Feature Article: Feeling the heat
Violations of this type under CSA 2010 will contribute to a carrier’s rating in Unsafe Driving – one of seven BASICs (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). These categories are similar to the Safestat Safety Evaluation Areas, or SEAs. Deficient scores in these categories can trigger an intervention by FMCSA.
Thomas Lansing, safety vice president at Hogan Transports in St. Louis, Mo., found out about two of the BASICs – Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator – when his carrier came under the CSA 2010 test. “When you look at our SEA score, we’re well below the deficient mark” in both areas, says Lansing. “It’s hard to grasp how you can be a great company in the eyes of FMCSA and then automatically be deficient viewed another way.”
But grasp it Hogan did. After receiving warning letters around December 2008, Hogan was assigned an on-site focused investigation, one of the new intervention options in what FMCSA likes to call its “toolkit.” By the time of the investigation in June, the carrier had already addressed the problems.
Lansing says the letters brought to the company’s attention a problem with its Unsafe Driving numbers that was due to a large number of warnings, not just speeding convictions. Company policy was changed to include repercussions for warnings. “Our policy is no more than two warnings or tickets in a 12-month period or three in a 36-month period,” Lansing says. “Basically, we give [drivers] a warning letter for the first, a suspension on the second, and we terminate them on the third.”
Kennesaw instituted an even stricter policy for its fleet, which was governed at 71 mph when the CSA 2010 pilot started, Clay says. “We turned all the trucks down 4 mph,” and also left no wiggle room for any kind of “warning, ticket or roadside violation. If [a driver] received one, we pulled a current MVR on that driver, and if no past problems were seen from an MVR or previous roadside inspections while they worked here, we put them on a written disciplinary action. During that ‘probation,’ if they received any violations, that driver was immediately terminated. Those probation periods lasted a year from the initial violation. If the driver did have a [ticket or warning] or a negative roadside inspection while they’d worked here that we saw on the MVR, we reduced the tractor speed another 4 miles per hour.”
Some Kennesaw drivers bristled at the change, Clay says. “I wasn’t one of the more liked individuals around here for a while.”
Yet many drivers took the changes in stride. “Over the last several years, we’ve been working to get our safety scores better anyway,” says five-year Kennesaw driver Steve Bugg, of Sharon, Tenn. “In the last year, we really ramped up, and it got into our inspections and stuff.”
“The only downside I see to the new CSA 2010 program is that the way they’re doing the points is pretty strict. I think they went a little too far on this one, for now. Sometimes there are certain times you should do things. But now? The last five years, they’ve piled on the rules. ”
— Kennesaw Transportation driver Steve Bugg
Perkins Specialized leased owner-operator Dick McCorkle, with 46 years behind the wheel, also is not alarmed about the program. “People are starting to sweat before it’s time to sweat,” he says. “It’ll be a lot like when the CDL came out. It’ll hit the so-called ‘bad drivers.’ But if you don’t have any speeding violations, reckless driving violations, that sort of thing, you’ll be OK.”
Though not included in the Missouri pilot test of CSA 2010, Prime in recent years has made $100 payouts to its leased drivers and $25 to company drivers for clean inspections, Lacy says. “We tell them, ‘If you need $100 just find yourself a scale – it’s just like an ATM,’” he says.
The company’s December safety meeting contained what Lacy calls “a lot of selling and convincing” of its leased operators that a new company policy to use electronic on-board recorders was in their best interest. Fatigued driving is one of three BASICs that by itself can trigger intervention by a serious enough deficiency.
Leased and company drivers also can expect big changes in hiring standards. In addition to FMCSA’s enhanced internal monitoring of driver safety records, accounting for violation information going back three years, the agency’s Pre-Employment Screening Tool will soon give carriers access to drivers’ history down to the roadside inspection level.