CSA Scores To Remain Hidden for Now

The National Academy of Sciences just released its long-awaited study of the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program.

The 132-page report makes recommendations for improving the way FMCSA uses its data to assign safety rankings to carriers. It also recommends that the FMCSA study the impact of making CSA scores publicly available before returning those scores to public view. That means scores will likely remain hidden for the near future.

The FAST Act highway funding bill of December 2015 mandated the NAS study and directed the FMCSA to remove CSA scores from its website until the study was completed and its recommendations implemented.

Shown above are the 7 Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), which are part of the CSA program.

Carriers have long argued that CSA rankings do not accurately reflect a carrier’s safety risk. Brokers have also criticized the CSA program, saying that publicly available CSA data opened the door to lawsuits against brokers who “should have known” a carrier was unsafe.

Changes recommended

In its conclusion statement, NAS says this about CSA and its Safety Measurement System (SMS) that ranks carriers:

SMS is structured in a reasonable way, and its method of identifying motor carriers for alert status is defendable. However, much of what is now done is ad hoc and based on subject-matter expertise that has not been sufficiently empirically validated. This argues for FMCSA adopting a more statistically principled approach that can include the expert opinion that is implicit in SMS in a natural way.

A few recommendations from the NAS report include:

  • The FMCSA should change its statistical model and implement the Item Response Theory, which relies on data alone and not expert opinions.
  • FMCSA should work with state agencies and law enforcement to improve data quality, including crash data and determinations of who is at fault in crashes.
  • FMCSA should make changes to the data file that feeds into CSA to make it more user friendly for carriers and more transparent.

The FMCSA has 120 days to respond to the NAS report. For more detailed analysis of the report, see coverage in these publications:

Overdrive Online: Report recommends sweeping changes to CSA scoring system.
CH Robinson Blog: New Report Recommends CSA Program Overhaul: What Now?

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