Challenge Your CSA Crash Score

by G. Spencer Mynko, Esq.

FMCSA Announces Changes to Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) Program: Recent changes announced by FMCSA involve how they will deal with reporting crashes on a fleet’s record. These changes will allow Motor Carriers to challenge crash reports and should address some concerns the industry has had over the CSA program.

What is the CSA?
Any discussion of the CSA should include a quick review of what the program is: “Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicles. It introduces a new enforcement and compliance model that allows FMCSA and its State Partners to contact a larger number of carriers earlier in order to address safety problems before crashes occur. Rolled out in December 2010, the program establishes a new nationwide system for making the roads safer for motor carriers and the public alike.” “CSA re-engineers the former enforcement and compliance process to provide a better view into how well large commercial motor vehicle carriers and drivers are complying with safety rules, and to intervene earlier with those who are not. Rolled out in December 2010, the program establishes a new enforcement and compliance Operational Model that will utilize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) resources, and those of its State enforcement partners, more efficiently and effectively, making the roads even safer for everyone.”
FMCSA planning program to add long-wanted ‘crash accountability’ to CSA.
The FMCSA has announced plans for a two-year program to test implementing a form of “crash accountability” into the CSA carrier safety rating program. The proposed plan will allow carriers to contest crashes in their CSA scores and remove those deemed non-preventable by the driver and carrier.
Hopefully, this will reverse the inherent injustice in CSA Crash scores – Namely, factoring crashes that were not the fault of carriers against them in their CSA percentile rankings. The unfairness of this system has been one of the trucking industry’s chief complaints against the current CSA program. The American Trucking Associations was quick to endorse the demo proposal. “Since FMCSA began using crash history to rate motor carriers’ safety, ATA has argued that crashes a driver could not have prevented shouldn’t be counted on a carrier’s safety record,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.  Graves further stated the project is “a step toward that goal and we appreciate FMCSA adopting ATA’s call to provide a way for carriers to strike these tragic, but non-preventable crashes from their record
The program’s start date has yet to be determined. The two-year pilot program plan should be officially published in the Federal Register soon and will include a 60-day public comment period to help the FMCSA shape the program. The agency is asking industry stakeholders to comment on the proposed changes to the CSA during the 60-day comment period.  After the completion of the comment period and review by FMCSA, the agency will announce a start date of the program and any changes made to the original plan.
The new plan will allow fleets and owner-operators to use the agency’s existing DataQs system to dispute crashes that were obviously not the fault of the carrier or driver. The agency will then review such disputes and determine whether the crash should be removed from the carrier’s Crash Indicator BASIC in the CSA Safety Measurement System.
The main point of this proposal is to remove faultless crashes from the FMCSA’s Crash Indicator BASIC and improve a company’s rating.
A company will have the chance to appeal a reported crash to the agency, and if the agency agrees the crash will be removed from BASIC.

If the agency determines that the carrier or driver was not at fault, they will remove the crash and recalculate the carrier’s score. Otherwise, the crash and the associated BASIC points will stay on the carrier’s record and in its BASIC score.
The data gathered during the program – like the number of crashes removed from the Crash Indicator BASIC and the effects it has on carriers’ scores – will then be given to FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to analyze and issue any potential recommendations to the agency about altering CSA’s methodology.
The pilot program will focus on four crash types easily deemed non-preventable by the carrier. Those include crashes in which a carrier’s truck was (1) struck by a motorist driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, (2) hit by a motorist driving in the wrong direction, (3) struck in the rear or (4) while it was legally stopped or parked.   This is the beginning to other types of crashes that will be easily eliminated. The agency said it is also considering eliminating other types of crashes, such as suicide by truck and animal strikes, to the list. The agency hopes to receive public comment on these types of crashes and what documents could be uploaded to the DataQs system, in addition to police reports, to help prove the crash was non-preventable. Hopefully these commonsense changes will improve BASIC and CSA.
Three Crash Threshold
Another important proposal that was announced is changing the number of crashes that would require a measurement on the Safety Measurement System rankings. The number of crashes during a 24-month rolling period would change from two to three. Once the changes have taken place, the agency will study the results of the program to see whether it has been positive or negative
A Step In The Right Direction
Hopefully, this project marks the FMCSA heeding the call to provide a way for carriers to strike tragic, but non-preventable crashes from their record.
This project represents a step toward a more thorough and complete system for carriers to dispute and ultimately strike crashes that were not the fault of the commercial driver.  By improving crash accountability and data, the FMCSA can improve the performance and accuracy of the CSA monitoring system.
Request for Data Review
One possible procedural remedy to change a CSA Crash Report is a “Request for Data Review” or “RDR”.  This uses the Agency’s existing RDR process through the DataQs system for these requests. The Agency is developing a demonstration program and a process for submitting documentation about these crashes through the DataQs program, similar to the process by which individuals may submit documentation of adjudicated citations.
Click here to read FMCSA’s notice on the proposal that will be published in the Federal Register.
Click here to read FMCSA’s Crash Weighting Analysis as Published in the Federal Register.
If you have questions or concerns about the new CSA project, call Transportation Attorneys ASAP.