In a confounding move, FMCSA headlines freight news this week. FMCSA is preparing to repost its “absolute measure” CSA scores, weeks after the FAST Act required FMCSA to remove from public view CSA’s alert symbol; each of the five relative BASIC scores; and the intervention threshold for each score. While it is not illegal for FMCSA to post these absolute scores, doing so represents an affront to the intent of Congress, in passing the FAST Act, and reintroduces the uncertainty about the use or non use of these scores in play. This harms safety, and isn’t in the public interest.
FMCSA defends its move, pointing to this paragraph in the FAST Act — Sec. 5223 (c) CONTINUED PUBLIC AVAILABILITY OF DATA.— “Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, inspection and violation information submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by commercial motor vehicle inspectors and qualified law enforcement officials, out-of-service rates, and absolute measures shall remain available to the public.” FMCSA interprets “shall” as “must” regarding these scores. Our trade association representatives in Washington have spoken with relevant Congressional leaders this week, who disagree with FMCSA’s interpretation, but neither are they surprised.
CSA’s BASIC scores, their weighting and their methodology have proven to be unsound and in need of extensive review. It took years and an act of Congress for FMCSA to remove the scores from public view, so that shippers, brokers and the public don’t rely upon them to make commercial carrier selection decisions. By publicly posting absolute measures instead of relative measures, FMCSA is intentionally muddying the waters–again.
Congress’ intent in hiding CSA BASIC scores is clear—it’s to stop the public from relying upon CSA scores for commercial carrier selection purposes, and to send the BASICs back for increased study. The parties who introduced and pushed the FAST Act language did so for exactly this reason. Congress passed the law for this reason. It appears once again, the only fix to FMCSA’s continued muddying of the waters is to seek a Congressional mandate, by hitting Capital Hill again.
Tucker’s position is that FMCSA’s “absolute measures” are absolutely useless to the public, for any purpose. Meanwhile, FMCSA is busy at work on a new Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) which will apply an algorithm to all 7 BASICs (even the 2 the public can’t see), to determine “unfit” carriers. The fact that their algorithm isn’t final, and the public won’t ever be able to apply a final algorithm (because 2/7 of the scores are hidden), and accidents will not be predicted, is further evidence that the scores are useless. If FMCSA’s decisions and reactions to criticism weren’t so harmful to public safety, they could be the stuff of a sitcom. Stay tuned.