CSA Safety-Monitoring System
This story appears in the Dec. 20 & 27 print edition of Transport Topics

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration opened its CSA safety-monitoring system to public view for the first time last week, after a federal court rejected a lawsuit seeking to keep the system closed.

The CSA website was overwhelmed with inquiries early in the week, and some carriers said that the change to CSA from SafeStat had raised the likelihood that they will be targeted for roadside inspection.

Dave Osiecki, American Trucking Associations senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, said the high traffic and interest was not surprising.

“There’s been such a buildup to this date . . . and a lot of marketing on FMCSA’s part and the fact that the lawsuit was filed to stop this from happening that just increased the press coverage on this issue,” Osiecki told Transport Topics. “I’m not terribly surprised that carriers and shippers and the public are going in there and trying to find out what people’s scores are.”

FMCSA launched the program Dec. 13, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the National Association of Small Trucking Companies and two other groups that had asked the court to keep the CSA scores out of public view. Kenneth Siegel, the lawyer representing NASTC, said that despite the setback, the lawsuit would continue.

“The court gave us an expedited briefing schedule, so we’re going on to challenge it,” he told Transport Topics. “We would have preferred if it wasn’t sitting there already in effect, but we feel they still violated the [Administrative Procedures Act,] so we’re going ahead.” Briefs in the case are due in early February and March.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that the allowing scores to go public would harm carriers, brokers and shippers because it would affect the transportation market.

“The CSA program will help us more easily identify unsafe commercial truck and bus companies,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Dec. 13 statement announcing the program. “Better data and targeted enforcement will raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and empower them to take action before safety problems occur.”

FMCSA spokeswoman Candice Tolliver said that in the early days of the public viewing, the CSA website experienced “an extremely high volume of external users, at the rate of approximately 22,000 an hour.”

“These users include website ‘scraping’ companies that consume large amounts of bandwidth as they attempt to obtain safety data on multiple commercial motor carriers,” Tolliver said.

Website users are greeted with a warning that the data are “used to identify potential safety problems with individual carriers and determine when an enforcement intervention might be appropriate.”

“Use of the CSA system “for purposes other than those identified above may produce unintended results and inaccurate conclusions,” the website also warns.

The process has led some carriers to see a “spike” in their Inspection Selection System score, the number used by roadside enforcement officers to flag trucks for inspections, said Rob Abbott, ATA vice president of safety policy.
In the changeover to CSA, Abbott said, carriers that have two or three deficient BASICs, or are deficient in the fatigued BASIC are now being flagged, and “that is causing some carriers to encounter some change and they’re probably scratching their heads.”

In the CSA program, all carrier violations are separated into seven Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs.

Since the switch to CSA, “the biggest surprise was that our ISS [Inspection Selection System] score jumped,” said Mel Simon, president of Styer Transportation Co., Lakeville, Minn.

The company’s scores under SafeStat “were in excellent shape . . . so we were just surprised that it was that big of a difference between the systems,” Simon said.

Specifically, Simon said his firm had higher scores in the cargo-related and fatigue-related BASICs.

“We’re doing manual logs, and we brought that [fatigued] score down considerably, but we’re still slightly above the threshold,” he said.

Stephen Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said that ISS scores indicating more carriers need inspections has yet to translate into more inspections.

“Unfortunately, there’s not more money to do more roadside inspections,” Keppler said, adding that these ISS scores are a byproduct of CSA’s design.

“We’re using more information and more data, so logic would dictate that, with more data in the system, you will potentially have more people showing up in the system,” he said.
*** Questions about this info? Contact Linda Norman at 703-821-0000 or linda@donnormanassociates.com ***