Lawmakers question Obama administration truck, bus safety programs

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“CSA was designed to maximize the agency’s resources by compiling carrier violations from inspections and crash reports in order to determine the future crash risk of a truck or bus company," he said.
 
“However, on July 16th of last year I spoke to a group that is a member of the Alliance for Safe, Efficient, and Competitive Truck Transportation (ASECTT) who raised concerns related to the methodology used in CSA, specifically in the Safety Measurement System, or SMS," Duncan continued. "Some of these concerns arise from the fact that 40 percent of the 500,000 active truck and bus companies generate a score in at least one of the seven SMS categories, also called BASICs."

Duncan said there was no record of the truck and bus companies that receive a score in every category.
 
"A comprehensive understanding of a carrier’s safety is difficult to achieve with this lack of data," he said.  

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro told the committee that her agency relied on the CSA technology for safety inspections because full compliance reviews can be "very time consuming and labor intensive for both the motor carrier and safety investigators.

"It limits the agency and its state partners’ to evaluate the safety performance of less than 3 percent of the approximately 525,000 active carriers each year," she said. 

Ferro said the FMCSA "has involved all of our stakeholders and actively sought out comments and input from all interested parties" in the early implementation of the CSA program.

Road Safe America President Steve Owings, whose son was killed in a trucking accident in 2002, told lawmakers that police reports from crash scenes can be inaccurate when fatalities are involved. Owings said his son, Pierce, was too upset to speak to a state trooper after discovering that his brother, Cullum, had been killed.

"Consequently, the trooper only spoke to the truck driver," Owings said in testimony submitted to the panel.

"[The truck driver] told the trooper that Cullum and Pierce's car had been in the right lane and, at the very last moment, pulled in front of the truck, causing the truck to hit their car," which Owings said was not true.

"Since Pierce miraculously survived the crash, the truth was quickly discovered," Owings said. "The boys' car had always been in the left lane and was stopped there. When Cullum looked in his rearview mirror and realized that a truck was bearing down on them fast, he had to make a split-second decision to flee or to stay where he was and take his chances."

Owings said the CSA program helped federal regulators avoid situations like his son's crash.

"The CSA program was created to address the need to utilize all data more quickly to focus the FMCSA's limited resources on intervention with high risk carriers in order to prevent crashes and the resulting deaths and injuries," he said.

"As changes continued to be considered and made to hone the CSA program, it is essential that the program retains the ability to efficiently analyze data for timely intervention, that is cost effective, given FMCSA's limited resources, and that it remains fair to truck crash victims and their surviving family and friends," Owings continued.
 
Duncan said "decreasing fatalities and injuries resulting from truck and bus crashes is the most important goal the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with.

“The intentions behind CSA are good, but it is not a perfect system," he said. "We are holding this hearing today to identify where we can improve CSA and how we can reduce fatalities and injuries while keeping the engine of our economy moving."