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GAO Report Finds Fault with Federal Trucking Safety Rating System

Commercial trucking accidents are one of the biggest hazards facing American drivers, and contribute to an average of 4,000 fatalities every year. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a system for rating the safety performance of commercial truck companies and bus carriers, a new report finds that the system is inadequate, and delivers incorrect results.
Those are the findings of a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO recently completed an audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. The Compliance, Safety, Accountability program uses data collected from roadside inspections of trucks and 18- wheelers, as well as data from accident investigations, and uses this information to compare the performance of commercial truck and bus carriers. Trucks and buses are compared to other carriers of similar size and other characteristics.

The data are then used to increase oversight and scrutiny over the truck and bus carriers that the data finds have the highest number of safety violations.The data are compared with other trucking and bus companies as part of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s Safety Measurement System.

On the surface, this seems like a good method to predict accident risks. After all, a trucking or bus company that has a long history of violations may have a higher risk of being involved in fatal or serious injury accidents. The Government Accountability Office, however, finds that the current method used to establish such ratings is inadequate and often times inappropriately applied.

In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program to reduce the number of commercial truck and bus accidents by targeting high-risk carriers that had a record of violations. In 2012, the GAO was directed to monitor the implementation of the program, and report the effectiveness of the program in fairly and accurately predicting the safety risk for motor carriers.

According to the GAO, when it conducted an audit of the federal agency’s rating process, it found that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determined safety scores for trucking and bus companies without having solid information to make a fair comparison between companies. In addition, the Government Accountability Office report recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration use greater judgment in the kind of scores that it assigns to carriers based on safety records, even if it means that fewer carriers get good safety ratings.

Safety on our roadways must continue to be a top priority for our legislators and those agencies that enforce regulations.This is the only way that we will see a decrease in the serious motor vehicle collisions that claim lives in Georgia and across the U.S.