CSA system needs improvement, panel says

| November 09, 2011

While data-related issues still dog the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety Compliance Accountability enforcement mechanism after one year, trucking executives participating in a panel discussion Nov. 8 said they appreciate the agency’s efforts while acknowledging they believe more work is needed.

Jeff Davis of Fleet Safety Services, Arizona Trucking Associations President Karen Rasmussen and Brett Sant, vice president of safety and risk management for Knight Transportation, participated in a “CSA: One Year Later” panel discussion at the Commercial Carrier Journal Fall Symposium in Phoenix.

Davis said the theory behind CSA was that safer event compliance would result in safer behavior and fewer crashes, while noncompliance would result in riskier behavior and more crashes. “Time will tell us if this theory works or not,” he said.

Under CSA, safety ratings are supposed to refresh every 30 days for all companies. The previous SAFER system under SafeStat only reached 2 percent of companies and was lengthy and graded administratively, while the new method uses roadside performance.

The driver safety fitness rating has been on the backburner but is coming back through the upcoming highway bill. “We could literally be looking at a ranking of every single driver out there,” Davis said.

Motor carriers with deficient basics now are having insurance issues, Davis said, and the Inspection Selection System number – which combines past and current safety performance history – has been recalibrated. “This will determine the number of inspections and probably violations you receive in the future,” he said. “The system is set up to look at those who violate. This is totally new in our industry. We’ve never had to deal with this.”

Under SAFER, companies could pay a fine and move on. “Now, every critical and acute violation in the system becomes a monitored basic for 12 months, period,” said Davis. Companies based in states for CSA’s pilot program are familiar with this, and “it’s just now getting to other states,” Davis said.

The biggest violation is logbook form and manner, while fatigued driving ranks second, followed by the driver not being in possession of a medical certificate, a driver not speaking English and hours-of-service violations. The top equipment-related violation is lighting. Of the most predominant violations, only 25 percent led to a truck being placed out of service; most are minor, but these still carry weight within the CSA framework.

How can fleets control CSA scores? “It comes down to literally controlling the driver’s behavior and performance,” Davis said. “If you want to keep the drivers that you have, you’re going to have to constantly monitor their scores.”

A third of all violations relate to speeding, while another third are related to ISS numbers and most of the rest are observable defects, such as lighting, conspicuity tape and failure to use a safety belt, said panelists, who questioned if nailing carriers for medical certificates and lighting is truly improving highway safety.

“Our industry knows more about this issue than the regulators do,” said Rasmussen. “The inspectors are really just coming up to speed. Data is key.” Most enforcement activities eventually will be transmitted wirelessly for cost efficiency. “It’s the new era,” she said.

Rasmussen said Arizona’s new DataQ appeals process involves an appeals board created last January that meets monthly. About 50 percent of appeals are denied.

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