Potential Audit for CSA Program

The CSA truck safety program, an initiative to improve large truck safety and decrease commercial motor vehicle collisions, is coming under fire this week. Congress has requested an audit and a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advisory group is instigating a review of the program.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, questioned the reliability and accuracy of the CSA rating system. Testimony at a recent congressional hearing revealed the current CSA system may not rate carrier performance accurately. DeFazio requested Inspector General Calvin Scovel of the Department of Transportation to perform an audit no later than August 1, 2013.

Rob Abbot, vice president of safety policy at the American Trucking Association (ATA), is calling for the CSA to acknowledge where it falls short in its evaluations so that it can move forward with improvements. As a result, the CSA subcommittee, which is part of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), will work on an investigative process in order to outline definitive recommendations that will be presented to the FMCSA.

Eyes are on the FMCSA as they propose new safety fitness rules, expected early next year. The new rules will utilize CSA scores to determine a carrier's safety and right to operate.

Below is a summary of the questions that should be answered by Scovel's audit and the goals of the subcommittee.

What Questions Will the Department of Transportation Audit Answer?

  • Do active carriers have enough information to calculate scores in all the performance categories?
  • What is the correlation between CSA scores and crash risk across all categories?
  • What is the relationship between violation weights and crash risk and severity?
  • Has the CSA been transparent about severity weights data?
  • Do scores reflect a carrier's safety, especially in relation to shipper use of CSA information in making business decisions?

What is the Purpose of the Subcommittee?

The subcommittee was set up with the purpose of looking into CSA issues and making suggestions for improvement to the full committee. It is part of the MCSAC, which is made up of 19 professionals from industry, community organizations, and various labor and safety advocacy groups. The purpose of the MCSAC is to serve in an advisory role to the FMCSA.

The subcommittee's goal at this time is to formulate an effective approach that will be used to evaluate the CSA's problems. Subcommittee Chairman David Parker suggested the group view the CSA as a valuable program that simply needs improvement. He urged the need for compromise and suggested the subcommittee start by evaluating the questions posed by Rep. DeFazio.

Vice President of safety at Con-Way Freight Robert Pentracosta suggested the subcommittee start by identifying the CSA's primary objective. He asserts that the program emerged as a way to prevent collisions, but has evolved into an accountability measure.

The subcommittee is continuing to work this week to prepare a preliminary report.


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