By James Scapellato
Chief Executive Officer
This Opinion piece appears in the Feb. 28 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Some trucking industry executives predicted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationâ€™s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program was going to be a â€œgame changerâ€� for the industry. They were right.
The U.S. Department of Transportationâ€™s premature public release of questionable CSA/Safety Measurement System data has caused some of Americaâ€™s most respected and safe carriers irreparable damage to reputation and productivity â€” with little recourse.
Hereâ€™s an illustration of the problem: From 1995 to 2010, a top for-hire carrier had 11 DOT rateable compliance reviews, compared with an average of three compliance reviews for 15 other for-hire competitors of similar size. In just the past three years, this company has endured four back-to-back, in-depth compliance reviews, while several peers with similar crash rates and violation rates per vehicle inspection have not had a rateable compliance review for several years.
Since 1986, the compliance review has been the primary intervention tool used by DOT investigators to compel compliance. As a general rule, most of the top for-hire carriers have comprehensive safety programs, advanced technologies, modern and well-serviced equipment, and satisfactory on-road safety performance. Itâ€™s no surprise that this group of carriers have fewer compliance reviews.
Yet, under CSA, DOT investigators are allowed to deviate from their training, guidelines and the plain reading of the rules in their quest to cite safety violations.
DOTâ€™s administrative â€œdue processâ€� procedures are cast in such a way that an aggrieved carrierâ€™s challenge becomes prolonged, expensive and unrewarding.
Furthermore, an interstate carrier has no real-time means of challenging and overturning alleged compliance review and roadside violations because they are immediately uploaded into FMCSAâ€™s Motor Carrier Management Information System and released to the public under CSA on a monthly basis. As a result, the affected carrier is deemed guilty with neither adequate notice nor due process. Thatâ€™s not the American way.
The industry has waited 15 years for a supporting documents final rule, despite a specific congressional mandate and a writ of mandamus from the U.S. Court of Appeals compelling it to be done.
Â© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
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