Feature Article: Feeling the heat

Todd Dills | March 01, 2010

Feeling the heat

Carrier tests reveal what’s coming under the far-reaching CSA 2010 safety crackdown.


cover-story-photAs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program goes live nationwide in July, it will increase the agency’s attention to owner-operator safety.

The new model changes safety monitoring and enforcement in ways that will reach deep into your shipper and carrier relationships, not to mention their potential to affect your hours of service compliance practices and your view of roadside inspections.

Independent owner-operators will find it necessary to ramp up attention to operational details such as log book precision, equipment condition and medical certificates. Leased drivers in the CSA 2010 pilot states and elsewhere have already seen new penalties coming from their carriers for violations as minor as a speeding warning.

CSA 2010 does many things differently from Safestat, the old system that scored carriers’ safety performance. For one, it casts a wider net for including violations in the safety scoring system, rather than just out-of-service violations, tickets and crashes.

Independent owner-operators and other carriers will not have to undergo a full on-site compliance review for safety data to have an effect on safety ratings in any of the seven violation categories the agency has set, expanded from four under Safestat. Ratings will be updated monthly with new data, mostly from violations noted at roadside. (A chart on Pages 34-35 gives a simple overview of how the system works.)

graphCSA 2010 also employs an individual driver-rating tool that will provide the agency with the ability to intervene with a carrier due to a particularly bad safety record for a single driver, whether driving company equipment or leased. This tool is being employed internally by FMCSA officials, who say it has the look and feel of the system rating carriers in violation categories. Drivers will not receive a formal, points-based assessment that’s publicly released, says FMCSA

Senior Transportation Specialist Bryan Price. “That would require another rulemaking and might require increased authority through legislation from Congress,” he says.

Still, FMCSA acknowledges on its CSA 2010 website that its internal approach to driver measurement “does not preclude FMCSA from developing a driver rating or safety fitness determination process at some time in the future.”

Regardless, the program is expected to bring independents and other small carriers under a level of scrutiny similar to what large fleets have always experienced with compliance reviews, says Prime Inc. Director of Safety Don Lacy. “They didn’t pick on the little guys,” Lacy says. “They recognized the need to look at new entrants but had limited manpower, so they devised this system.”

CSA 2010 is now operational in some form in nine states. Since it was implemented in 2008 in Colorado, “We’ve had carriers whose numbers have improved just as a result of the change in system,” says Patti Olsgard of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. However, she notes, “we’ll see a lot more of the opposite, because of how the system works.”

Carriers and drivers in the pilot states report mixed results. For Atlanta-based Kennesaw Transportation, which operates 194 company-owned power units, mostly in reefer applications, the CSA 2010 journey began in 2008. “What put me on their radar was my driver number,” says Mike Clay, safety director. Though that measurement was about average under SafeStat, FMCSA had found a pattern of speeding violations and gave Clay a few days to come up with a plan for action.

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