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Breaking news: CSA scores no longer available for public’s eyes

Written by Steve Gursten Posted December 11th, 2015

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration removing safety scores  increases the risk of truck accidents

CSA scores

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) has removed much of its information on motor carriers’ Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. This move by the agency, which sets federal regulations for truck and bus companies, followed President Obama’s signing of the Highway Transportation Bill on December 4, 2015.

Here’s some quick information on what these scores actually are: Within the CSA program is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which measures the safety performance of motor carriers.  The data is helpful in identifying specific safety problems that a motor carrier or exhibits, monitoring whether safety problems are improving or worsening, and identifing motor carriers who are candidates for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) intervention. The FMCSA collects and interprets the data, and the motor carriers then receive a score and a percentile ranking when compared to other transport companies across the country.

Ironically, the FMSCA says  removing the scores is part of the process to improve them, as the new legislation (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST) challenged the FMCSA to ensure its CSA scoring program provides “the most reliable” analysis.

Said the FMSCA via a written statement, “While the agency is not prohibited from displaying all of the data, no information will be available for property carriers while appropriate changes are made. This also applies to information provided to the public through the QCMobile app.”

Passenger carriers, such as bus companies, may still have their CSA scores accessed by the public.

All of the information on passenger carriers remains available, but enforcement users and motor carriers can view safety data only by using their login information. This takes this information away from the public. It also takes away an important tool that makes things harder for  the good trucking companies, load brokers, and shippers, who want to select safe motor carriers to haul their loads. The decision to take down this data seems only to help those trucking companies that have caused too many truck accidents and compiled too many safety violations.

And who’s pulling the strings? Certainly not truck safety advocates. The truck lobby has argued that CSA data paints a misleading picture of motor carriers’ safety records, and a Government Accountability Office report recently criticized the agency CSA methodology. Here’s a statement from American Trucking Associations (ATA) Executive Vice President and Chief of National Advocacy Dave Osiecki that illustrates this point:

“By ordering an evaluation and improvement of CSA, as well as removing the flawed scores the system produces from public view in the meantime, this bill is an important victory for data and accuracy in regulatory oversight.”

Our attorneys disagree. The Roundtable believes this new legislation just gives those dangerous trucking companies an  opportunity to continue to disregard safety.

Knowledge is power. CSA scores provide reliable information that can help prevent crashes, as it originally provided accessibility to the information on past truck accidents and safety violations, which are a strong predictor of future wrecks.

So what should truck accident lawyers who use CSA score data in truck litigation do now?

Injury lawyers who litigate truck lawsuits can still obtain this information about trucking companies by FOIAing the FMCSA. The FOIA will not give you back the old CSA scores, but it will still show  interventions and violations.

While it’s a different way and more time consuming thanks to this new law, FOIAing should be sufficient for truck attorneys who are contemplating whether to add additional legal counts for negligent entrustment, negligent supervision, negligent monitoring, and other theories of liability, as well as perhaps still pursue load broker and shipper negligent selection cases.

Finally, this makes it significantly more difficult for lawyers to find out if a carrier is above the FMCSA intervention threshold or not. Also, forcing lawyers or members of the public to send FOIA requests only makes it more difficult to identify if there are major company concerns and deficiencies in safety. It also makes it harder to show where these deficiencies exist, such as if it concerns safe driving or maintenance or other areas.

For help, take a look at this template that attorneys can still use in your trucking cases.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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