December 14, 2010

FMCSA launches bus, truck accountability program

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took a major step toward improving commercial truck and bus safety with the launch of the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program.

The centerpiece of CSA is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which will analyze all safety-based violations from inspections and crash data to determine a commercial motor carrier's on-road performance. The new safety program will allow FMCSA to reach more carriers earlier and deploy a range of corrective interventions to address a carrier's specific safety problems.

"The CSA program will help us more easily identify unsafe commercial truck and bus companies," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Better data and targeted enforcement will raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and empower them to take action before safety problems occur."

The program also advances the Obama Administration's open government initiative by providing the public with safety data in a more user-friendly format. This will give consumers a better picture of those carriers that pose a safety risk. CSA was also tested in nine pilot states before the program was launched.

"We worked closely with our partners in the motor vehicle community to develop this powerful new program," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "CSA is an important new tool that will help reduce commercial vehicle-related crashes and save lives."

The SMS uses seven safety improvement categories called BASICs to examine a carrier's on-road performance and potential crash risk.

The BASICs are:

  • Unsafe Driving
  • Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service)
  • Driver Fitness
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Cargo-Related 
  • Crash Indicator

Under FMCSA's old measurement system, carrier performance was assessed in only four broad categories.

By looking at a carrier's safety violations in each SMS category, FMCSA and state law enforcement will be better equipped to identify carriers with patterns of high-risk behaviors and apply interventions that provide carriers the information necessary to change unsafe practices early on, according to the agency.

Safety interventions include early warning letters, targeted roadside inspections and focused compliance reviews that concentrate enforcement resources on specific issues identified by the SMS.

FMCSA will continue to conduct onsite comprehensive compliance reviews for carriers with safety issues across multiple BASICs and invoke strong civil penalties where a carrier has not taken the appropriate corrective action.

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