Making a list for all to see

Dec. 16, 2014
FMCSA’s denial to hide CSA scores puts unfair scrutiny on safe carriers

I can’t believe it myself, but the holiday season is here and many of you will be reading this column from the comfort of a holiday vacation that is certainly long overdue. That being said, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and try to remember when we were kids during the holidays. If you were anything like my son, you were trying your best to get on Santa’s “nice” list—and stay there. If you were anything like me, no matter how hard you tried, that “naughty” list seemed destined to have your name etched in stone. 

Imagine, if you will, that Santa’s naughty and nice lists were available for the world to see. Now your teacher, your church leader and even the local sports organizations can see whether or not you were naughty or nice, to speak nothing of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker seeing how good you were and whether or not coal would be your gift this year.

What if all of these folks now knew how you had behaved during the past year and didn’t bother to figure out how or why Santa and his elves rated you that way? Would it really be fair? What if your Christmas cookies were not as good as advertised, the carrots for the reindeer were rotten, and that glass of milk that you left for Santa was spoiled? Are these good reasons to be placed on Santa’s naughty list?

Without really knowing the ins and outs of Santa’s lists or whether those lists were correct when compiled, would it really be fair to allow everyone else in the community to see the lists? Well, the obvious answer is no; however, that’s not what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said when it was asked to remove CSA scores from the public eye until they are correct.

As you may be aware, TCA and several of its trucking association brethren forwarded a letter to FMCSA requesting the removal of motor carrier SMS scores based upon the findings of a GAO report that discovered flaws in the CSA program. Our request was denied and quite obviously, I am hoping that those who read my little holiday scenario can relate to what is happening with CSA and the agency’s denial of our request.

Let me be clear. We all know that there are safety-averse carriers that do operate on our highways, and the agency is certainly trying its hardest to combat those carriers and shut down their operations. However, the agency’s denial of our request based upon enforcement assumptions without addressing the fact that CSA does paint the wrong picture about many safety-first thinking carriers is undeniably wrong, much like putting a child on the naughty list when that child has not really been bad. 

While I certainly took some holiday liberty when writing this article, I do hope that sometime in the near future the agency does address the issue of improperly categorizing  safe carriers. A measurement system is only good if it is truly accurate.  As we close the door on 2014 and look forward to what lies ahead, I am certain that this issue will continue to be at the forefront of an industry that strives to place safety first.

Happy holidays to everyone from the Truckload Carriers Assn.  

David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn.  He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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