The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is getting some heat from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In January, the NTSB published its annual top 10 list of safety issues. Three of them directly related to highway safety:
1. Distracted Driving;
2. Driving While Impaired; and
3. Better Safety for Vehicle Occupants.

The NTSB has called to question whether or not the FMCSA is doing enough to address these safety issues with their drivers. Specifically, NTSB Chairman, Deborah Hersman, in a forum with Transport Topics editors and reporters, expressed frustration in a seemingly inadequate system of collecting and applying safety data. Hersman cited a recent report from the Government Accountability Office citing significant problems with the organization’s Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) program.

In the GAO’s report, officials said that some of the data included in the FMCSA CSA program do not do enough to address industry-related crashes. The rating system used (SafeStat), according to the GAO, does not adequately assess a carrier’s risk for crashes, and therefore cannot be effectively used to improve safety concerns.

SafeStat uses information such as federal and state data on crashes and roadside safety inspections to assess a carrier’s “safety fitness.”

The GAO analyzed the performance and ratings of almost 315,000 U.S.-based carriers. Aside from being critical of the CSA’s collection and utilization of data, it did applaud the organization for its contribution to increasing awareness of safety issues and increasing the capacity of the FMCSA to address concerns.
Ripples have been felt throughout the industry. For example the American Trucking Association (ATA) requested that the FMCSA remove all carrier scores from public view due to the inadequacy of the scoring system.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) suggested that the FMCSA should revise its CSA methodology. OOIDA further pointed out discrepancies between amount of information required for accurate scoring and the amount of information a small carrier can produce.
The FMCSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have said they will consider the GAO’s recommendations; however the FMCSA claims that the safety scores were more usable than the GAO purported.