Feature Article: Safety's new teeth

Todd Dills | April 24, 2010

Safety’s new teeth

SafetyCarriers in pilot test states reveal what’s coming under the far-reaching CSA 2010 safety crackdown

When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program goes live in July, it will increase the agency’s attention to driver safety. The new regime changes safety monitoring and enforcement in ways that will reach deep into drivers and owner-operators’ carrier and/or shipper relationships, not to mention their potential to affect hours of service compliance practices and your view of roadside inspections.

Leased and company 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.

Furthermore, the program is expected to bring independent owner-operators 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.” For a look at the system’s full architecture, see the flow chart at right.

CSA 2010 is now operational in some form in nine states. Carriers and drivers in the pilot states report mixed results. For Georgia-based Kennesaw Transportation, the CSA 2010 journey began in 2008. “What put me on their radar was my driver number,” says Mike Clay, safety director. Though the driver Safety Evaluation Area (SEA) score 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.

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). 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.”

After receiving warning letters around December 2008, Hogan was assigned an on-site focused investigation, one of the new intervention options in what FMCSA calls its “toolkit.” By the time of the investigation in June, the carrier had already begun addressing the problems.

Lansing says its Unsafe Driving numbers were being impacted by a 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.” Depending on a driver’s MVR, Kennesaw turned down their tractor another 4 mph after he/she received a violation. A one-year probation period would then ensue, during which any violation received could result in termination.

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.”