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Truck Accident Prevention: controversy over the Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program and its Safety Measurement System

truck%20accident.jpgUnsafe commercial carriers are the cause of many truck accidents and must be kept off the road. For this purpose the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched in 2010 the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement program that includes as its main component a tool called the Safety Measurement System (SMS). The CSA and SMS goal was to identify and prioritize motor carriers that pose the highest threat to public safety for enforcement interventions.

At the beginning of this week a study from the Government Accountability Office announced that even though the CSA program was a success, improvement was needed. The watchdog agency was especially worried that the insufficient amount of data obtained from small commercial carriers was not good enough for reliable statistics. The American Trucking Association had previously voiced the same type of warnings.

The FMCSA fought back and came up two days ago with a new study conducted by the Volpe Center, the research arm of the U.S. Transportation Department that confirms CSA effectiveness. Researchers used pre-SMS historical data and to test the system. According to the research, “results show that the companies the SMS would have identified for interventions, such as roadside inspections, warning letters and on-site investigations, had a future crash rate of more than double the national average,” FMCSA said. “In addition, 79% of the carriers that SMS would have ranked as high risk in at least one of the seven safety categories it monitors, had higher future crash rates compared to those it would not have identified”.

The ATA agreed with the above but also replied that the Volpe Center report acknowledged the limited amount of data available for small carriers. “Perhaps most importantly, the report acknowledged that while the aggregated CSA data may be helpful for enforcement purposes, it can be misleading with respect to assessing the performance of individual carriers,” said ATA. “In fact, 93% of the carriers monitored in the study had no crashes.”

“The report demonstrated that if you compare the performance of the relatively few fleets that have scores in the system against other carriers, including those with minimal data in the system or no scores, you can paint a positive picture of the program,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

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