The CSA conundrum

Updated Apr 29, 2015

There’s a battle brewing in the fleet world around the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.

Last September a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that called for the abolition of publicly visible fleet CSA scores.

Proposed by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) — and publicly supported by the American Trucking Associations, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and National Association of Small Trucking Companies — the bill was introduced not long after Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx’s office was flooded with petitions from trucking companies seeking to remove their scores from public view.

In their petitions the fleets argued public CSA scores were providing inaccurate performance risk measurements, creating misconceptions about their capable service and hurting their ability to acquire new business.

Six months later a similar bill made its way to the House, again targeted at the FMCSA and visible CSA scores.

The FMCSA did not alter its publication parameters as a result of either bill, instead choosing to only further expand the availability of CSA scores with introduction of a mobile application on March 17.

As you can expect, the fleet industry did not take well to this app.

In an interview with the ATA the day after the app was released, Susan Fleming, director of the physical infrastructure department at Government Accountability Office (GAO), addressed the trucking industry’s concerns with the app and CSA score visibility as a whole.

Citing a prior GAO study, Fleming said the current CSA scoring process has significant flaws, unintentionally discriminates against smaller carriers and lacks correlation between CSA BASIC scores and crash occurrence/avoidance.

“[The app] is another way of publicly displaying information we don’t consider to be reliable,” Fleming said.

The FMCSA has yet to respond to Fleming’s comments or the second bill, and as of our press date fleet scores are still available on the CSA website. Where this battle goes from here, I can’t say, but I do think a resolution or compromise could unintentionally impact the aftermarket.

That’s because while fleets are concerned with third-party businesses using their CSA scores against them, aftermarket businesses are actually using those scores to help them.

CSA’s website publishes more than just crash data; it also includes in-depth information on fleet maintenance. This information allows aftermarket business- es to research customers’ problem areas, and offer products, services and mainte- nance solutions based on their needs.

It allows the aftermarket to better serve its customers.

If either of the two proposed bills eventually pass, or the fleet community and FMCSA broker a separate agreement, the aftermarket’s access to this valuable CSA information could go away.

This makes me wonder if the aftermarket wouldn’t benefit from entering this debate, if for no other reason than to communicate its secondary impact to possible solutions.

I completely understand the fleet community’s concern about public scores. If I were a small fleet owner, I’d be justifiably troubled about a government program that could present my fleet unfavorably and incorrectly to my customers.

Yet at the same time, if I were having performance or maintenance issues with my fleet, I’d want help. I’d want to partner with an aftermarket business that understood my problems and had the ability help me fix them.

Accessible CSA scores provide that.

Fleets aren’t going to rest in their quest to take down CSA scores. They don’t want that information out there.

But if you and your fleet customers are true partners, maybe they might be willing to make an exception for you.

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