The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program has been making headlines lately. FMCSA’s proposed changes to the program are sweeping and motor carriers are working hard to understand what their new scores could look like and why, as well as their potential impacts on their compliance programs.
One question we’ve consistently received from clients and colleagues is whether FMCSA intends on making CSA scores public again once any changes are finalized. On a recent CSA webinar hosted by FMCSA, they answered this question by explaining that the agency is required by Congress under the FAST Act to complete various reporting and analysis tasks before they are permitted to allow public access to CSA calculations. While true, we think a better answer may lie in FMCSA’s long-term intention regarding a related rulemaking about updating the motor carrier safety rating process.
You see, FMCSA has historically defended their preference for public scores by explaining that allowing public access to CSA scores compels carriers to address compliance challenges more quickly. Without public CSA scores, the primary source of this pressure reverts to carrier safety ratings, which are available to the public. By moving to a two-tiered safety rating methodology, one that rates carriers as either fit or unfit to operate, however, they would remove the public pressure that currently comes from a conditional or proposed conditional rating. Enter CSA.
If FMCSA believes that peer and other external pressure is an effective tool to encourage stronger compliance programs, they may be less enthusiastic about eliminating the conditional safety rating, unless their plan also includes making CSA scores public once again. Time will tell.