Release crash accountability study results, ATA asks regulator
Currently, the agency’s motor carrier safety-monitoring and measurement system — Compliance, Safety, Accountability — ranks carriers based on all truck-involved crashes, including those that the carrier did not cause nor could have prevented.
The Trucker Staff
ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Trucking Associations called on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro to release the results of FMCSA’s study on the use of police reports to determine crash accountability.
“FMCSA continues to use crashes that motor carriers did not cause nor could have prevented in measuring motor carrier safety performance,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “Several weeks ago, the agency indefinitely placed on hold a process to correct this fundamental flaw in the system, citing, in part, concerns with the reliability and usefulness of police accident reports. To better understand FMCSA’s reluctance to act, the public should see the results of the study the agency promised almost two years ago.”
A spokesperson at FMCSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ATA’s announcement. But FMCSA Senior Transportation Specialist Bryan Price explained the delay at the recent Truckload Carriers Association Safety and Security Division annual meeting. In a question-and-answer session, he told carrier safety managers the agency was concerned about “the consistency” of the police accident reports and about making sure FMCSA gets “the most bang for its buck” in setting up a fair review system.
“I don’t think you’d any find any of us who think the carrier or driver should be penalized for something that’s out of their control,” Price said. “More than 100,000 crash reports come in to us from the states every year. We have two choices: We can completely ignore the crash data, or we can do what we’re doing right now, which is to err on the side of safety and use it in our internal prioritization system. But we don’t make the Crash BASIC available to the public.”
FMCSA is also considering changing the language used with any carrier crash data that is public on the FMCSA website to make clear — in “bigger, redder letters” — that the list “is in no way, shape or form” intended to convey that the crashes are the fault of the motor carrier, Price added.
Currently, the agency’s motor carrier safety-monitoring and measurement system — Compliance, Safety, Accountability — ranks carriers based on all truck-involved crashes, including those that the carrier did not cause nor could have prevented. In exploring a system to correct this flaw, FMCSA conducted a study of the feasibility of using police reports more than two years ago, but never made the results public.
In an August 2010 letter to ATA, FMCSA acknowledged it was in process of reviewing the findings of the feasibility study and offered to make them public upon completion of the review, but has yet to do so, preventing stakeholders from understanding the agency’s rationale for failing to make this common sense change.
In response to ATA’s efforts, FMCSA announced its intention to establish a process to review police accident reports and make crash accountability determinations. However, just prior to publishing its planned process, the agency put the brakes on and declared that additional study was needed.
“To live up to its goal to be open and transparent, FMCSA should release the results of its study, identify the specific concerns that caused it to place the planned solution on hold, and commit to a timeline for addressing this issue,” said Graves.
Monday’s request was the second major ATA announcement concerning CSA in recent days.
At a leadership meeting in Tampa last month, the ATA’s board of directors called on the agency to make changes to CSA.
“From the outset, ATA has supported FMCSA’s efforts to improve its enforcement capabilities through CSA,” Graves said at Tampa. “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.
Ferro responded by saying that one of the hallmarks of the CSA program was that the FMCSA had been very open “about what we are doing and about accepting input from industry stakeholders, law enforcement and drivers,” adding that the preview period now under way for changes recently made to CSA embodies proposed changes recommended by the trucking industry.
A day later, Rob Abbott, ATA’s vice president for safety, said Ferro misunderstood the ATA’s statement at Tampa.
“ATA did not want to imply that FMCSA has not being willing to meet with ATA or to listen to our concerns,” Abbott said. “The agency has done that on several occasions. However, FMCSA appears unwilling to make a number of specific changes ATA believes are absolutely necessary. We presented these problems and corresponding solutions to FMCSA in a meeting on April 12, but in the majority of instances we believe that they will not accept our suggestions or provide a specific timeline for doing so. Also, on several occasions ATA has asked for a specific timeline on FMCSA’s plan to initiate a crash accountability determination process, but has not received one.”
The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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