A coalition of shippers, small trucking companies and brokers is suing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over "guidance" the agency provided in May on the use of CSA data.
It's the second time in court for many of members of the coalition, some of whom initially challenged the FMCSA over the public launch of CSA in 2010.
Although the coalition's lawsuit takes aim at publications the agency released May 16, the ultimate target may be the safety measurement system that underpins the controversial truck safety initiative.
The lawsuit was filed July 16 by the Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation, four transportation trade associations and 12 other plaintiffs.
The challenge is the latest shot fired by trucking groups at the Compliance, Safety and Accountability program, the cornerstone of the FMCSA’s multiyear safety efforts.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a lawsuit against the FMCSA last week that in part challenges how the agency uses CSA data.
Specifically, ASECTT seeks judicial review of the agency’s publication “New Resources Available for Shippers, Brokers and Insurers,” issued May 16.
ASECTT and the other plaintiffs argue that by urging shippers to use CSA data when selecting carriers, the FMCSA is abandoning its responsibility as a regulator.
“The agency has in effect told the shipping community it cannot rely upon the agency to do its statutory job,” said Tom Sanderson, president of ASECTT.
The FMCSA currently assigns safety ratings of “satisfactory,” “conditional,” or “unsatisfactory” only after an audit. CSA scores are not safety ratings.
ASECTT strongly objects to the safety measurement system the agency uses to develop percentile scores in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.
“ASECTT members believe SMS methodology is a work in progress, unapproved for the agency’s own use in making safety fitness determinations,” Sanderson said.
The FMCSA launched CSA in 2010, making five of the seven “BASIC” scores public and allowing shippers and brokers to search for carrier scores online.
However, the agency has yet to develop a new safety fitness determination process based on the BASICs, the subject of a long-awaited rule-making next year.
Shippers and brokers say that makes them vulnerable to liability and negligent hiring lawsuits if a carrier with high BASIC scores is involved in an accident.
Groups involved in the lawsuit unsuccessfully fought to have the BASIC scores kept private, though they were able to win some concessions from the FMCSA last year.
Carriers increasingly find fault with the data collection processes underlying the BASICs, and dispute whether the scores are a valid means of predicting crashes.