FMCSA Incorporates Changes to Controversial CSA Program

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Transportation policy continues to evolve

By Matthew Wrobel, Foley Carrier Services

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program continues to cause controversy. This March, FMCSA announced a series of changes to the program that, over the last few years, has become the Agency’s flagship safety measurement and reporting tool.

In March, the FMCSA announced a number of additions to the serious violations list. This “system within the system” gives FMCSA the ability to flag the most egregious breaches of the regulations. If a motor carrier is discovered to have a Serious Violation, that carrier will be listed on the CSA site for 12 months as a result. In addition, the motor carrier faces an increase in their BASIC score—which stands for Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories—the individual measurements of different areas of the regulations that FMCSA publishes as a “score.”

The violations added were actually applied retroactively. The new serious violation criteria were applied to the regulations going back to February 1, 2015. That means a violation committed before the list was published but after February 1 would be counted as a serious violation.

Note that these regulations have been on the books for a long time and are simply being upgraded within the CSA system. The list below includes descriptions of the new Serious Violations in the Safety Measurement System and the BASICs score to which they relate.

  • 704 (a)(4) – Failing to provide security awareness training, Hazardous Materials Compliance
  • 704 (a)(5) – Failing to provide in-depth security awareness training, Hazardous Materials Compliance
  • 37 (c) – Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing an employee with more than one commercial driver’s license to operate a commercial motor vehicle, Driver Fitness
  • 3 (a)(3)(i) – Requiring or permitting a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle driver to drive more than 11 hours, Hours of Service Compliance
  • 3 (a)(3)(ii) – Requiring or permitting a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle driver to drive if less than 8 hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes, Hours of Service Compliance

New CSA Mobile App

In a further development, FMCSA on March 17 announced a new smartphone app for roadside inspectors that provides safety data on interstate commercial truck and bus companies. QueryCentralMobile, referred to as QCMobile, is a tool for state and federal law enforcement officials, as well as insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders and others interested in the safety performance of motor carriers.

QCMobile requires no log-in. It immediately reveals whether the federal operating status of the carrier is authorized while expediting an “inspect/pass” decision made by a certified commercial vehicle safety inspector. QCMobile retrieves data from FMCSA sources and provides a clear summary of the results. There’s also an option to receive more detailed information on carriers covering their seven BASICs.

Concerns Surround the CSA Program

There is no denying that the CSA system is controversial. In the trucking and bus sphere as well as in the wider transportation world—including oil and energy—there are increasingly loud voices against the system. While FMCSA has thus far resisted the pressure to change CSA, legislation to rebuild the program is being introduced, with main goals of improving safety while enhancing the regulator-industry relationship. This legislation is focused on safety technology and best industry practices.

One key area of concern for many, especially transporters of hazardous materials who pay a high premium for insurance, is the debate over crash-fault listings. The CSA program has received extensive criticism regarding the accident fault controversy and whether there might be a better way to develop a safety partnership.

Currently, FMCSA includes all crashes in the motor carriers’ CSA scores, regardless of who was at fault. This has been called a serious shortcoming of the CSA program, especially with the unveiling of the new QCMobile app and the increased use of CSA data by insurers and other industry players. FMCSA has repeatedly been asked about this system in Congress. Thus far, the Agency has insisted that it has the data to prove a correlation between accidents for any reason and increased safety violations. It claims that the system being kept as is is critical for the ongoing policing of industry safety. FMCSA has resources to audit only 16,000 companies each year, which is about 3 percent of the entire motor carrier population.

Critics, including several members of Congress, argue that simple involvement in an accident does not indicate a higher chance of the motor carrier crashing in the future. Fault must be assessed in order for that sort of relationship to be deemed accurate.

Currently, it appears that a fundamental change in the CSA system is at the most likely point since the program was started in 2010. That change, however, if indeed it comes at all, will come from the dictate of Congress, not from FMCSA alone. What form that change would take remains unknown, but 2015 is maybe the year we finally see reform to what is one of the most divisive institutions in the transportation industry.

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