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Feb.8, 2016

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4 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE Editor's Letter William B. Cassidy WITH A PROPOSED rule that would create a new motor carrier safety f it ness rat ing system, t he U. S. government is preparing to place a regulatory capstone on its most ambitious and controversial truck- ing init iat ive, t he Complia nce, Safety, Accountability program. The proposal is the fi rst actual CSA rulemaking, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration intro- duced in 2010 after fi ve years of testing at the state level. The rulemaking aims to simplify and replace a rating system designed for the age of the fax machine while greatly expanding the number of companies regulators can track, inves- tigate and rate. The system would be more proac- tive, but it would also be more complex and volatile, and it would rely on data and processes trucking interests say are fl awed. Despite challenges that are sure to come, change is inevitable, and desirable. The current system is fail- ing the general public, the trucking industry and the FMCSA. The vast majority of trucking companies — more than 75 percent by one estimate — have no safety rating at all. They are effectively invisible to regulators. A nd the number of for-hire trucking companies is on the rise. estimates the number of carriers leaped 30 percent from 2012 through 2015, pushing the number of active carri- ers, those legally authorized to haul freight, past 200,000. To regulate this industry, the FMCSA has about 1,100 employees, with 900 in fi eld offi ces. The agency's state and local partners employ another 12,000 professionals. Under the current sys- tem, in place since 1982, the FMCSA is able to investigate and audit only about 15,000 carriers a year, and only half of those companies receive a safety rating of satisfactory, condi- tional or unsatisfactory. CSA, in theory, is an attempt to bring truck safety into the digital age. Since its inception, the program's goal has been to use violation data from roadside inspections, along with results of carrier investigations and crash reports, to assess carrier safety fi tness in a manner closer to real-time, helping the federal agency and its state partners uncover rogue trucking operators and catch and correct safety problems before they lead to accidents, injuries and deaths. Theory is great, but practice is stickier. The data collected by states and crunched by the FMCSA results in percentiles, or "scores," across seven safety categories, called BASICs, in the agency's Safety Measurement Sys- tem. Trucking groups, as well as the Government Accountability Office, say these percentiles don't correlate with crash risk. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act of 2015 ordered BASIC percentiles removed from public view pending a review of the CSA program, but the BASICs, flawed or not, are the backbone of the SMS. The proposed rule, published in the Jan. 21 Federal Register, is an attempt to finally connect the BASICs to safety fi tness determina- tion. The new system would review data monthly. The number of carriers tracked annually would skyrocket, to about 75,000. Investigators could identify problems earlier and prevent accidents, rather than conduct post- accident audits. There would be only one rating issued, "unfit," with no more nebulous "conditional" or years- old "satisfactory" grades. To realize that vision, the agency must ensure the underlying data and processes do what they're meant to do: identify carriers that pose a safety risk. The proposal takes several steps in that direction, setting a "fi xed failure stan- dard" much higher than SMS BASIC thresholds and not relying on contro- versial carrier peer group analyses. All stakeholders will have a chance to comment before a final rule is released. Let's hope the debate produces a system that is worthy of the vision behind it. JOC FMCSA's Crash Course The Journal of Commerce (USPS 279 – 060), ISSN 1530-7557, February 8, 2016, Volume 17, Issue No. 3. The Journal of Commerce is published bi-weekly except the last week in December (printed 26 times per year) by JOC Group Inc. 2 Penn Plaza East, 12th Floor, Newark, N.J. 07105. Subscription price: $344 a year. Periodicals postage paid at Newark, N.J., and additional mailing offi ces. © All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be copied or reprinted without written permission from the publisher. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to The Journal of Commerce, Subscription Services Department, 2 Penn Plaza East, Floor 12, Newark, N.J. 07105-2257. FEBRUARY 8.2016 EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE AND JOC EVENTS Chris Brooks 973.776.7818 MANAGING EDITOR Barbara Wyker 973.776.7817 EXECUTIVE EDITOR, JOC.COM Mark Szakonyi 202.872.1234 SENIOR EDITORS Joseph Bonney, Trans-Atlantic, East and Gulf Coast, Latin America 973.776.7809 William B. Cassidy, Trucking and Domestic Transportation 202.872.1228 Bill Mongelluzzo, Trans-Pacifi c 562.428.5999 Greg Knowler, Asia Editor, IHS Maritime & Trade +852 3975 2647 Turloch Mooney, Ports, IHS Maritime & Trade +852 9011 9109 ASSOCIATE EDITOR Reynolds Hutchins, Intermodal Rail and Government/Regulation 202.572.1487 EDITOR-AT-LARGE Peter T. Leach 212.755.0940 RESEARCH EDITOR Marsha Salisbury 973.776.7828 ASSISTANT WEB EDITOR Dustin Braden 973.776.8652 ECONOMIST Mario O. 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