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Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act Correlation Study

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act Correlation Study

John Van Steenburg
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
28 August 2017

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 165 (Monday, August 28, 2017)]
[Pages 40828-40831]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-18183]



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2017-0226]

Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act Correlation Study

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: On June 27, 2017, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) 
published its report titled, ``Improving Motor Carrier Safety 
Measurement.'' This report was commissioned by FMCSA consistent with 
the requirements of Section 5221 of the Fixing America's Surface 
Transportation (FAST) Act. The FAST Act also requires that the Agency 
develop an action plan to address any identified deficiencies and 
submit it to Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) 
Office of Inspector General (OIG). The purpose of this notice is to 
announce a public meeting to discuss the NAS recommendations and to 
solicit input to be considered by the Agency in the development and 
implementation of the action plan.

DATES: The public meeting will take place on Friday, September 8, 2017, 
from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Eastern Time. A copy of the agenda for the 
meeting will be available in advance of the meeting at https://www.regonline.com/FMCSA_Correlation_Study_Action_PlanPublicMeeting. If 
all interested participants have had an opportunity to comment, the 
meeting may conclude early.
    Public Comments: Comments must be received by September 27, 2017.

ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the FMCSA National Training 
Center, 1310 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201-2508. 
Those interested in attending this public meeting must register at: 
https://www.regonline.com/FMCSA_Correlation_Study_Action_PlanPublicMeeting. Participants have the 
option of registering to attend in person, or via webinar.
    You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA-2017-0226 
using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, 
DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, 
Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 
a.m. and 5 p.m. E.T., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information about the public 
meeting or for information on facilities or services for individuals 
with disabilities or to request special assistance at the meeting, 
contact Ms. Sharon Worthy, Director of External Affairs at (202) 366-
2309 or by email at Sharon.Worthy@dot.gov, by September 1, 2017.
    For information about the Correlation Study, please contact Ms. 
Theresa Rowlett, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Enforcement, FMCSA, 
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC

[[Page 40829]]

20590, Telephone (202) 360-2924 or by email at Theresa.Rowlett@dot.gov.
    If you have questions regarding viewing or submitting material to 
the docket, contact Docket Services, telephone (202) 366-9826.


Submitting Comments

    If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this 
notice (FMCSA-2017-0226), indicate the specific section of this 
document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each 
suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and material 
online or by fax, mail, or hand delivery, but please use only one of 
these means. FMCSA recommends that you include your name and mailing 
address, an email address, or a phone number in the body of your 
document so that FMCSA can contact you if there are questions regarding 
your submission.
    To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, 
put the docket number, FMCSA-2017-0226, in the keyword box, and click 
``Search.'' When the new screen appears, click on the ``Comment Now!'' 
button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. 
Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on 
behalf of a third party and then submit.
    If you submit your comments by mail or hand delivery, submit them 
in an unbound format, no larger than 8\1/2\ by 11 inches, suitable for 
copying and electronic filing. If you submit comments by mail and would 
like to know that they reached the facility, please enclose a stamped, 
self-addressed postcard or envelope.

Viewing Comments and Documents

    To view comments, as well as any documents mentioned in this 
preamble as being available in the docket, to http://www.regulations.gov. Insert the docket number, FMCSA-2017-0226, in the 
keyword box, and click ``Search.'' Next, click the ``Open Docket 
Folder'' button and choose the document to review. If you do not have 
access to the Internet, you may view the docket by visiting the Docket 
Management Facility in Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the West 
Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 
a.m. and 5 p.m., E.T., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Privacy Act

    The Department of Transportation (DOT) solicits comments from the 
public to better inform its decision-making processes. DOT posts these 
comments, without edit, including any personal information the 
commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system 
of records notice (DOT/ALL-14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at 


    Section 5221 of the FAST Act, titled ``Correlation Study,'' 
required FMCSA to commission the National Research Council of the 
National Academies to conduct a study of FMCSA's Compliance, Safety, 
Accountability (CSA) program and Safety Measurement System (SMS). SMS 
is FMCSA's algorithm for identifying patterns of non-compliance and 
prioritizing motor carriers for interventions. FMCSA is prohibited from 
publishing SMS percentiles and alerts on the SMS Web site for motor 
carriers transporting property until the NAS Correlation Study is 
complete and all reporting and certification requirements under the 
FAST Act are satisfied.
    The FAST Act also required FMCSA to submit the results of this 
study to both Congress and the DOT OIG. In addition, within 120 days of 
the submission of the report to Congress and the OIG, FMCSA must submit 
an action plan to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation; and the House of Representatives Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee. The OIG is required to review the action plan 
and submit a report to Congress on the responsiveness of the FMCSA's 
plan to the NAS report's recommendations.
    Under Section 5221 of the FAST Act, the purpose of this study is to 
    a. The accuracy with which the Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement 
Categories (BASICs) used by SMS:
    i. Identify high risk carriers.
    ii. Predict or are correlated with future crash risk, crash 
severity, or other safety indicators for motor carriers, including the 
highest risk carriers.
    b. The methodology used to calculate BASIC percentiles and identify 
carriers for enforcement, including the weights assigned to particular 
violations and the tie between crash risk and specific regulatory 
violations, with respect to accurately identifying and predicting 
future crash risk for motor carriers.
    c. The relative value of inspection information and roadside 
enforcement data.
    d. Any data collection gaps or data sufficiency problems that may 
exist and the impact of those gaps and problems on the efficacy of the 
CSA program.
    e. The accuracy of safety data, including the use of crash data 
from crashes in which a motor carrier was free from fault.
    f. Whether BASIC percentiles for motor carriers of passengers 
should be calculated separately from for motor carriers of freight.
    g. The differences in the rates at which safety violations are 
reported to FMCSA for inclusion in the SMS by various enforcement 
authorities, including States, territories, and Federal inspectors.
    h. How members of the public use the SMS and what effect making the 
SMS information public has had on reducing crashes and eliminating 
unsafe motor carriers from the industry.
    The FAST Act required the NAS also to consider:
    a. Whether the SMS provides comparable precision and confidence, 
through SMS alerts and percentiles, for the relative crash risk of 
individual large and small motor carriers.
    b. Whether alternatives to the SMS would identify high risk 
carriers more accurately.
    c. The recommendations and findings of the Comptroller General of 
the United States and the Inspector General of the Department of 
Transportation, and independent review team reports, issued before the 
date of the FAST Act.

NAS Report Recommendations and FMCSA Action Plan Overview

    On June 27, 2017, NAS published the report titled, ``Improving 
Motor Carrier Safety Measurement.'' The report is available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24818/improving-motor-carrier-safety-measurement. A 
copy of the report has been placed in the docket referenced at the 
beginning of this notice. In preparing the report, NAS collected and 
analyzed all the quantitative data available to FMCSA in its databases, 
which contain information on the safety of commercial motor carriers 
and drivers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and 
the Hazardous Materials Regulations. In addition, NAS held three public 
meetings to engage stakeholders from the truck and bus industry, safety 
advocates, researchers, and other government organizations. The meeting 
agendas are included in an appendix to the report.
    The NAS report concluded that SMS, in its current form, is 
structured in a reasonable way and its method of identifying motor 
carriers for alert status is defensible. In addition, NAS agreed that 
FMCSA's overall approach, based on crash prevention rather than 
prediction, is sound. NAS provided FMCSA with six recommendations to 
improve the system.

[[Page 40830]]

    FMCSA accepts the NAS report's recommendations and outlines below 
several high-level proposals to address each recommendation. The 
proposals summarized below are intended to allow the public to provide 
input into the development of the action plan but do not themselves 
constitute the entirety of the action plan. FMCSA is still considering 
and evaluating actions to address the recommendations. FMCSA is also 
working with the NAS to establish a Standing Committee to oversee and 
provide advice relating to the Agency's work addressing these 
recommendations. In addition to reviewing and providing advice on the 
Agency's technical work, such as the Item Response Theory (IRT) 
modeling, NAS will advise on all recommendations, and establish a 
process for gathering stakeholder input in the implementation of the 
action plan as well.
    Recommendation 1--FMCSA should develop the suggested IRT model over 
the next 2 years. If it is then demonstrated to perform well in 
identifying motor carriers for alerts, FMCSA should use it to replace 
SMS in a manner akin to the way SMS replaced SafeStat.
FMCSA Comment
    To address this recommendation, FMCSA is securing additional 
expertise and resources to develop and test the proposed IRT 
statistical model. The testing of an IRT model is consistent with 
FMCSA's continuous improvement process of modifying and testing changes 
to SMS by focusing on data quality, data collection, and transparency. 
FMCSA will evaluate whether the new model performs well using existing 
effectiveness testing methods and/or methodologies recommended by the 
NAS, and based on that evaluation will determine the next steps in 
using that model.
    FMCSA is seeking comments on the implementation of an IRT model and 
its application to the SMS as well as the process for development and 
testing of the model.
    Recommendation 2--FMCSA should continue to collaborate with states 
and other agencies to improve the quality of the Motor Carrier 
Management Information System (MCMIS) data in support of SMS, focusing 
on carrier exposure and crash data. The current exposure data are 
missing with high frequency, and data that are collected are likely of 
unsatisfactory quality. To improve the exposure data collected involves 
not only collecting higher-quality Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) data, 
but also collecting this information by state and by month. This will 
enable SMS to (partially) accommodate existing heterogeneity in the 
environments where carriers travel. Crash data are also missing too 
often. Also, there is information available from police reports 
currently not represented on MCMIS that could be helpful in 
understanding the contributing factors in a crash. Such information 
could help to validate the assumptions linking violations to crash 
frequency. To address these issues, FMCSA should support the states in 
collecting more complete crash data, and in universal adoption of the 
Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC), as well as developing and 
supplying the code needed to automatically extract the data needed for 
the MCMIS crash file.
FMCSA Comments on VMT
    Regarding exposure data, the Agency agrees that more VMT data from 
motor carriers would reduce the need for FMCSA to use substitute values 
and would improve the quality of the data in SMS. FMCSA is concerned 
that access to monthly and by-State VMT is not currently feasible. 
Currently, FMCSA rules require carriers to provide updated VMT data 
only every two years. FMCSA previously considered using other sources 
of VMT data such as the International Registration Plan data. However, 
FMCSA does not currently have access to that data. And even if the 
Agency had access to IRP data, that would not provide a complete data 
set, as IRP carriers are not required to report information on vehicles 
with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,000 pounds.
    FMCSA seeks information, through this notice, on potential sources 
of improved VMT data. Additionally, FMCSA requests input from industry 
and other stakeholders about other available sources for this data and 
the costs and benefits of voluntary submission of the data.
    FMCSA expects to consider the effect of monthly, voluntarily-
submitted, State-by-State VMT data from motor carriers, and the impact 
on the system if this information were provided by only a portion of 
the regulated community.

FMCSA Comments on Crash Data

    In accordance with Section 5306 of the FAST Act, FMCSA established 
a Federal Advisory Committee to review Post-Accident Reports for tow-
away crashes involving FMCSA-regulated commercial motor vehicles. That 
committee was charged with recommending changes to improve the quality 
and consistency of Police Accident Reports (PARs) data. More than half 
of the committee members represented States or State law enforcement 
officials, with the remainder representing industry, labor, safety 
advocates, and other interested parties. The FAST Act directed the 
working group to review existing State PARs to recommend best practices 
for the collection of PARs data by State and local law enforcement 
agencies. The Post Accident Review Advisory Committee recommended that 
all States use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 
MMUCC \i\ and that FMCSA modify its data systems to receive all MMUCC 
data from the States. In January 2017, FMCSA's and NHTSA's senior 
leadership agreed to establish a workgroup to carry out the Committee's 
    FMCSA recognizes that implementation of this recommendation will 
take additional resources for the States for training and information 
technology system changes. We are partnering with NHTSA to encourage 
States to participate in a USDOT national crash repository (that uses 
the MMUCC guidance as a framework). In addition, FMCSA will be 
examining the quality of the EDT data and comparing it to what we 
receive in MCMIS.

    \i\ https://www.transportation.gov/government/traffic-records/model-minimum-uniform-crash-criteria-mmucc-0.

    As a result, FMCSA specifically asks for information on issues that 
should be considered FMCSA determines how to best integrate MMUCC data.
    Recommendation 3--FMCSA should investigate ways of collecting data 
that will likely benefit the recommended methodology for safety 
assessment. This includes data on carrier characteristics--including 
information on driver turnover rate, type of cargo, method and level of 
compensation, and better information on exposure.

FMCSA Comments

    The Agency agrees that additional information about carrier 
operations might improve the Agency's analysis and identification of 
non-compliant motor carriers. To confirm this, FMCSA will use the IRT 
model and simulate the impacts and value of driver turnover rates, type 
of cargo, method and level of compensation, and exposure in identifying 
unsafe motor carriers before proceeding with an information collection. 
In addition, FMCSA would conduct a cost benefit analysis to determine 
how much it would cost the industry to provide the Agency with this 
additional information. Through this notice, FMCSA is specifically

[[Page 40831]]

seeking input on these and other data fields to be considered and 
information on the costs associated with submitting this information.
    Recommendation 4--FMCSA should structure a user-friendly version of 
the MCMIS data file used as input to SMS without any personally 
identifiable information to facilitate its use by external parties, 
such as researchers, and by carriers. In addition, FMCSA should make 
user-friendly computer code used to compute SMS elements available to 
individuals in accordance with reproducibility and transparency 

FMCSA Comments

    FMCSA agrees that there could be benefits from making MCMIS data 
available to researchers and carriers. Through this Federal Register 
notice, FMCSA seeks input on how the MCMIS data would be used by 
researchers and others to determine the best method(s) for providing 
the data file.
    The Agency is considering developing the programming, screen shots, 
and preview capacity so that changes from one month to another are 
explained to motor carriers to help carriers understand the 
implications of violations and crashes on their SMS data. Input on the 
information that would be helpful in reviewing SMS data is requested 
through this notice.
    Recommendation 5--FMCSA should undertake a study to better 
understand the statistical operating characteristics of the percentile 
ranks to support decisions regarding the usability of public scores.

FMCSA Comments

    Like NAS, FMCSA has been unable to quantify the impacts to motor 
carriers of publicly displaying the SMS percentiles. The Agency has 
only anecdotal information about the business impacts of the public 
percentiles on the SMS Web site. Historically, insurance companies and 
shippers have been reluctant to share data on how safety data is used 
to determine rates. And, while the Agency has been contacted by 
companies advising that they lost business because of SMS, these claims 
have not been validated or assimilated into a usable analysis.
    Through this notice, FMCSA seeks data from motor carriers, 
insurance companies, and shippers regarding the impacts of the public 
display of SMS percentiles and alerts on businesses. This information 
will be used to identify next steps for this recommendation.
    Recommendation 6--Given that there are good reasons for both an 
absolute and a relative metric on safety performance, FMCSA should 
decide on the carriers that receive SMS alerts using both the SMS 
percentile ranks and the SMS measures, and the percentile ranks should 
be computed both conditionally within safety event groups and over all 
motor carriers.

FMCSA Comments

    The Agency has heard from motor carriers with increased measures or 
percentiles due to an increase in vehicles or clean inspections. 
Analysis of the number of carriers that received higher measures and 
percentiles without a violation or crash indicates this happens to a 
very small number of carriers. However, FMCSA agrees that the 
methodology should be revised so that a safety event that is not a 
violation or a crash is not the sole reason for an increased measure or 
    In addition, FMCSA anticipates investigating the use of a hybrid 
measure that combines relative and absolute metrics as part of its 
development of the IRT model. FMCSA seeks comment from stakeholders on 
this issue, how it could be implemented, and when such changes would be 

    Issued under the authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.87 on: August 
21, 2017.
John Van Steenburg,
Assistant Administrator/Chief Safety Officer.
[FR Doc. 2017-18183 Filed 8-25-17; 8:45 am]

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