Motor Carrier Safety:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Has Developed a Reasonable Framework for Managing and Testing Its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 Initiative

GAO-08-242R: Published: Dec 20, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2008.

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Susan A. Fleming
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About 5,500 people die each year as a result of crashes involving large commercial trucks or buses, and about 160,000 more are injured. While the fatality rate for these crashes has generally decreased over the last 20 years, the decline has leveled off in the most recent years. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation shoulders the primary federal responsibility for reducing these crashes, fatalities, and injuries and recognizes the need to make improvements if it is to achieve further substantial safety advancements. A key FMCSA effort to improve motor carrier safety is implementing the agency's Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010) initiative. Through CSA 2010, FMCSA expects to reduce motor carrier crashes, fatalities, and injuries by using better ways to identify unsafe carriers and drivers; assessing a larger portion of the motor carrier industry and holding carriers and drivers accountable for sustained performance by regularly determining their safety fitness; and expanding the range of interventions to be used with carriers and drivers that fail to comply with safety requirements. Congress asked us to conduct a broad assessment of FMCSA's progress in planning and implementing CSA 2010. Because much of the detailed work to develop and implement CSA 2010 remains to be done, our work has focused on how FMCSA has managed its initiative, rather than assessing safety benefits that might arise from it. Specifically, we reviewed: (1) how FMCSA sees CSA 2010 increasing safety, (2) whether FMCSA's overall framework for planning and implementing CSA 2010 is reasonable, and (3) the extent to which the operational test of the CSA 2010 model will inform FMCSA of its ability to fully implement the initiative in 2010.

FMCSA expects that CSA 2010 will provide safety benefits by enabling the agency to (1) increase its reach by assessing whether most motor carriers and drivers are safe and holding them accountable by regularly determining their safety fitness; (2) enhance its investigative and enforcement actions through the greater use of less resource-intensive interventions; and (3) improve its ability to identify safety deficiencies through better use of data. Under CSA 2010, all carriers--and eventually all drivers--with sufficient safety data available will receive a safety rating that is periodically updated. Currently, FMCSA is able to provide safety ratings for relatively few carriers and for no drivers. As described earlier, CSA 2010 will employ a progressive array of interventions that can be tailored to match the severity of the safety problems they are intended to correct. CSA 2010 intends to use new data--such as information from police accident reports about driver-related factors contributing to a crash--and improve existing data sources--by, for example, using its database of licensed commercial drivers to identify all drivers with convictions for unsafe driving practices, as well as the carriers they work for--to enable a more precise assessment of safety problems. CSA 2010 will support evolving and new enforcement and compliance efforts. For example, (1) carriers from Canada and Mexico that operate in the United States under open border agreements will be rated under CSA 2010 in the same way as U.S. carriers; (2) violations found through audits of new entrants--a program that FMCSA is working to strengthen--will be used in the CSA 2010 safety measurement system; and (3) data sources related to drivers' health--such as drivers' confirmed positive test results for controlled substances or alcohol--will be developed to focus attention on driver physical qualifications, a key FMCSA policy area. FMCSA has established a reasonable framework to plan and implement CSA 2010. In its planning efforts to date, it has met three factors associated with successful planning--set a clear project mission, established top leadership support, and developed a detailed plan. As FMCSA transitions from planning to implementing CSA 2010, it has met or is taking steps to meet those factors--such as consulting with affected stakeholders and providing needed technology and expertise to accomplish technical tasks--critical to the project's successful implementation. However, since some aspects of implementation are still being defined, we cannot yet assess FMCSA's efforts to effectively meet the success factors for implementation. For example, FMCSA has provided a range of technical resources to, among other efforts, develop the CSA 2010 operating model, initiate rulemaking, develop training instruments, and configure supporting data and information technology systems. However, certain efforts, such as rulemaking and data and information technology system configuration, will continue as the operational test progresses and may lead to refinement of the CSA 2010 concept. Therefore, an assessment of FMCSA's overall effort cannot be completed until these activities occur over the course of the operational test (from January 2008 through June 2010).

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