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Inspector General audit details persistent flaws in CSA data

One of the major flaws the I.G. found is the carrier-reported census data, making it difficult to detect high-risk carriers, the basis of CSA scores.

The Trucker Staff

3/10/2014

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) launched its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program nationwide in late 2010 to encourage, well, safety.

However, according to the latest investigative audit by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, the program has not completely implemented improvements for data collecting or enforcement of the rule and recommended six key areas of improvement.

“The Inspector General’s report confirms what industry stakeholders, independent researchers and other government watchdogs have found: there continue to be significant flaws in the data FMCSA is using to evaluate and score carriers under CSA,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki. “ATA continues to support the oversight mission and safety goals of CSA — but FMCSA must acknowledge the program’s many problems — and commit to   addressing them.”

The audit, requested by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, was conducted between January 2013 and January 2014.

In short, the Inspector General’s report criticized FMCSA for:  taking “limited action” to address previously identified flaws; its inability to get 40 states and the District of Columbia to implement CSA interventions; not following standard technology validation and testing; and for not pushing states to be consistent in correcting reams of inaccurate data.

While CSA was created to target unsafe carriers, the system relies on state and carrier data, but the I.G. found that FMCSA has not yet put in proper improvements for reviewing data or making sure carriers submit accurate information. The Inspector General’s audit found that only 10 states had put in place CSA enforcement interventions, leaving the office to unable to “access the effectiveness of the interventions,” the report said. FMCSA plans to release training software by May 2015 for enforcement interventions, but the report noted the challenges will be getting it deployed quickly and working with state and division offices to make sure enforcement is consistent.

One of the major flaws the I.G. found is the carrier-reported census data, making it difficult to detect high-risk carriers, the basis of CSA scores. The report showed approximately 9 percent of about 195,400 carriers that the FMCSA is required to oversee have not updated their census information in two years. In November of last year, the report said FMCSA started to address this problem by deactivating USDOT numbers for carriers that do not update their census data.

“The audit found that while FMCSA claims to have enough data to evaluate 40 percent of the industry — 13 percent of those companies report not owning or operating any trucks. Serious inaccuracies like this affect the scores of everyone scored under CSA — since carriers are compared to one another,” Osiecki said. “Though not ’safety data’ per se, the I.G. also found that many motor carriers need to do a better job of reporting operational and exposure data, such as the number of trucks they operate.”

The audit listed six recommendations for improvements which FMCSA agreed to resolve:

  1. Issue updated DataQs guidance

  1. Implement the process for deactivating USDOT numbers when carriers do not submit required census data, as described in FMCSA memorandum.

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan to fully implement CSA enforcement interventions in the remaining 41 States. The plan should include an estimated completion date and milestones for releasing Sentri software, developing and delivering training and using the enforcement interventions

  1. Update the CSMS requirements document to (a) specify all sources of CSMS data, including each of the MCMIS fields used, and (b) fully describe CSMS validation procedures

  1. Develop and implement a process for managing CSMS system documentation that includes a central file for validation records and testing results; and

  1. Develop and implement a configuration management policy that includes documentation of system changes and associated testing for CSMS.

To read the full report, click here.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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