Within the next 90 days, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will temporarily remove from the agency's public Web sites one of the four scoring components within SafeStat, the safety data system used to assist in the identification of high-risk motor carriers. Because the removed scoring component helps determine the overall SafeStat score, the overall score will be removed as well, according to FMCSA information.
The Accident Safety Evaluation Area (SEA) score will be removed because it relies on state-provided crash reports, which are sometimes not of the highest data quality based on timeliness, completeness, and accuracy. Continued display of the Accident SEA risks misleading public users of SafeStat, FMCSA said.
SafeStat does not provide a safety rating, but helps FMCSA and states identify carriers for investigation through a process called compliance review. Carrier safety ratings are recommended based on the results of these compliance reviews.
During the time the accident and overall SEAs are removed from public view, FMCSA and its state enforcement partners will continue to have access to all SafeStat scores to focus their enforcement efforts. Individual carriers will be able to access their own scores to help measure their safety progress.
Three scoring components will remain publicly available, including the driver SEA, the vehicle SEA, and the safety management SEA. The accident SEA and the overall SafeStat score will return to the system as soon as possible, when FMCSA is confident that the information provided is more reliable.
To reach these goals, FMCSA has started a data quality improvement effort: requiring states to describe their data collection and improvement strategies in all enforcement funding applications; implementing DataQs through which carriers can file concerns about data that FMCSA and states collect; improving a crash data improvement and training grant program; and deploying a data quality map on the Web site to help states judge their current data quality.
The FMCSA action follows a Department of Transportation inspector general (IG) report that advised FMCSA to correct weaknesses in its safety and crash reporting system by improving data quality and timeliness and revalidating the overall statistical model before information is disseminated to the public. “Public access to the data allows carriers and the firms involved with carriers, such as shippers, insurers and lessors, local government agencies, and the general public to use SafeStat information when making business decisions,” the report said. “Consequently, the reliability of SafeStat is important because it can have an economic impact on carriers.”
The IG's main complaint about the data is that crash and inspection data are not always reported to FMCSA for use in SafeStat. For example, six of 51 states did not report any crashes to FMCSA between July and December 2002. The IG's audit also found variations in underreporting across states for all crashes involving commercial vehicles and reporting problems specific to fatal crashes. “Even when crash and inspection data reach the FMCSA database, our review showed that errors or omissions occur during the process that could influence SafeStat scores,” the report said.