An advisory committee for the CSA safety enforcement program dove deep into the complex details and emerged with some consensus and some irreconcilable differences.
After months of research and debate the CSA Subcommittee of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee agreed that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should extend its efforts on determining fault in crashes.
Specifically, the agency should look past police accident reports to other investigations that might apply, such as criminal reports, civil lawsuits or accident reconstruction reports, the subcommittee said.
The agency also should look at the research that’s been done on the accuracy of police reports, and should consider alternatives – and the cost of those alternatives – for determining fault in a crash.
But the subcommittee is divided on other aspects of crash accountability.
Most of the subcommittee members believe that crashes where the carrier clearly is not at fault should not be counted in the carrier’s Crash Indicator BASIC. They said that if the report includes a primary contributing factor in the crash, it should go into the database.
A smaller group, representing the safety advocacy community, believes that all crash reports, regardless of fault, should go into the Crash Indicator BASIC.
(The Crash Indicator BASIC, or Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category, is one of seven groups of measurements the agency uses to determine a carrier’s risk of crashing.)
The split on the question of crash accountability is a major issue in the CSA program.
Right now the agency does not account for fault in crashes, relying instead on the statistical probability that some of a carrier’s crashes will be the carrier’s fault. Trucking interests contend that the agency needs to make an effort to remove crashes that obviously are not the carrier’s fault, while safety advocates contend that the agency’s current approach is adequate.
The agency is analyzing crash accountability and expects to release a report this summer.
Additional reviews of CSA in general are under way at the Government Accountability Office and the office of the Transportation Department’s Inspector General. They are expected this fall.
The subcommittee also addressed questions about public access to CSA data, and about the quality of the data.
Most of the group recommended that the agency deny public access to the three BASIC scores that do not correlate strongly to crash risk – Controlled Substance/Alcohol, Driver Fitness and HazMats.
The Crash Indicator BASIC already is blocked from the public and should stay blocked, they said. The remaining three BASICS, Unsafe Driving, Vehicle Maintenance and Hours of Service, should remain public, they said.
Other members, including safety advocates and a representative of the enforcement community, contend that all scores should remain public.
With respect to data quality, the group recommended that the agency should work with state enforcement to standardize crash reports.
They also said the agency should consider changing the definition of a reportable crash to include only that which leads to fatalities or injuries. And it should consider weighing violations differently depending on differences in the way states handle truck inspections.
The subcommittee handed these suggestions, and a long list of additional observations, up to the full advisory committee, which will forward them to the agency.
Details of the advisory committee’s work are available at the MCSAC website.