Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program Make Semi-Trucks Safer on the Road?

The amount of freight transported in Oregon and across the United States continues to rise year after year. After all, supply chains now stretch around the world, necessitating transportation by rail, ship, truck, and other modalities. And there’s no doubt that the trucking industry touches all of our lives on a daily basis here in Oregon. Virtually everything we purchase (or some of its components) was transported, at least in part, by a large truck.

In fact, trucks transport more cargo than trains, ships, and airplanes, totaling 63 percent of transported freight. Even goods shipped by other modes often must be trucked from a port, rail yard, or other intermediate location. In 2017, trucks carried $721 billion worth of freight in the United States.

While most people recognize and appreciate the importance of the trucking industry to a healthy economy, large trucks also contribute extra danger to society, which cannot be ignored. Thousands of people are killed and injured every year by dangerous trucks and unsafe drivers. Certainly, both federal and state governments recognize the issue, and carefully monitor and regulate the trucking industry. Nevertheless, semi-truck and other large vehicle crashes continue to take a toll on society.

In this article, we will discuss the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and whether it is making semi-trucks safer on the road.

What Is Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has designated a program called Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) to improve commercial motor vehicle safety and to prevent crashes, fatalities, and injuries. The program relies upon a Safety Measurement System (SMS), a Safety Fitness Determination (SFD), and appropriate interventions to promote safety. We’ll discuss these below.

Safety Measurement System (SMS) – Using the previous two years’ data on roadside inspections of trucks, investigations, and crash reports, the SMS can determine which carriers are a threat to safety and intervene. The FMCSA organizes this data into seven categories, with the acronym BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). The seven BASICs are:

  • Unsafe driving
  • Hours of service compliance
  • Crash indicator
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Driver fitness
  • Hazardous materials compliance

With this data and criteria, the FMCSA compares carriers to one another and then groups them in order to evaluate them.

Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) – The FMCSA performs an assessment to determine the safety of motor carriers. This determination is made in accordance with federal regulations set out at 49 CFR Part 385. The score assigned can influence the frequency of roadside inspections and audits. Carriers can be rated as satisfactory, conditional, unsatisfactory, and unrated.

Intervention – The ability to intervene provides CSA with needed enforcement teeth. A number of different interventions can occur, designed to result in motor carrier compliance with safety regulations. For example, the FMCSA may send a warning letter to a carrier or pursue targeted roadside inspections. Penalties can be imposed and a carrier can ultimately be required to cease motor vehicle operations.

Semi-Truck Safety

When it comes to FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, one can’t help but appreciate any federal effort that attempts to limit the danger of tractor-trailer trucks and puts the safety of the motoring public first.

But many believe that more needs to be done. Plus, no matter what the government does, there will always be those who ignore the safety requirements and put the public in danger. Some semi-trucks continue to fail safety inspections and numerous drivers continue to act negligently.

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision with a semi-truck, a careful investigation of the circumstances is crucial. The experienced semi-truck accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know the requirements of federal and state law, and can determine regulation compliance (or lack thereof) in your particular circumstance. Only when truck drivers and trucking companies are held liable for their wrongful acts will we be able to make society safe for everyone. Please call us with your questions.


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