Regulators, trucking groups spar over public safety scores

Thursday August 28, 2014

State and federal transportation safety regulators and commercial trucking groups broadly agree that problematic — that is, comparatively accident-prone — carrier companies need to be readily identifiable, with incentives in place that will grab their attention and improve their shoddy safety records.

That agreement dissolves into a strong difference of opinion, though, when it comes to the optimal method for spotlighting higher-risk carriers and ensuring their enhanced safety performance on national roads and interstates.

Connecticut safety advocates and drivers have a vested interest in the debate, of course, given that commercial truck accidents are always a material concern in the state.

At the center of contention in a continuing standoff between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and many trucking groups is the so-called Safety Measurement System developed by government regulators and touted by the FMCSA. Federal officials say that the methodology employed in the SMS tool helps to identify high-risk companies and improve their performance by pushing business to safer competitors. That is accomplished partially by releasing SMS-derived safety scores to the public.

A sizable consortium of trucking groups — including the American Trucking Associations, the nation’s largest commercial trucking organization — strongly disagrees that public dissemination of scores yields any salutary effect. In a recent letter the group wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the consortium stated that, while it supports a scoring model, the current scheme is based on information that is neither accurate nor reliable.

The trucking trade associations want the FMCSA to back off from issuing public scores until it makes necessary enhancements to the SMS tool that will provide for a more accurate scoring model.

The next move — if any — would appear to be with the DOT.

Source: Fleet Owner, “Groups ask DOT to hide CSA scores from public view,” Avery Vise, Aug. 26. 2014

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