The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability program is designed to identify unsafe trucking companies in California and around the country, but trade groups say that the data used by the government watchdog is unreliable and the safety scores assigned to truck operators are misleading. Congress took action in 2015 by including a provision requiring the FMCSA to revise the CSA program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and a report published on July 4 reveals how the agency plans to comply with this requirement.

The FMCSA report comes less than a week after the agency announced that it was scrapping a series of reforms proposed in 2015. The FMCSA is now adopting an approach based on item response theory that is supported by the National Academies of Science. Item response theory is generally considered more reliable by the scientific community when a large amount of data is involved and several variables must be accounted for.

The FMCSA says that its goals are to improve the timeliness and quality of the data used to calculate trucking company safety scores and make it easier for carriers and members of the public to access and understand this information. The FMCSA plans to contact state lawmakers and law enforcement agencies to gather more data about truck accidents, and the agency is also said to be mulling the introduction of an absolute scoring system to augment carrier-to-carrier safety comparisons.

Some of the data used by the CSA program is gathered during inspections performed on commercial vehicles that have crashed, and the ensuing reports could be used by experienced personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for accident victims. Inspections could uncover signs that semi-tractor trailers had been maintained poorly or were in need of repair, and hours of service log books could reveal that truck drivers were dangerously fatigued when they crashed.