Last month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released to Congress its Corrective Action Plan for better identifying high risk carriers and preventing crashes within the trucking industry. Developed in response to the National Academy of Sciences recommendation that the FMCSA reevaluate its methodology behind the Safety Measurement System (SMS), the Action Plan’s developers believe—by applying a more rigorous scientific approach—the data can prospectively identify unsafe carriers and better ascertain a company’s culture of safety.
The modeling approach known as Item Response Theory may allow the FMSCA to “monitor and identify” carriers in need of intervention rather than just focusing on violations, according to FMCSA Director of Compliance and Enforcement Joe DeLorenzo.
The multi-step corrective action plan is certainly moving in the right direction toward reducing the number of fatalities and crashes caused by unsafe carriers on American highways. Yet, as I discuss in a recent TruckingNewsNow.com story, it’s concerning that the FMCSA has literally taken a step backward by withholding data that was once available to the general public—a move that not only restricts access to critical information but also makes it far more difficult to compare one motor carrier to another.
Ironically, the FMCSA point to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 as the reason for their change in policy, citing language in the legislation that is intended to improve transparency in the FMCSA’s oversight activity. With some information accompanying solid data deemed as subjective (i.e. relative scores and alert symbols), all information was removed until a “fix” was available for public review. Yet, almost three years later, the information is still absent from the website.
Ultimately, the removal of this information has made it more difficult for consumers to evaluate carriers, and it could lead to carriers being less accountable when it comes to the safety of their fleets and of the driving public—without public scrutiny, there is little incentive for companies to maintain standards or take corrective actions.
Although the FMCSA should be commended for continuously seeking improvement in its methodology, no system will ever be perfect. And from the public’s perspective, access to an imperfect system is better than having no access at all. By cutting off the public’s ability to review this easy-to-understand information, the agency is restricting consumer’s right to make smart, safe, well-informed decisions regarding their carriers—meaning that, until this basically flawed resolution is turned around, road safety will not likely improve.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.