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ATA calls on FMCSA to make changes in CSA, says agency becoming unresponsive

ATA’s board and members said the unreliability of CSA scores, the loose or, at times, inverse connection to crash risk, as well as FMCSA’s unwillingness to frankly discuss the program's weaknesses is very troubling and needs to be addressed.

The Trucker News Services

5/22/2012

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The board of directors of American Trucking Associations late Tuesday afternoon called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make changes to its safety-monitoring system Compliance Safety Accountability.

“From the outset, ATA has supported FMCSA’s efforts to improve its enforcement capabilities through CSA,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Through CSA’s development and implementation the agency had been responsive to suggestions and made an effort to improve the program as needed.  However, recently our members have become concerned that the agency has become increasingly unresponsive, even in the face of data and logic.”

ATA’s board and members said the unreliability of CSA scores, the loose or, at times, inverse connection to crash risk, as well as FMCSA’s unwillingness to frankly discuss the program's weaknesses is very troubling and needs to be addressed.

“We are all concerned with safety and agree that FMCSA should do everything in its power to enforce the rules,” ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England, Salt Lake City, said. “However, it is becoming increasingly clear that parts of the program are in need of serious revision — particularly before FMCSA begins using them to generate publicly available fitness scores.”

Among the issues ATA has identified for reform are: crash accountability, the lack of research proving increased crash risk for all of CSA's various violation categories and the publication of carriers' scores in those categories.

“If it were improved, CSA could be a powerful tool to improve trucking's already impressive safety record,” said Michael Card, president, Combined Transport Inc., of Central Point, Ore. “That is a goal ATA can clearly support, but if FMCSA continues to insist on pressing forward with the program without addressing industry's concerns, ATA will have no choice but to explore all avenues of ensuring the program is improved to actually meet its stated, and worthy, objectives.”

A spokesperson for the FMCSA said in March that the agency still is planning to develop a crash accountability initiative that would examine the responsibility associated with crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, but has determined that several critical areas of such an initiative will require further study.

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The agency commented then on the initiative in response to ATA’s leadership expressing a concern over what they believed to be a recent decision to continue to hold the trucking industry responsible in its CSA program for every truck-involved crash, including those which the truck driver could not have prevented.

At the time, the ATA cited pressure from anti-truck groups as the reason for the current status of the FMCSA’s crash accountability standards.

Before a crash accountability initiative could be implemented, the FMCSA said there needed to be a uniform process for making crash determinations and reviewing police accident reports. The agency also wants to ensure public input in the development process.

 “As a result, FMCSA will continue to thoroughly examine these issues as it sharpens CSA as a safety enforcement tool,” an agency spokesperson said.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, an FMCSA spokesperson was checking to see if agency officials would have any comment on Tuesday’s announcement by ATA.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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