years in, the system remains a work in progress, and the FMCSA has yet to launch a rule-making that would create new motor carrier safety ratings based on the CSA data. Meanwhile, the publicly available BASIC data are being interpreted, against the FMCSA’s direct warnings, as safety ratings in courts across the nation, the TIA told its members here.

The public CSA scores — which the FMCSA insists are percentiles, not scores — have been “manipulated and misused in litigation and as tools for carrier selection,” the TIA said. “FMCSA conduct has exacerbated this challenge, as the agency continues to urge segments of the public to use CSA scores for purposes for which they were not intended.” The organization is promoting legislation that would establish a national “hiring standard” for shippers and brokers contracting trucking operators to protect against negligence claims.