GOP rep. files bill to revamp truck safety scoring

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Rep. Lou BarlettaLou BarlettaSigns of change from Trump Poor polling highlights Trump challenges in swing states Trump aims to win over GOP with Pence pick MORE (R-Pa.) has filed legislation to revamp the Department of Transportation’s system for measuring the safety of trucking and bus companies. 

Barletta said the measure, which has been dubbed the Safer Trucks and Buses Act, is needed because truck companies are unfairly penalized for minor infrastructions under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s current Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) scoring system. 

“A faulty safety score might as well be no safety score,” Barletta said in a statement.  “I have four daughters, and I want the roads to be safe. Unfortunately, companies across the country and in Pennsylvania are being unfairly misrepresented by their safety scores, causing economically devastating impacts to these bus and truck companies, many of which are small businesses.”

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Barletta’s legislation, which was unsuccessfully introduced last year, requires the Motor Carrier Safety agency to stop publishing its compliance scores until changes are made to the program to better reflect truck and bus companies’ safety records. The measure prevents the agency’s scores from being used as evidence in court cases involving truck and bus companies and directs the agency to work with the non-partisan National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) on creating new metric for measuring safety. 

Truck safety groups have opposed previous efforts to force the Transportation Department to stop publishing the safety compliance scores. 

“Our organizations and volunteers strongly oppose this request to hide lifesaving safety data from the public,” a coalition of safety group wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last fall. 

“The safety-focused culture engendered by CSA greatly relies on the accountability it produces by making its data publicly available,” the letter continued. “We urge you to protect the current system and ensure that the CSA Safety Measurement System scores are not removed from public view.” 

The September 2014 letter was signed  by theTruck Safety Coalition (TSC), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).

Trucking groups are far more supportive of Barletta's legislation. 

“ATA greatly appreciates Congressman Barletta’s efforts to improve CSA, and remove CSA scores from public view until the much-needed improvements are made," American Trucking Association Vice President Dave Osiecki said in a statement. "ATA supports the objectives of CSA, but is keenly aware of the system’s faults and data limitations.  Rep. Barletta’s efforts will help better identify unsafe trucking companies and ultimately reduce crashes as a result-an objective that FMCSA has not yet been able to achieve with CSA.” 

Barletta said this week he is re-filing the legislation because the Transportation Department has been unresponsive to complaints about the scoring system. 

“The publishing of flawed safety scores does not benefit anyone,” he said.  “But rather than focusing on improving the flawed system, last week, the FMCSA further spread the bad information to the public by introducing a phone application for the CSA data program.  

“Whether it’s a parent looking for the safest bus for her kid’s school trip, a shipper looking for the safest truck to haul its goods, or a small business trying to make it in a tough economy, we need better safety scores to provide adequate safety information,” he continued.  “This bill in no way eliminates law enforcement access to safety data, and the worst offenders can still be targeted.”

The Transportation Department declined to comment on Barletta's proposed legislation, but officials with the agency said Tuesday that the safety compliance scoring system has been effective in reducing the number of accidents involving trucks and buses. 

"FMCSA is committed to preventing large truck and bus crashes before they occur and the Safety Measurement System has been a game changer in improving safety by making company violations and safety records publicly available to consumers, law enforcement and other businesses," DOT Press Secretary Ryan Daniels said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

"Research also shows that the Safety Measurement System is more effective at identifying commercial bus and truck companies of all sizes for targeted enforcement than the system it replaced in 2010," Daniels continued. 

-This story was updated with new information at 3:52 p.m.