Large fleets shouldn’t receive better safety scores simply because they can afford the latest technology, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told FMCSA in formal comments about the agency’s Beyond Compliance program.
OOIDA’s comments filed on Tuesday, Feb. 18, were in response to FMCSA’s notice published in December, seeking comments from motor carriers so that it can begin to implement the congressionally mandated Beyond Compliance program.
Based off 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, FMCSA is required to give credit to motor carriers that install advanced safety equipment, use enhanced driver fitness measures, adopt fleet safety management tools and programs, or satisfy other standards determined appropriate by the FMCSA administrator. The idea behind the Beyond Compliance program is to reward motor carriers that go above and beyond what is required to ensure safe operation.
The Association is against any “pay to play” approach.
“OOIDA members are concerned that Beyond Compliance has the potential to give an advantage to only those motor carriers who can afford costly new technologies,” the Association wrote in comments signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer. “If these motor carriers are rewarded with better public safety scores, then smaller carriers would likely see their scores downgraded without any actual change in their safety performance.”
Instead, OOIDA contends that the program should find a way to reward all carriers that improve safety.
“Beyond Compliance must measure and reward actual crash reductions, or continued exemplary performance for those carriers without a preventable Department of Transportation reportable crash, on a carrier by carrier basis,” OOIDA wrote. “OOIDA strongly believes that the FMCSA must structure Beyond Compliance in a way so all types of carriers can participate in the program, not just larger carriers who can afford it.”
The FAST Act also requires FMCSA to carry out the Beyond Compliance provisions through incorporating a methodology into the Compliance Safety Accountability program, or establishing a safety Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC).
- In June 2017, the National Academy of Sciences issued a study on the CSA program with six recommendations.
Develop an Item Response Theory model over the next two years, and if it performs well in identifying and prioritizing motor carriers for intervention, use the IRT model to replace SMS.
- Collaborate with states and other agencies to improve the quality of data in the Motor Carrier Management Information System in support of SMS. Two specific data elements require immediate attention: carrier exposure and crash data.
- Investigate ways of collecting data that will likely benefit the recommended methodology for safety assessment, including data on carrier characteristics such as driver turnover rate, type of cargo, method and level of compensation, and better information on exposure.
- Structure a user-friendly version of the MCMIS data file without personally identifiable information to facilitate its use by external parties, such as researchers and carriers.
- Make user-friendly computer code used to compute SMS elements publicly available to individuals in accordance with reproducibility and transparency guidelines.
- Undertake a study to better understand the statistical operating characteristics of the percentile ranks to support decisions regarding the usability of public scores.
Use both SMS percentile ranks and the SMS measures to prioritize which carriers receive alerts. Compute safety scores conditionally within groups of similar carriers, as well as unconditionally for all motor carriers.
“FMCSA should not rely on MCMIS data to begin configuring Beyond Compliance until the agency has fully addressed the NAS recommendations,” OOIDA wrote. “Furthermore, FMCSA must also make improvements to CSA before carrying out any Beyond Compliance provisions, such as incorporating a methodology into the CSA program or establishing a safety Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category.”
OOIDA said the agency should select measures that actually improve safety rather than ones that simply install the latest gadget.
“The Beyond Compliance program should be designed to reduce crashes and reward motor carriers who achieve those results or maintain a record of no crashes – that’s how ‘significant safety improvements’ should be defined,” OOIDA wrote. “Advanced safety equipment and fleet safety management technologies do not automatically result in improved safety performance.”
OOIDA cited a 2016 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that collected 85,000 hours of driving and 885,000 collision avoidance systems activations. The report found that 75% of the activations were in response to a valid vehicle or object in the path of the truck but that at the time of the activation a crash-avoidance maneuver was not necessary. Another 11% of the alerts were false, equating to 758,062 alerts which weren’t necessary or did not improve safety.
The Association also suggests that FMCSA look at what roles driver compensation and driver turnover play when it comes to highway safety.
“OOIDA encourages FMCSA to gather more information related to driver compensation and driver retention rates as part of Beyond Compliance,” the Association wrote. “The NAS review stated information on turnover rate could be very predictive of a company’s treatment of its employees, which could be related to safety operations.
“The report also mentioned that, ‘It is known that drivers who are better compensated, and those not compensated as a function of miles traveled, have fewer crashes.’ If Beyond Compliance is about improving safety performance, then increasing driver compensation and high driver retention should be included as part of the program’s approach.”
The Association said that the program should be focused on areas that will lead to an increase in safety.
“OOIDA believes Beyond Compliance should include practices that actually improve safety, such as training, retention and accident-free miles.”