Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) is a program run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that compiles crash data and findings from roadside inspections. Carriers often use CSA data to identify areas of improvement and determine enforcement actions.
While the CSA provides helpful insight into trucking companies’ track records and crash risks, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., recently issued a CSA data hiding proposal to shield the data from the public eye.
The Safer Trucks and Buses Act and CSA Data Hiding
On September 18, 2014, Congressman Barletta introduced H.R. 5532, the Safer Trucks and Buses Act (STBA), which seeks to prohibit the FMCSA from publishing safety scores and charges it with the responsibility of revamping its current scoring system. Law enforcement would still have access to safety data.
The Act claims that the current way the FMCSA handles the CSA program is insufficient. Specifically, Barletta says that the FMSCA needs to better ensure that the data is current, accurate, and presented in such a way as to not harm carriers who take appropriate action to promote highway safety. Also, the act states that accidents in which the carrier is not at fault should not be included in the CSA database.
“Unfortunately, companies across the country and in Pennsylvania are being unfairly misrepresented by their safety scores, causing economically devastating impacts to these bus and truck companies, many of which are small businesses,” said Barletta in a press release.
The Trucking Industry Supports the Bill
The proposed bill would require the FMCSA to cease publishing safety scores, and prohibit CSA data as evidence in liability cases. It also requires them to submit and implement an improvement plan to Congress before the data can be released again.
Naturally, the trucking industry is onboard with the bill, knowing the cover-up will shield them from liability in certain cases until the FMCSA fixes the program. Below are a few comments from industry leaders listed on Congressman Barletta’s website that demonstrate the industry’s support.
- The President of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, David Owen, commented, “Since its launch in 2010, CSA’s methodology and data have been repeatedly shown to be detached from reality.”
- Jim Runk, President of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said, “The data collected in the current CSA program is often misinterpreted, difficult to challenge, and as a result, unreliable.”
- Elaine Farrell, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Bus Association, noted: “Currently, the CSA program data is misleading to the public by including crash data where a motor carrier was not at fault, and using scores that do not reflect accurate safety assessments for individual operators.”
Opposition to the STBA and CSA Data Hiding
However, the FMSCA and injury attorneys disagree with the Act and CSA data hiding, noting that carriers with high scores are more likely to be involved in a crash. The public can and should have access to this type of CSA data, which can also be useful as evidence in legal proceedings.
FMCSA spokeswoman Marissa Padilla, explained the importance of CSA data and of remaining transparent: “The Safety Measurement System has been a game changer in improving safety by making company violations and safety records publicly available to consumers, law enforcement and other businesses,” she said. “Our research shows that by focusing on the most at-risk carriers, we effectively remove the companies most often involved in crashes from the road.”
Talk to an Attorney about Available Evidence if You Were in a Truck Accident
Some worry that CSA data hiding could affect the ability of parties injured by a negligent truck driver from presenting evidence of the motor carrier’s safety record. If you are ever in an accident, work with an attorney to identify any and all evidence available that may help establish fault, liability, and your damages. This may include sending the trucking company a spoliation letter to prevent destruction of evidence in its possession.