BELLEVUE, Wash. - Nearly two months after announcing an indefinite delay of a much-anticipated process to assess and assign fault on operators' safety records for bus- and truck-related crashes, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the agency has begun to answer critical questions about the issue.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said her agency is studying concerns over the reliability of police accident reports and other issues related to the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

"We're getting at the heart of the questions that people have asked," Ferro told a leading trucking publication in an interview at a joint meeting of FMCSA and Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance leadership here

By the end of the year, the agency hopes to answer the question of whether a new process would improve the CSA's focus on commercial vehicle crash predictability, Ferro said.

In April, Ferro called a closed-door meeting with industry stakeholders to announce she had last-minute concerns over the reliability of police accident reports as the sole source for making a determination of whether a commercial vehicle driver could have prevented an accident that was recorded in the agency's crash database and carriers' safety records.

So, Ferro said she had decided to delay any changes.

Her decision came after citizen and interest groups complained they weren't being given enough of an opportunity to comment on any modifications to the program.

Critics of her decision argue that it's hard to understand how much outside comment is needed to acknowledge that a truck or bus driver who is legally parked and is run into by an out-of-control car driver is not at fault.

Or, that the driver who's involved in a head-on collision with an automobile driver going the wrong way on a divided highway is not at fault.

What appears to be going on, contend critics, is that the issue has become a political hot potato, where FMCSA and Ferro appear unwilling to cross swords with interest groups that have continued to criticize the agency's actions and are quick to move their complaints into a federal court.