Truck safety ratings system unfair to small businesses
CSA has inaccuracies, arbitrary weightings, no due process
(Grain Valley, Mo., July 11, 2012) – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, OOIDA, participated in a hearing today held by the U.S House Committee on Small Business titled “Is FMCSA’s CSA Program Driving Small Businesses Off the Road?”
The purpose of the hearing was to examine the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety rating program and its effects on small businesses. Since the implementation of CSA two years ago, a large number of small businesses in the long-haul industry have identified numerous problems with the accuracy and equality of the program, creating disparate effects on small businesses.
Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) acknowledged the contribution of small businesses to the trucking industry and the importance of identifying and correcting major gaps in the safety rating system.
“These flaws call into question not only the ability of the CSA to achieve its primary goal ¯ to identify unsafe actors that cause highway accidents ¯ but also whether, in too many instances, the new system is identifying safe operators as unsafe,” said Graves. “Of particular concern to the committee are the significant adverse consequences that the inaccurate safety scores may have on trucking companies, 97 percent of which are small businesses.”
“Overall, it’s a backwards system that rewards poor safety performance and penalizes those who are the safest,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of OOIDA. “Most of trucking is made up of small businesses so this system, if it continues on this path, will put many of them out of business and make highways less safe.”
Economist Michael Belzer, Ph.D., gave testimony about a particularly dramatic fatal crash involving a motor carrier that the system kept putting back on the road despite numerous safety violations prior to the accident. Using this example, he explained how the mathematics of the CSA system are not having the intended effect of improved highway safety.
“Preventable crashes like this will happen again, regardless of how many times we rework the algorithms of CSA or scrap it and replace the entire program,” said Belzer. “In short, CSA tries to address safety problems we cannot remedy until we begin to address trucking’s systemic problems.”
Daniel Miranda, an owner of a small company with three trucks from California, testified at the hearing about his own experience with CSA and how it almost put him out of business. Even after taking steps to correct his safety scores, he was still faced with a poor rating.
“I asked FMCSA what to do to improve my CSA score and they told me I needed more ‘clean’ inspections, and so I did that very thing. However, my score reflected the exact opposite,” he said. “That is a terrible message to send to a small-business owner, that the survival of one’s business is beholden to a computer system that is clearly out of touch with reality.”
Testimony heard by the committee went on to describe how the system has a serious lack of due process or objective oversight, giving roadside law enforcement all of the control over disputes to citations or warnings.
“Any challenge by a small-business trucker reported to FMCSA might simply end up back in the hands of the original law enforcement agency that issued the citation, making them judge and jury,” said Spencer. “Even if you win in a local court, the violation still remains in CSA’s database and has a negative effect on the overall score.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The Association currently has more than 150,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Mo., area.