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Conflicting Reports Study CSA Accuracy, Fairness

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Conflicting Reports Study CSA Accuracy, Fairness

Days following the release of a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed significant flaws in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its own study findings to the contrary.

The GAO report, “Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers,” supports many of the objections cited by the program’s critics, including: Inconsistency between states’ inspection and enforcement practices; Weak association of Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores to crash risk; Indications that a minority of carriers in a single SMC group are responsible for all crashes in that group; among other concerns.

“SMS is intended to provide a safety measure for individual carriers, and FMCSA has not demonstrated relationships between groups of violations and the risk that an individual motor carrier will crash,” the GAO report stated.

Leaders at American Trucking Associations (ATA) praised the GAO review as “comprehensive, thoughtful and balanced,” and called on the agency to make immediate changes to the program.

“Since scores are so often unreliable, third parties are prone to making erroneous judgments based on inaccurate data, an inequity that can only be solved in the near term by removing the scores from public view,” says Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy.

Following the release of the GAO findings, the FMCSA published a study that was conducted by the Volpe Center, the research arm of the U.S. Transportation Department. Both were launched nationally in 2010 to identify and prioritize motor carriers that pose the highest threat to public safety for enforcement interventions.

Researchers analyzed the association between a carrier’s history and its future crash involvement by taking two years of pre-SMS safety data for a group of carriers, applying their risk-indicator formula and then following those companies’ crash records for 18 months.

“Results show thatÉ79 percent of the carriers that SMS would have ranked as high risk in at least one of the seven safety categories it monitors, had higher future crash rates compared to those it would not have identified,” FMCSA said.

The American Trucking Associations criticized the FMCSA for “issuing an overly rosy self-assessment” of CSA following the GAO report.

ATA noted the FMCSA assessment mirrored GAOÕs findings with respect to the limited amount of data available on smaller carriers, and despite the fact that fleets with five or fewer trucks represented 75 percent 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.”

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