CSA Controversy Heats Up Again

Controversy over CSA scores heated up again when the FMCSA this week returned BASIC score "absolute measures" to public view.

The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), a trade organization for freight brokers and 3PLs, has condemned the move. "These absolute performance measures will only further generate confusion in the marketplace when hiring a motor carrier and will give the trial bar another arrow in its quiver to seek judgment against a 3PL for negligent selection," TIA said in a newsletter to its members.

DAT helps you monitor your carriers

The DAT Directory, a tool within DAT load boards, has added a link to publicly-available CSA data. The DAT Directory provides information on DOT authority, safety rating, and insurance coverage of carriers in the DAT network. To see information on ALL carriers—including the ability to print or save copies of actual insurance certificates—subscribe to DAT CarrierWatch®.

What the FAST Act did and didn’t require

In case you haven't been following the issue, here's a brief recap. The 5-year highway funding bill (the FAST Act) passed by the federal government in December required the FMCSA to remove certain CSA information from public view, including:

  • "Relative percentiles" in each Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC). These are called "relative" because carriers are compared to others in their peer group. (See sample below.)
  • CSA alerts. These are yellow triangles with an exclamation point that indicates a carrier is above a certain threshold in a BASIC category.
  • Crashes in which it was determined that the carrier was not at fault.

CSA information that the government did not require the FMCSA to remove included:

  • "Absolute measures" in the BASIC categories. In these measures, violations are rated by time and severity and the scores do not vary based on the performance of other carriers, as the relative percentiles do.
  • Inspection and violation information.
  • Out of service rates.

As it turned out, all BASIC scores—relative percentiles and absolute measures—were pulled down from the FMCSA web site after the FAST Act took effect on Dec. 4. Now, the FMCSA has brought back information that it was not required to remove. A news item posted on the FMCSA website says that "modifications are complete and the SMS website is fully compliant with the FAST Act."

Strong opinions

The Journal of Commerce recently ran an article in which Jeff Tucker, CEO of Tucker Company Worldwide and TIA board chairman, said that the FMCSA is "thumbing its nose at Congress."

"While it is not illegal for FMCSA to post these absolute scores, doing so represents an affront to the intent of Congress when it passed the FAST Act," Tucker said.

Keep in mind that not all freight brokers were happy that CSA scores were removed last December. In my January blog post Without CSA, "We're Choosing Carriers Blindfolded", some freight brokers argued that they relied on CSA data when selecting carriers. One broker commented that if two carriers were interested in a load, she would always choose the one with better CSA scores.

What do you think? Is the return of absolute measures helpful to your brokerage? Does it bring clarity or merely create more confusion?

This screenshot was taken from the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System website in early December before CSA scores were removed. It shows relative percentiles (under the On-Road Performance heading) and a CSA alert (yellow triangle with exclamation point), which can no longer be seen by the public. The FMCSA this week returned to public view "absolute measures," which are shown in the first row under On-Road Performance.

Categories: Trucking Regulations



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