CSA scoring is faulty, unfair for small carriers, GAO report says

Published February, 04 2014
This chart, from the GAO’s report, shows that one-truck owner-operators who’ve received an Unsafe Driving BASIC score have an astronomically higher chance of being above the intervention threshold in that category than all other size carriers, especially those with more than 25 trucks.

The scoring system used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in its Compliance, Safety, Accountability system is flawed and is made up of an incomplete data set, concludes a Government Accountability Office report released Feb. 3. The GAO also concluded the program is particularly unfair for small carriers.

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The GAO report, “Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers,” also recommends FMCSA change the system, due to various shortcomings the GAO found in its study, most of which stem from the quality of the data used by the agency to score carriers.

The GAO report’s findings are in line with Overdrive findings in spring of 2013, upon analyzing CSA data from its first two years in creating the CSA’s Data Trail site. Click here to see it.

Industry trade groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations — often loud critics of the agency’s carrier scoring program — both have expressed agreement with the study’s findings.

The GAO report, while seemingly a proponent of CSA’s mission of scoring carriers as an attempt to target unsafe ones, identifies several key problems with CSA and its Safety Measurement System scoring method. These problems “raise questions about whether SMS is effectively identifying carriers at highest risk for crashing in the future,” GAO’s report says.

The GAO study found that:

-The data being used to score carriers is inconsistent, due to variances in inspection and enforcement policies state to state.

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-Scores for small carriers are likely to be inflated by FMCSA’s methodology and are prone to significant fluctuations, given the limited data available for them, and a sam;l carrier therefore could have a hard time overcoming an inspection report that at once establishes a score and elevates it above a BASIC’s threshold for intervention. 

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