CSA Part 2: Maintaining your equipment

Todd Dills | May 01, 2011

One thing that prompts a truck inspection is independents’ and larger carriers’ Inspection Selection System scores. The formula for those scores was updated with the rollout of the Carrier Safety Measurement System in December. Roadside inspectors use carrier ISS scores to prioritize inspection.

But more important in determining which trucks to inspect, say Trooper Robert Hadden and Lieutenant John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, are visual cues from the operator or his truck.

In their outreach to carriers via the Tennessee Alternative Commercial Enforcement Strategies program, Harmon and Hadden focus on what they’re looking at when screening carriers for inspections. If a truck is sitting at a red light across from a patrol officer, Harmon says, “We’re looking at the license plate, for visual equipment violations – is it a clean truck? If a truck is a nasty truck, odds are the driver’s log book is out of line, too.”

In that respect, CSA has changed nothing about who gets inspected, says Transportation Business Associates’ Jay Thompson. Officers “are looking for obvious stuff — a a headlight out will always get you pulled over, even in the daylight if you run with them on for safety.” Thompson adds “anything hanging down, air hoses, wires” to that list.

“Trucks in drayage service on the U.S.-Mexican border are generally much older than the average U.S. fleet,” he says, yet they have the same safety scores as their U.S. counterparts. The reason is the anticipation of inspection, he says, which motivates them to stay on top of maintenance.

In addition to CSA, “The various states’ financial condition has placed them on a hunt for revenue,” says Don Lacy, safety director with Prime. The carrier has been producing DVDs for its largely owner-operator core of drivers on conducting pre-trips in a systematic manner.

Concern over carrier rating disclosures

Plaintiffs in the National Association of Small Trucking Companies et al. v. FMCSA lawsuit are trumpeting the recent settlement with FMCSA as clarifying the question of carrier safety fitness for shippers, brokers and other third parties like factoring companies in freight transactions.

This symbol is now used instead of the “Alert” designation for carriers with a bad rating in any public BASIC.

As part of the settlement, the agency agreed to change the “alert” designation for carriers above the intervention threshold in any public BASIC to an exclamation mark symbol. The trucking groups argued the BASIC scores are not intended as summary judgments on carrier safety fitness in any particular operational area. Use of the CSA Safety Measurement System methodology to determine ultimate carrier safety fitness still requires formal rulemaking. In polls of shippers released by MorganStanley prior to the settlement, a majority indicated they would not use a carrier with an “alert” status in any BASIC.

To further clarify the ! status, FMCSA added a disclaimer to data in the SMS that reads in part: “Readers should not draw conclusions about a carrier’s overall safety condition simply based on the data displayed in this system. Unless a motor carrier in the SMS has received an UNSATISFACTORY safety rating pursuant to 49 CFR Part 385, or has otherwise been ordered to discontinue operations by the FMCSA, it is authorized to operate on the nation’s roadways. Motor carrier safety ratings are available at http://www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov and motor carrier licensing and insurance status are available at http://www.li-public.fmcsa.dot.gov.”

Severity weight for Violation carriers

Tire tread depth less than 2⁄32 of an inch – 8

Stop lamp violations — 6

Brake hose/tubing chaffing and/or kinking – 4

Brake(s) out of adjustment – 4

No proof of annual inspection  – 4

No or defective lighting or reflective devices – 3

Oil and/or grease leak – 3

Parts/accessories in unsafe condition — 2

Inoperative required lamp — 2

No/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher – 2

These base severity weightings are for various equipment violations. The more recent a violation, the heavier it is weighted. For example, violations that occurred less than six months ago in the Carrier SMS are multiplied by three; those between six months and one year ago by two.

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