The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should correct weaknesses in its safety and crash reporting system, SafeStat, by improving data quality and timeliness and revalidating the overall statistical model before information is disseminated to the public, according to the Department of Transportation's Inspector General.
"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."
This report noted that while the existing data can be a satisfactory tool for internal FMCSA use, it must meet higher standards for completeness, accuracy, and timeliness if it is to be published.
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 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.
The FMCSA agrees with the IG's concerns for improving data and has already begun or is prepared to change the following: warning SafeStat users of data limitations, revalidating the SafeStat model, working with states to improve accuracy of reported data, and making grants to states contingent on participation in data quality programs.