Comments on:

DOT Docket No. FMCSA-2014-0177

These comments are being submitted by Steven Bryan, CEO and founder of Vigillo LLC, a Portland, OR based data analytics company.  Vigillo serves the trucking industry and is the leading provider of CSA Scorecards and Score management tools to 2,000 motor carriers employing 1M drivers.

In January 2015, the FMCSA released its Crash Weighting Report.  The study, four years in the making, was conducted due to pressure from some Congress members and the trucking industry.  The concern is that the Crash Indicator, one of seven scores generated in the Compliance, Safety and Accountability program (CSA) patently misrepresents a motor carrier’s level of responsibility in certain DOT reportable crashes.

Some examples of DOT reportable crashes that create punitive CSA Scores for motor carriers with no possible logical connection to a carrier’s future safety performance are:

  1. Intoxicated driver (of second vehicle) rear ends a legally parked truck
  2. Individual takes their own life by stepping/jumping into the path of a truck
  3. Tornado or extreme weather event encounters a truck
  4. Roadway fails, causing crash involving a truck

The FMCSA conducted this study to determine whether some system could be implemented to remove incidents such as those described above and focus CSA on preventable behavior of the driver and/or carrier to make our highways safer.

The study looks at whether Police Accident Reports (PARs), perhaps combined with Fatality Accident Reports (FARs), new weighting, and a dose of statistics, could improve upon the Crash Indicator in a cost effective and timely manner.

The report winds along for 143 pages, and as much as I enjoy a good hardscrabble tussle over the ins and outs of the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test, this really boils down to basic fairness to all concerned, as well as the credibility of the CSA program itself.

The FMCSA has positioned itself to conclude that:

1. PARs do not provide sufficient, consistent, and reliable information to support crash weighting determinations

2. Crash weighting determination process does not significantly improve prediction of crash risk

3. Crash weighting process would be costly and would not meet the two year timeline, and would be questionable in its ability to protect the rights of all involved

Each year, the FMCSA provides in excess of $165M in taxpayer dollars to the states for commercial vehicle enforcement through a program called the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP).  These funds are allocated to an assortment of training and other programs to the roughly 14,000 law enforcement officers who partner with the FMCSA to conduct commercial vehicle enforcement in the states.

So bullet point #1 gets real simple.  If $165M does not result in Police Accident Reports that are sufficient to filter out the obviously non-preventable crashes, insert a full stop here, do not proceed further, the crash data is not fit for a statistical model and must be removed. The Agency has the burden to show that data it uses is reliable for the intended purpose, not the other way around.  It offends all standards of our expectations of government that they spend millions on a program, declare that the result is insufficient to the task, then use the flawed data anyway in a manner that punishes businesses and costs them millions in lost revenue.

Let’s look at point #2.  In the study, the Agency now applies some new weightings to certain crashes (single vehicle) and comes to the conclusion that the statistical model does not improve significantly.  There is an old saying in statistics called GIGO.  Garbage in – Garbage out.  The Agency layers the data from MCMIS, which has never been designed to identify crash responsibility, on top of some new weightings that it has manufactured, and says “look, its no better”  Garbage on top of garbage.

Point #3 is truly amazing.  Here the Agency introduces the requirement that the public be given the opportunity to weigh in on every single DOT reportable crash, over 200,000 per year, through a public comment process, or else lose their rights.  Who makes this stuff up?  We have a very robust judicial system that protects the rights of anyone injured by another, whether it involves a truck, airplane, food, drug, or any other product that may cause injury.  There is absolutely no judicial determination in any aspect of CSA, whether it be the issuance of any of the almost 900 different violation types that occur all across the country every day, or in which crashes the FMCSA decides to count in its internal safety scoring system.  In fact, just last year, the FMCSA was forced to finally acknowledge that we have a judicial system and remove adjudicated citations from a driver/carrier CSA score.  The FMCSA seems to continue to believe that it sits above our system of state and federal judiciary.  Note to FMCSA…you don’t.  Anyone injured by a truck has all of the recourse our legal system provides.  CSA does not preclude any possible recourse for damages. Inserting this public comment requirement on every single DOT reportable is the FMCSA’s way of rendering it impossible to implement.

Anyone who has been following CSA for these past 6 or 7 years has witnessed an FMCSA who has refused to acknowledge the many defects of the CSA scoring methodology and data collection process.  Study after study has pointed out where the Agency uses flawed data, flawed methodology, and flawed logic to support its stance of absolute refusal to accept ideas for improvement.  This Crash Study is just the latest example of an agency who will not listen.

For those who advocate to keep including all crashes, you are going to lose CSA completely.  There are multiple efforts in Congress that are gaining strength that are going to result in CSA Scores being completely removed from public view.  So ask yourself, do I really want to be this inflexible?

I think back to the early days of CSA.  Most carriers were willing to accept such a system, and had lots of ideas of how to improve it.  The FMCSA would not hear a word of it.  I fear now that CSA will be pulled back, and the public will lose any view at all of motor carrier safety.


Steven G. Bryan
Vigillo LLC