If you tried to log on to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA website yesterday and found it slow going, you were not alone.

Access to the web-based system was occasionally jammed as commercial interests tapped into the site and started downloading the entire database, an agency official said.
Automated "web scraping" software was used to collect the information, rather than the download feature the website offers, the official said.

The activity reflects intense interest in the agency's deployment of the next phase in its new safety enforcement regime, now called simply CSA (Compliance, Safety and Accountability) rather than CSA 2010.

On Sunday the agency opened to the public the CSA Safety Measurement System, a database containing carriers' scores in CSA's seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs. The agency will use these measurements for enforcement, while carriers use them to improve their safety performance and shippers use them as part of their carrier selection process. Interested parties can go to http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/ and search for carrier scores.

(Two of the BASICS … Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator … are being withheld from public view until the agency can determine if the changes they have made to those categories will work properly to identify unsafe carriers.)

The opening of the BASICs data came just two days after a federal appeals court rejected a plea by several carrier groups to keep the data private for now.

The approximately 2,750 small carriers, represented by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, the Expedite Alliance of North America and the Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association, sought the stay on grounds that FMCSA did not follow proper procedures in its plan to publish the data.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the carriers did not meet the standards for a stay pending court review.

An attorney for the carriers, Ken Siegel of the Washington, D.C., law firm Strasburger & Price, said the carriers will carry on with their effort to stop the public release of the data. They have until February 7 to file their brief, and the agency gets about a month to file its reply. A decision could come before the end of March, he said.

As of last evening, the CSA website was running at normal speed. However, the "advanced search," which allowed users to search for a company simply with a company name and state, had been temporarily disabled. Instead you must know the U.S. DOT or Motor Carrier number to search.