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Ferro disputes ATA claims, says FMCSA responsive to trucking concerns

Ferro said nothing had changed from a 2010 commitment by the agency to listen to all compliments, concerns and recommendations about CSA and to make sure that carriers had time to preview changes before they were released for public viewing.

By Lyndon Finney
The Trucker Staff

5/23/2012

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro has taken strong exception to an allegation by the American Trucking Associations that the agency had recently become unresponsive to suggestions about ways to improve the Compliance Safety Accountability program.

“One of the hallmarks of the CSA program is that we have been very open about what we are doing and about accepting input from industry stakeholders, law enforcement and drivers,” Ferro told The Trucker late Tuesday while she waited for a flight to Washington. “The preview period under way now embodies proposed changes recommended by the trucking industry.”

The ATA’s concerns about CSA were released Tuesday following a meeting of the organization’s leadership at St. Petersburg, Fla., which did acknowledge previous cooperation

“From the outset, ATA has supported FMCSA’s efforts to improve its enforcement capabilities through CSA,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a prepared statement. “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.”

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The statement did not elaborate on how the FMCSA had failed to respond recently.

Ferro said nothing had changed from a 2010 commitment by the agency to listen to all compliments, concerns and recommendations about CSA and to make sure that carriers had time to preview changes before they were released for public viewing.

The preview period now under way includes major changes in the Vehicle Maintenance and Hazardous Materials BASICs.

“We removed the load securement violations from the cargo related BASIC and incorporated them into the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, strengthening the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC by better identifying carriers for intervention,” she said. “Once the load securement violations were removed from the Cargo BASIC, the remaining violations were hazardous materials violations resulting in a new BASIC – the Hazardous Materials BASIC. We think the HazMat BASIC is working by serving as a good predictor of compliance problems and future violations. These violations can result in increased risk to our emergency responders and increased consequences from CMV crashes.”

Ferro said the agency also aligned violations included in the SMS with CVSA inspection levels by eliminating vehicle violations derived from driver-only inspections and driver violations from vehicle-only inspections to ensure uniformity in the data.

Following the leadership meeting, the ATA 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., 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.

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.

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

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