CSA and Motor Carrier Safety Ratings: The Past, Present and Future


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) Compliance Safety Accountability program (“CSA”) is one of the most significant and ambitious motor carrier safety regulatory initiatives ever. After starting out as a pilot test project in a small number of states in 2008, it enters its final phase early this year when the FMCSA files its Notice of Rulemaking (“NPRM”) regarding the implementation of CSA’s SMS methodology into the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process, which determines a carrier’s ultimate safety fitness rating. Up to this point CSA, with its SMS methodology, has helped the FMCSA prioritize its safety monitoring and intervention efforts, assisted it in determining carriers subject to Comprehensive Reviews, and has provided the basis for publicly displayed comparative percentile rankings of carriers in the seven statistical areas the FMCSA has determined to be related to carrier propensity to be involved in vehicular accidents (the SMS Methodology BASICs). In its final phase, SMS methodology will be used in the SFD process to rate each carrier’s safety fitness, based solely on a motor carrier’s own performance measure.

There is not complete agreement among those most interested in CSA as to the viability of the CSA’s SMS methodology and the relationship of all the BASICs categories to a motor carrier’s ability to operate its fleet safely on the nation’s roadways, nor is there agreement on the amount of, or the manner in which, CSA generated data should be made public.

This article summarizes what CSA has been in the past, its present role and what can be expected in the future after the new rule making becomes final, including the issues that have been raised regarding CSA’s SMS methodology. This article closes with suggestions for improvements.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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