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Proposed changes to motor carrier safety program would shift focus to law enforcement

In our previous post, we began speaking about the Compliance Safety Accountability program, overseen by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, noting that changes have been proposed to the program. A bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives would specifically change the public nature of the program’s safety ratings.

The bill, known as the Safer Trucks and Buses Act of 2015, would also make changes to the program to make it more effective in law enforcement. At present, the program is widely used by insurers, freight-forwarders and brokers, but the way the program currently calculates safety ratings is apparently not optimized for law enforcement purposes. 

To do this, the bill calls for an accounting of the differences between state-reported data and self-reported data, as well as geographical differences in the way safety measures are enforced and how fault is determined in motor vehicle crashes. The idea behind the changes is to ensure that the safety data used to calculate safety ratings is accurate with respect to predicting trucking companies’ safety performance.

The proposed changes are important because of the way they could impact the ability of the trucking industry to screen out unsafe companies from their business interactions, and because of their focus on tailoring the program for use by law enforcement officials. While focusing the program in that direction seems like a smart move in some ways, it does away with what arguably really concerns the public: how frequently are trucking companies involved in truck accidents? Arguably, the subtle change in approach would constitute a shift away from what matter the most to the public when it comes to trucking safety, even if the changes are made in the name of accuracy. 

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