CSA and Safety Scores

Todd Dills | April 02, 2011

What else can I do to minimize CSA impact?

AVOID INSPECTION VIOLATIONS. That starts with thorough pretrips and attention to needed maintenance. Some carriers have begun paying cash awards to operators for clean inspections, which help a carrier’s CSA score.

Independent Joe Powell, of Pensacola, Fla., takes a more jaded view of the clean inspection idea due to the relationship between law enforcement and trucking. “If you get stopped right now, you’ll get a ticket or you’ll get written up,” he says. “You’re not going to get any good inspections.”

Once upon a time, Powell averaged one inspection a year on his 1996 Freightliner, running primarily in the Southeast. In the past year, he says he’s been stopped or pulled in a weigh station several times, including twice in one day within minutes of his home, incurring subsequent Level 1 and Level 2 inspections, after the new SMS went live. Bobtail and empty trailer inspections were incurred at Florida scales earlier, in addition to other law enforcement encounters.

Use PrePass or other bypassing system to stay out of the weigh stations as much as possible, wash your truck regularly, dress cleanly and otherwise avoid doing anything that might catch the attention of patrol officers.

“Ninety percent of every motor carrier’s problems is speeding,” says Tennessee Highway Patrol Lieutenant John Harmon. “Slowing down is going to help your score, because when you speed, we stop you, and when we do that, it’s there we find the log book problems and everything else.”

PICK YOUR PARTNERS WISELY. A carrier that takes its safety scoring seriously is more likely to have solid customers and its pick of freight.

Owner-operator Robert Shumate is leased to Williams Sausage, doing trucking business as Crystal Refrigerated Express, of Union City, Tenn. Shumate says Williams is concerned about CSA, and company personnel routinely recommend small measures concerning the operator’s own tractor and reefer trailer.

Schneider manages company drivers’ and owner-operators’ DataQs challenges in-house, and “takes compliance seriously,” Osterberg says, by installing electronic logs in its entire fleet and covering all costs for its independent contractors. “If I’m an independent contractor,” he says, “I don’t want a carrier who is going to ask me to creatively log.”

GO ELECTRONIC WITH LOGS. Fatigued Driving (hours-related) is the most-frequently violated BASIC. Thirteen percent of all interstate freight carriers have an alert, according to TransCore research conducted with FMCSA. That alert frequency is double all other categories, except for the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, at 8 percent.

A majority of violations in that BASIC are so-called “form and manner” infractions. “Seventy percent of the HOS violations are administrative errors in how it’s represented on the paper,” says Christian Schenk, a vice president for Xata, maker of the Xata Turnpike RouteTracker EOBR. “It’s writing the wrong number down, or connecting the wrong line.” Electronic logs eliminate most of those errors..

Shumate uses the Driver’s Daily Log program on a laptop for his hours. The program isn’t a federally approved EOBR, but he says having it gives him a more safety-serious profile in the view of law enforcement. “They respect the technology,” says Shumate. “DOT officers do recognize that I’m trying to be more thorough. There are times that I don’t get hassled as hard as others.”

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