CSA Reform Progress Report – Scores Offline For One Year

CSA Reform Status

 Steve Bryan, Vigillo CEO/Founder gives comments to National Academies of Sciences in Washington DC last June

Steve at NAS


On December 4th, 2015, President Obama signed the FAST Act (Highway Bill) that secured funding for infrastructure, removed CSA Scores from public view, and defined a reform process for the CSA Program that would lead to the return of the Scores once proper reforms were made and Congress authorized their re-publication to the public.

Reform Summary

The FAST Act required the FMCSA to retain the services of the National Academies of Sciences – Engineering – Medicine. (NAS) An 18 month process was outlined where the NAS would address the flaws of CSA and issue recommendations as to how they might be addressed.  I have previously summarized those flaws from the FAST Act as follows:
1. The accuracy with which the BASIC’s identify high risk carriers and predict or are correlated with future crash risk, crash severity, or other safety indicators for motor carriers. (Safety Event Groups)
2. The accuracy of safety data, including the use of crash data from crashes in which a motor carrier was free from fault. (Crash Accountability)
3. Whether BASIC percentiles for carriers of passengers should be calculated separately from motor carriers of freight. (Freight vs Passenger systems)
4. The differences in the rates at which violations are reported to the FMCSA by various enforcement authorities, including States, territories, and Federal inspectors (State Difference)
5. How members of the public use the SMS and what effect making the SMS information public has had on reducing crashes
6. Whether the SMS provides comparable precision and confidence, through SMS alerts and percentiles, for the relative crash risk of individual large and small motor carriers;  (Small Carriers largely unscored)
7. Whether alternatives to the SMS would identify high risk carriers more accurately
8. FMCSA has fully implemented or satisfactorily addressed the issues raised in the report titled ‘‘Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers’’ of the GAO dated February 2014.

Reform Status

Early in 2016, FMCSA did in fact retain NAS and a panel was convened to begin the study.  The panel, all of whom come with a leading “Dr.” in front of their names, and are attached to some of the leading Universities in the USA, are to say the least, a very impressive group.  The individuals who comprise the panel are listed here.
There have now been three meetings of the panel, where at least some portion of the meeting was open to the public. I was asked to give the remarks of stakeholders on behalf of the ATA at the June meeting and was introduced by Chairman Thomas. I am pretty sure I am correct in stating that aside from the Panel and NAS Staff, and the representatives of FMCSA, I am the only person from the industry who attended every meeting.  All three meetings were held in Washington DC, June 29, August 30, and Just a few days ago on December 15.  Meetings agenda’s are posted here.

Next Steps

The FAST Act calls for an 18 month timeline for the NAS to submit a report outlining the suggested reforms.  There will be one more meeting of the NAS Panel (closed to the public) early in 2017, and then a report will be written, reviewed, and finally released for public comment by late May or early June, right on the 18 month schedule.

Opinion Alert

So, what is going to be the outcome? A major overhaul of CSA?  Will Scores come back online?  What is FMCSA’s position on all of this?  Does the NAS Panel understand the issues?
Here is my opinion, and it is only that, an opinion based on what I have observed in the meetings.  I don’t have any information about what the panel is discussing in closed meetings.  Those are between FMCSA and the panel.  So I don’t have all of the information.
First, the Panel is made up of a very smart, very professional, and very successful individuals. They are the top of their fields including statistics, bio-statistics, education, engineering, transportation, and safety.  They have very impressive resumes, and for their participation in this study, they are each paid a whopping fee of $0.  So this begins to inform my opinion that this group is very independent, and not beholden to any party in this process.  They do this kind of work to develop and enhance their professional reputations.  So my first observation is that the report will be a very honest and professional analysis of CSA.
Second, the people who have been asked to contribute comments and presentations come from every corner of safety, transportation, data, government, and business.  Comments have been submitted by suppliers like Vigillo, freight and passenger carriers, FAA, NTSB, GAO, ATRI, CVSA, TIA, FMCSA, Insurance and safety advocates have all had the opportunity to comment on the pros and cons of CSA, its data, and methodology. Every opinion has been heard and documented, and the report promises to address every one of those opinions.  It will be very comprehensive.
In my opinion, the NAS Panel will suggest some very significant changes to the CSA program.  It will not be a few tweaks.  CSA requires a lot more data, from a lot more sources, on a lot more carriers.
And finally, in the spirit of the season, I also believe the Agency is listening.  I am hopeful that this reform process will result in a better CSA program that does a much better job of identifying unsafe carriers and saves lives.  If this process can get us there, we all win.
Merry Christmas everybody.