FMCSA's publishing BASIC scores undermines FAST Act

FMCSA's publishing BASIC scores undermines FAST Act

The sound of thousands of jaws hitting floors and desktops could be heard throughout the freight community when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced its flabbergasting decision to post “absolute performance measures” for BASIC scores in early March. Not satisfied with losing credibility by alienating the feedback and interests of the public, the Government Accountability Office, its own inspector general, academia, shippers, brokers, carriers and safety companies, this week FMCSA thumbed its nose at the intent of Congress and the President too.  

The FAST Act required the FMCSA to remove from public view CSA’s alert symbol, each of the five relative BASIC scores, and the intervention threshold for each score. While it is not illegal for FMCSA to post these absolute scores, doing so represents an affront to the intent of Congress when it passed the FAST Act. By publicly posting absolute measures now, FMCSA is intentionally muddying the waters — again.

CSA’s BASIC scores, their weighting and their methodology have proven to require expert review. It took five years and literally an act of Congress for FMCSA to remove the scores from public view, so that shippers, brokers and the public don’t rely upon them to make commercial carrier selection decisions.

Our position remains unchanged, that FMCSA’s “absolute measures” are absolutely useless to the public, for any non-internal law enforcement purpose.

Meanwhile, FMCSA is busy at work on a new Safety Fitness Determination that will apply an algorithm to all seven BASICs (even the two BASICS hidden from the public), to largely determine “unfit” carriers. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty good direction — tell the public who not to use, and don’t deputize people who aren’t qualified to make impossible decisions. But FMCSA’s SFD algorithm isn’t final. Since two out of seven BASICs are hidden, even a final algorithm will be impossible to apply by the public. When the FMCSA publishes the final rule, accidents still won’t be predictable. So why might anyone consider using individual scores? No clue.

Not only are the scores, alone or together, completely useless, their existence in the public domain is harmful to public safety and public policy. But alas, these arguments have long fallen on the tone-deaf ears, and data-blind minds of FMCSA leadership. If FMCSA’s decisions and their reactions to criticism weren’t so harmful to public safety, they could be sitcom material. Stay tuned, and don’t touch that channel!

Jeff Tucker is CEO of Tucker Company Worldwide, Inc. and QualifiedCarriers.com. Contact him at jeff.tucker@tuckerco.com.