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CSA Scores Are Unreliable, ATA says

Posted: August 1, 2014

ARLINGTON, VA— The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is unreliable and does not effectively evaluate trucking companies’ safety, the American Trucking Associations said in a white paper.

“Researchers have arrived at mixed conclusions with respect to the reliability of SMS scores in identifying unsafe (crash prone) motor carriers. Some found virtually no correlation between scores and crash rates in any of the measurement categories,” the ATA writes.

The CSA system is “plagued by problems” such as lack of data – especially on small carriers who make up the bulk of the industry, differences in regional enforcement, the underreporting of crashes by states, the inclusion of crashes that were not caused by motor carriers and the increased exposure to crashes experienced by carriers operating in urban environments, ATA writes.

In its paper, ATA examined data and research on the connection between CSA scores and crash risk, as well as how problems with the data and methodology produce an imperfect and unreliable measure of a carrier’s safety record.

“ATA continues to support the objectives of CSA and to call for improvements to the program,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “However, data and methodology problems continue to plague the system and the accuracy and reliability of companies’ scores.”

“It may make sense for FMCSA to use scores in those categories that correlate positively with crash risk to prioritize companies for enforcement review,” Graves said. “In the process, FMCSA can verify whether or not the scores paint an accurate picture. But third parties need to know that for the purposes of drawing conclusions about individual carriers, the scores are unreliable.”

According to research cited by ATA, scores in at least three of the system’s measurement categories don’t bear a positive correlation to crash risk, where the increase of one variable causes the decrease of the other variable. Even in those categories that generally have a positive correlation to crash risk, the paper points out that there are tens of thousands of real-world “exceptions,” carriers with high scores and low crash rates and vice-versa.

To review the full white paper, click here.

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