March 27, 2012
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is previewing a half-dozen important changes it plans to make in the CSA safety enforcement system.In the announcement in yesterday's Federal Register, the agency also discussed a controversial decision it recently made to back away from plans to clarify crash accountability data in CSA.The agency said carriers can go to the CSA website to review how the CSA changes will affect their status. FMCSA said it will accept comments until the end of May and is open to changing the revisions before it puts them into effect.The changes, part of an ongoing CSA revision process, touch on several of the BASIC (Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories) that are at the heart of the enforcement system.The agency plans to move cargo and load securement violations out of the Cargo-Related BASIC and into the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.This is in in response to concern in the industry and enforcement community that flatbed carriers are getting significantly higher Cargo-Related scores than other types of carriers, simply because their load securement issues are more apparent during inspections. The agency said that in its analysis it found that the new approach corrects the bias against flatbeds and still identifies carriers that have cargo securement problems.In another move, the agency is changing the Cargo-Related BASIC to a new category, the Hazardous Materials BASIC, and is changing the way hazmat carriers are identified. The rationale is that the system has not done a good enough job of finding carriers with hazmat compliance issues, because they have been undercounted in relation to carriers with load securement issues.To be identified as a hazmat hauler, a carrier must have at least two inspections on a vehicle carrying placarded hazmats within the past 24 months. One of those inspections has to be within the past year and must make up at least 5% of the carrier's total inspections.In other changes, the agency:* Will start applying carrier violations of intermodal chassis requirements to the Vehicle BASIC.* Will eliminate vehicle violations from driver-only inspections, and driver violations from vehicle-only inspections. * Will no longer use the terms "inconclusive" and "insufficient data" to describe a carrier's CSA performance. Instead, the agency will use specifics, such as "fewer than five inspections," or "no violations within one year."The agency also discussed a controversial decision it recently made to back away from plans to clarify crash accountability data in CSA.Crash AccountabilityThe agency was expected to announce significant corrections in its crash accountability methodology in this notice, but that did not happen.Industry officials had been hoping the agency would offer carriers a way to get an assessment of fault in the crashes used to determine their safety rating, but earlier this month Administrator Anne Ferro reversed course on that approach.She explained that safety advocacy groups raised questions about the changes that caused her to reconsider the agency's approach.The questions have to do with the uniformity and consistency of the Police Accident Reports that provide the basic accountability data, and the lack of public input into the determination of accountability.In yesterday's notice, the agency indicated that it needs more information on how to identify carriers with the greatest risk of future crashes. Specifically, the agency said it needs to evaluate the uniformity and consistency of police accident reports, and to establish a process for assessing crashes in a uniform way. It also wants a way to get public comment on the assessment, and to determine the effect of all this on its ability to identify the riskiest carriers.The agency gave no schedule for its research.