A second Wells Fargo analysis of the CSA program deepens doubts about the link between CSA BASIC scores and a trucker’s future crash risk.
Wells Fargo Equity Research released the results of a broader study of motor carriers with CSA ratings Monday and said they support its original findings. “We continue to find the FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety program problematic,” Wells Fargo said in a July 2 note to investors about its study. “Based on our research, we do not believe stakeholders should rely on CSA BASIC scores as an indicator of carrier safety performance or future crash risk.”
The report gives ammunition to trucking and shipping groups that want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to change the controversial program.
Trucking groups are clashing with the FMCSA over how the agency collects and interprets the data that drive its CSA scores in seven BASIC categories.
The program’s Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category scores and the methodology behind them are at the heart of the controversy over CSA.
Shippers can view a carrier’s Unsafe Driving, Driver Fitness, Driver Fatigue, Vehicle Maintenance and Controlled Substances and Alcohol BASIC scores online.
Customers and freight brokers want clearer guidelines on how to use CSA scores when evaluating carrier partners — or whether they should be used at all. Those groups are increasingly concerned they could be held liable in an accident lawsuit for using a carrier with high scores in a CSA BASIC category.
The FMCSA disputed the findings of Wells Fargo’s initial study of its methodology, released last November, saying the firm’s study group was too small.
The agency cited a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study that found “robust statistical relationships” between CSA scores and crash risk.
In response, Wells Fargo expanded its study group from 200 carriers to 4,600 trucking companies with a minimum of 25 trucks and 50 inspections a year.
“This dataset enables us to capture both large and smaller carriers as well as to ensure that the prescribed regulatory measures are represented,” Wells Fargo said.
The FMCSA and Wells Fargo disagree over how data is organized and interpreted. The result, Wells Fargo argues, is that otherwise safe carriers get poor scores.
Wells Fargo found “only negligible differences” between accident rates for carriers above and below thresholds in the Unsafe Driving and Driver Fitness BASICs.
The research firm found a higher degree of correlation between in the Vehicle Maintenance and Fatigued Driving BASICs, but not enough to predict crash risks. “If CSA BASIC scores were measuring the correct behaviors we would expect an identifiable relationship with crash rates and threshold CSA BASIC scores.”
Wells Fargo compared four BASICs and accident incidence on a mileage and per-power-unit basis, finding crash-rate correlation to be “weak or nonexistent.”
“We believe one of the main challenges is that CSA is a federal program but violations and inspections are completed at the state level,” Wells Fargo said.
The wide variety of enforcement and inspection protocols among the states and the quality of state reporting can influence a carrier’s BASIC scores, Wells Fargo said.
Crash data entered into the system does not account for whether a carrier was at fault in an accident, further skewing the process, Wells Fargo said.
Furthermore, only 27.9 percent of the 326,324 carriers in the March 2012 CSA data set maintained by FMCSA had BASIC scores, the research firm pointed out. “We are left to wonder if non-rated carriers will be ‘shunned,’ thereby benefitting the larger carriers in our research universe,” Wells Fargo said.