Open Data

Truckers, GAO take exception to DoT mobile data app

Shutterstock image (by Henryk Sadura): Semi truck on a highway in Utah.

(Image: Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock)

A Transportation Department mobile app that allows convenient access to online safety performance data for interstate truck and bus companies has raised the ire of trucking associations and the attention of government watchdogs who say some of the data could mislead the general public.

The QCMobile app, introduced by the DoT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 17, allows quick access to DoT registration and safety data. The agency said it expects the app -- with QC standing for “Query Central -- to be a valuable tool for state and federal law enforcement personnel, as well as insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders, and others interested in reviewing DOT registration and safety performance information of motor carriers. The department made the app available for free on iTunes for IoS and Android devices.

Law enforcement, insurance companies and third-party logistics industries are the primary target for the app, but it can be used by the public as well, and that wider use has some in the trucking industry and at the Government Accountability Office concerned.

Critics argue that the raw data can lead to inaccurate conclusions about carriers' safety if used to compare safety records for carriers such as bus lines and trucking companies.

"The scores are probably fine for targeting enforcement efforts, but again, based on our analysis, we don't feel they are reliable enough to compare safety performance across carriers," Susan Fleming, GAO director of physical infrastructure, said in a March 18 interview on the SiriusXM Road Dog Network.

The interview was posted on the American Trucking Associations' web page. The ATA has called the app "reckless" and said the GAO has called some of the safety scores 'unreliable' and 'imprecise.' The association also told trucking trade newspapers that given the unreliability of the scores, it was inappropriate for the agency to encourage public access and use.

DOT says the app will aid both transparency and safety.

"By making currently available safety information on interstate truck and bus companies more easily accessible for both law enforcement personnel and the general public, we are providing greater transparency while making our roadways safer for everyone," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement when the app was released. "Safety is our highest priority, so we are committed to using every resource available at our finger tips to ensure the safety of travelers."

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said QCMobile retrieves data from a number of agency sources and provides a clear summary of the results for law enforcement officers and safety inspectors, who can then can retrieve more detailed information on carriers covering seven categories that are a part of the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

The QCMobile app requires no log-in and immediately reveals whether the federal operating status of the carrier is authorized while helping to expedite an "inspect/pass" decision by a certified commercial vehicle safety inspector.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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