CSA’s Fallout: Scoring reliability woes dominate independents’ concerns

| June 03, 2014

Three and a half years after Compliance, Safety, Accountability began its radical scrambling of how trucking safety is monitored and scored, owner-operators and carriers continue to suffer from its fallout while bureaucrats struggle to repair the complex program.

Percentages above reflect respondents to Overdrive‘s 2014 CSA survey’s choices after being asked to indicate the top three most pressing problems with the CSA program. 

Among carriers receiving a ranking in any of the CSA BASICs (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories), none feel the program’s inadequacies more than the smallest independents. As one respondent noted in Overdrive’s recent survey on CSA, the “small guys get looked at because a single incident shows up as a bigger percentage” with a more dramatic effect on rankings, and “not because we are unsafe.”

Unreliable small-fleet scoring was ranked the number one CSA problem in the survey. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration acknowledges CSA problems and strives for improvements. At the same time, the agency rigorously defends the system as is, with confidence in the CSA Safety Measurement System’s numerical evaluation of carriers.


Inconsistent enforcement: CSA vs. the independent

In the two years since CSA's advent, the smallest carriers have had a much greater chance of getting inspected and put out of service than ...

“It is a good tool, and it is one of the factors that should be looked at” by all industry participants to measure carrier safety, says Bill Quade, FMCSA associate administrator for enforcement.

But a growing chorus of drivers, owner-operators and others call for scores to be removed from public view until the agency gets the kinks worked out.

In Overdrive polling, seven in 10 called for removal of the scores, and nearly half also wanted all inspection and violation data to be removed. Such sentiment reflects the reality that many shippers and brokers treat the scores as gospel truth, refusing to do business with fleets that, in some cases, are just as safe as they were prior to CSA’s activation.

CSA scores: To be or not to be public
It wasn’t so long ago that suppression of CSA scores was an active debate among others than just industry representatives.


Panel highlights CSA data-quality issues

The Feb.5, 2013, meeting of the FMCSA's CSA Subcommitte to the MCSAC advisory board revealed data quality is a top stakeholder concern with the enforcement ...

In February 2013, a majority of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee’s CSA Subcommittee came close to officially urging the agency to withhold percentile rankings in the BASICs from public view in the CSA SMS. Removing scores from public view, however, was not an option on the table when the CSA subcommittee met this past April.

Keep tuned to OverdriveOnline.com throughout the week for more from Part One of this yearlong series on real-world fallout from the CSA carrier safety ranking program. Access all of our past special coverage of CSA via this page.

Keep tuned to OverdriveOnline.com throughout the week for more from Part One of this yearlong series on real-world fallout from the CSA carrier safety ranking program. Access all of our past special coverage of CSA via this page.

Removing the scores might not even be feasible as long as the program exists, suggests subcommittee member Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. That’s because there’s a “cat’s-out-of-the-bag” effect in third-party reliance on the scores. If the scores were available only to law enforcement and carriers themselves, Spencer says, some shippers then likely would require disclosure as part of carrier contracts.

Another potential consequence would be a flood of Freedom of Information Act requests for carrier SMS BASIC scores, said MCSAC member John Lannen of the Truck Safety Coalition of public safety advocates.


CSA’s golden triangle more like a ‘scarlet letter’

Audio from Panther's Irwin Shires and Transplace's Tom Sanderson at the CSA Subcommittee meeting shows difficulties of carriers dealing with the mark of the CSA ...

Tom Sanderson, chief executive officer of broker/3PL Transplace, told the CSA Subcommittee in April that “several large shippers have told us that even one BASIC over the intervention threshold knocks a carrier out of their service.”

Cream of the Crop Transportation’s Hours of Service BASIC score went beyond the intervention threshold a couple of years ago, and owner J. Webb Kline says the small fleet lost as much as $1.5 million in annual sales. It was “a glaring example of just what an economic disaster this program is for companies like ours that fall through the cracks of the system,” Kline says.

After Cream of the Crop went more than a year without an hours violation, his small fleet no longer showed any percentile ranking or score whatsoever in that BASIC, so the FMCSA warning triangle disappeared.


Losing the golden triangle: More proof shippers (mis)use CSA

A small fleet owner on CSA: "We lost our triangle, and it is incredible how much difference it has made. Many of our old customers ...

“Many of our old customers told me they checked every month to see if they could use us again, and they called as soon as we lost the triangle,” Kline says. “Our sales shot up from an average of $4,000 a week per truck to well over $5,000, and often exceeding $6,000 per week per truck practically overnight.”

It’s not just small carriers that take issue with the public nature of SMS scores. Irwin Shires of all-owner-operator Panther Expedited Services says he’s “fought very hard” to expose fundamental flaws in CSA’s percentile ranking approach. Among the worst, he says, is the scores’ public nature.

In the small Safety Event Group (with just 73 of the largest straight-truck carriers as of April 2014) of which Panther is a member, the percentile-ranking basis of scores in the Unsafe Driving BASIC “dooms approximately 25 carriers to never being able to improve their score to a point to where their golden triangle goes away,” Shires says. That’s because in all of the BASIC categories, the system grades on a curve, creating a “Darwinian” scenario where the weakest carriers, no matter how safe they are, fall prey to those who score better.

“It’s like a scarlet letter,” Shires said, “that brokers and shippers are using in determining whether to put their freight on a carrier’s truck.”


Part 2 in this series, detailing problems arising from the disconnect between the CSA SMS and the current safety rating program. 

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  • guest

    Cmon…its just a JOKE…against truckers….”behavioral analysis”???
    Ya have to see how funny this crap is for the jerks who wrote it up. Yup..them truckers need monitoring….ahahahahahahaha….behavior modification….ahahahahaha……Trucking is OVER for most guys..forget about it…..nazi’s Goosestepping around those Fortified “weigh stations” thatlook like Orewellian Obsevation Posts…with High Tech cameras pointing at the trucker from everywhere…and nazi cops standing high up in those Tower/Offices…shouting down orders…STOP…NEXT AXLE…..come around back…bring in yer paper!!!…ahahahahahah cmon man its a JOKE…..no sense putting up with this crap…..open a titty bar….have fun.

  • jojo

    Any time a person is paid piece work, there become inherent dangers, as the person feels pushed by their own need or desire to produce in order to earn. Because more production leads to more earnings, safety is often ignored. Unsafe practices are profoundly magnified and coerced when a limit is placed on the amount of time a person has, in order to produce. Under these circumstances, one always feels pressured to gamble with safety in order to earn a living.

    One of these days they might stop wasting Money on all of these rules and regs and actually Pay the Drivers to be Safe.

    Three Ways to Send a Message
    1. Inform your Carrier that you will be taking off at least 3 days during the week of 10/31 thru 11/7. By doing this, You have just told your carrier, the ATA and the shippers/receivers that things need to Change.
    2. You, Your Family and Friends NEED to Call your elected officials in DC. Inform them of your issues at 202-224-3121. It’s EASY and Fast!
    3. Go Home To VOTE! Federal Election Day is 11/4/14.

    Pat Hockaday (JoJo) jojo859585@gmail.com

  • William McKelvie

    Washington burro crats, repairing? Yes, I did say BURRO CRATS.

  • kevin

    Why would panther have anything to say those thieves have owed me over $10, 00.00 for about 6 years

  • Big R Phillips

    Hey Guest! You nailed it…lmao!

  • Carla

    the other thing that needs to be addresses is the number of troopers that are conducting the inspections that have never been behind the wheel of a big truck or even know anything about the mechanical workings of the trucks. I have two citations that affect my SAFER score and both were issued by clueless troopers. One was for no spare fuses (they could find nothing else wrong with the truck) even though there are three spares carried in the fuse panel. that resulted in a 6 point ping on my SAFER score and no way to have it removed. The other was for over gross which was changed to an over axle which was then dismissed due to improper weighing procedures. I have no recourse to have those removed and as a very small company it is killing my score. BS is all I have to say!

  • wildy

    INSPECTIONS… uhh… ya notice, new regs& election cycles your nonUnion trk messed with more. Mark & signal lights & Tire Stem CoverTops that were fine when fueling & before bathroom, sudden OUT or MISSING. Steer/drive tire inflation less obvious that messed with when remain above legal minimum 90psi.. Slack adjusters definitely not obvious til roll. Likely slacks loosened if city & tightened if mountains/hills. (A) too tight slacks drag & can burn; (B) loose & doesn’t stop when regular depress brakes; (C) Tire mess can jack rig if loaded nose heavier… say to right front & R-drive/steers down some but appear ok & left steer check find inflated 120-125psi & Drives say 118psi. Happens. & if heading into curvy or rough old rd. Tires can be missed by new drivers when walk around & ck out rig. So, is this ugly version of knocking out competition? SleeperTerrorists screwing indirectly with economy? Are few of boys kicking off latest pissing contest between Union/nonUnion by tampering with your rig? Demographic Blue &Orang polka dots cant stand lazy Red with Black dots. Your shop supv may be Sky Blue with Yellow dots & you are Sky Blue with Red & Yellow & Green dots. Your inspection was by union Blue & white dots gent & your trk nonUnion & you are Red with Black & White dots &female… almost a 3 for 1 sale price great deal. Good luck.
    What don’t get is that can prosecute insider trading which typical has no paper trail per se. So in order to get fair playing field, why can’t we prosecute crimes against equal op from misdemeanor on up through felony level. As result, cld go color blind & drop quotas. If this were case, doubt I’d hav received those 2 write-ups Calif. And 18-20Hrs before received the rough inspection & Bravo Zulu par norm. That other creep flagrantly lied & wrote up item that was Ok. If didn’t know better would say acted as if try bury trucking industry. If there were prosecutable EO laws, don’t believe that guy would’ve lied as he did. Now fellow conservatives don’t choke, by same token, I believe military physical readiness testing(PRT) should be same for men & women for at least 1st two levels & then diverge, because Excellent for women if recall correctly, is Sat’ on Men’s PRT. Military needs to be fighting force not ‘PC’. Yes there’d be far fewer women in military & what’s wrong with that? I can’t do Fireman’s Carry & fellas shipboard & in middle of attack or compartment fire NeedToKnow their compatriot can shoulder their weight & bring them to safety. Women in every industry in long run would benefit from truthful reality check like this that asks for their excellence rather than erode morale & true force readiness. Remember these fellas as Reservists are being OVERUTILIZED & in absence of draft do 3 or 4 tours. Some fellas were overseas in transport related logistics effort. Some were SP, MP…
    Borrowing phrase, “when thread breaks, weaver (steps back) & looks at (entire) loom & makes (adjustments)”…

  • wildy

    Hey hav you been watchin WE? They stopped show to give medal to WE guy from Putin. I was hoping fans/audience would BOOO & remain raucous but they actually hushed for (bleeping) Russian national anthem. Effing unbelievable.

  • gemstoneprincess

    Besides being ridiculous on way to many levels to count!!!
    This action is someone’s call to aggressively address a perceived problem. But they have to look at the larger picture or they can’t competently make an accurate judgment call. Two things were actively happening when crashes began to spike. The biggest and most relevant are cell phones. People in cars still have their phones on their laps texting, constantly, or dialing, or Googling. Not driving. Second there were so many new drivers in trucks and there were no standards at all what is required before a student is released on the road. I started in 1998. I couldn’t back, was always lost with bad directions. Didn’t know nothing about how to survive. Got screamed at by drivers who had to show me how stinking fast they could go. I’m not saying they are the cause of the problem, cuz I blow by you NOW!! But it’s easy to pass a Prime!!
    Also there’s the reality, that most people in cars have lost respect for truck drivers. They think nothing of lingering in blind spots or right at the end of the trailer. Or pulling smack dab in front of me on a 6 percent downgrade fully loaded, making me use my breaks, which lose their ability to slow every time I have to use them. There needs to be a serious driver’s education program going on. The roads to me are a work site. I am a big equipment operator. It’s like letting a bunch of smart alec children lose in an area where they are building high rises, telling them it’s Okay, just go out and play and have fun. Even though there’s all this huge equipment. So there’s a real need for a stronger education program for any and all people who get behind a wheel. We have to work. They have to assume the responsibility that being on a highway requires at a level that assures safety for all of us. Another problem is very poor highway design, poor visibility in the paint they use on the lines at night. Spilt speed limits on a 2 lane highway. All trucks in right hand lane when it should be all through traffic in the left hand lanes. Inconsiderate and plain stupid truck drivers who jump out in a lane of traffic and can’t go with the flow of the lane. All of these create a situation thst causes a reaction that causes other reactions and affects how people drive around us. So if they can’t look at every aspect of the problem and really make it right. They are going to have a serious shortage of good drivers in the future. We give up our lives, families and friends, on a daily basis. We drive in bad weather. And we are some of the most dedicated workers this country has.
    This is not safety, but a what the heck is your rotten problem?? Who is crapping in bags and peeing in bottles and just leaving them on the ground?? Filthy pigs!! Put it all in a bag and put it in a trash can!! No one should ever have to pick up or walk on your waste!! NEVER EVER!! And that’s the number one reason no one wants us on their property any more. We have lost our class and it’s disgusting!! So look at everything that’s brought all the negative attention down on us and the industry. And then we might be strong again.

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