In a recent hearing of a Senate Commerce subcommittee, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) set her sights on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Shortly after introductions, Fischer went on the attack.
“Members of Congress, independent agencies – including the GAO, the NTSB, and the DOT inspector general – and stakeholders have expressed serious concerns with the agency’s flawed approach in a number of areas,” Fischer said.
Fischer said FMCSA made changes to the 34-hour restart rule without a congressionally mandated study and when completed the study did not have an adequate sampling size.
She then moved to the agency’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program.
“Inaccurate CSA scores, publicly available online, have cost companies contracts and raised insurance rates. All of this has occurred without a clear correlation to increasing highway safety,” she said. “When confronted with these findings, FMCSA completely disregarded GAO’s recommendations. To address flaws in CSA implementation, major stakeholders, including law enforcement, requested that FMCSA remove CSA scores from public view.”
Fischer said she intends to introduce legislation to reform FMCSA to make the regulatory process more inclusive to Congress and stakeholders.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), often at odds with the agency, was quick to echo the senator’s concerns.
"…the flaws in CSA were again highlighted and again the agency insisted it will do nothing to correct them," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "FMCSA should not just hear the concerns expressed by Senator Fischer and the GAO, but address them with real action."
ATA has previously called on FMCSA to change how it uses crash history in CSA as well as to remove CSA scores from public view until the system is improved.
Government Accounting Office (GAO) Director Susan Fleming also testified, saying that FMCSA would benefit by basic changes to improve the agency’s effectiveness.
FMCSA Acting Director Scott Darling was on the defensive for most of the hearing.
Fischer repeatedly asked Darling to specify ways the agency was working to refine CSA. Darling said the agency was committed to high safety standards and “continuous improvement.”
“It takes time to make sure that we have a system that works, and we believe we have a system that works today,” Darling said, adding that he was “not at a place” to identify specific reforms expected by the end of the year.