The truck safety enforcement community has joined the industry effort to get the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to hide CSA safety data from public view.
In a November 14 letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said that Safety Measurement System scores should be available to police but not to the public.
In the letter, CVSA Executive Director Stephen Keppler defended CSA as “a very good program with tremendous potential.”
But the data that are available to the public are being used incorrectly, and this is affecting the enforcement community’s work, Keppler said in an interview.
“People are using the information in ways it was not designed to be used, particularly when they don’t understand all the information,” he said.
CVSA represents state, provincial and federal truck safety officers, as well as trucking and other interests.
The purpose of CSA is to help the agency and enforcement officers to target the carriers most in need of safety action, Keppler said.
“Making the information available to people who don’t understand what it means can create challenges for enforcement in terms of how it does its work. It can create operational impacts on states when people make assertions about the program that are not correct.”
With this letter, CVSA joins trucking interests that have been saying for some time that the data should be withheld from the public.
In August a coalition of industry groups, including American Trucking Associations, asked Foxx to have FMCSA shield the data from the public. They said the scores are neither consistent nor accurate, and should be available only to the carriers, the agency and enforcement personnel.
The industry has been pressing its case on Capitol Hill, pushing a bill by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., that would shield the information from the public until the agency corrects shortcomings in the system.
FMCSA’s response has been that the SMS system has improved safety by making carrier violations and safety records publicly available. Carriers that have high scores in some SMS categories are more likely to be involved in a crash, the agency says.
CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) uses data from crashes and roadside inspections to flag carriers for enforcement action. The SMS system categorizes this data and produces scores intended to highlight carriers that need attention.
Keppler said in his letter to Foxx that the enforcement community appreciates carrier concerns about SMS.
There are unavoidable differences in enforcement practices from state to state, and these differences can affect carriers’ SMS scores, he said. “The (jurisdiction) in which carriers operate can impact the accuracy of their measurements,” he said.
He also said that SMS scores are a useful prioritization tool for enforcement, but are not a good indicator of an individual carrier’s propensity to be involved in a future crash.
“Their utility in providing the public with information about fleets’ safety performance is limited,” he said.
The agency should improve the program’s ability to identify individual carriers that pose a risk. “Until these improvements are made, however, CVSA echoes stakeholders’ call to remove SMS scores from public view.”
Keppler said he has not yet received a response from Foxx.