Irregular ratings: CSA snafus

| July 02, 2012


­— Brett Sant, Knight Transportation.

However, carriers who haul hazmat just often enough to meet the new Hazmat BASIC standard now will be inspected as such. Because some of their drivers aren’t regular hazmat haulers, some fleets could easily see an increase in their percentile rankings there.

That’s what Bryan discovered when his company ran advance simulations of the new methodology with data from its customers. “Many of the largest, safest, best-operated companies were finding themselves … over the threshold or having an alert in the new Hazmat BASIC, where really none of them had any alerts in the past,” he says.

Bray says FMCSA has acknowledged that the new category isn’t about safety as much as it is simply about compliance. FMCSA’s argument, Bray says, is that “if these rules aren’t followed, the effects of the crash are worse. The responders don’t know what they’re dealing with, the public is unaware of the hazard.”

There again, says Bray, “CSA was created to be about crashes. A lot of the hazmat violations have nothing to do with crash causation.”

ATA’s Rob Abbott says the trade group wants two things included in the highway bill: “That the DOT do not use crashes that the motor carriers did not cause and could not have prevented, and that carrier scores should only relate to risk of future crashes.”

Abbot says he also sees “regional disparities” as a major issue, and “in a system based on comparative scoring, it produces skewed results.”

Bryan says Louisiana, for example, writes more seatbelt violations than any other state, whereas other states may focus more on hours of service, log violations, lamps and tail lights or speeding.

“If I operate in Louisiana,” he says, “because a seatbelt violation has a relatively high severity weight, I’m subject to the risk of having a higher score than a carrier operating in the northeast. This creates an area of unfairness.”

Brett Sant, a safety vice president for Knight Transportation, says CSA is “fundamentally flawed.” Because the system is based on peer comparisons, using scores taken from so many varying levels of enforcement and posting them publicly erodes the program’s intent.

“You can’t take the flexibility away from the states,” Sant adds. “But at the same time, if you’re going to compare peers, you have to account for [disparities] in the scoring, and they don’t do that.”

He’s done a small study, too, in which he compared numbers of all of his fleets’ inspections and violations. In the two states with the highest violation-to-inspection ratio, there were about 1.7 violations per inspection. The two lowest states had a 0.3 ratio, meaning the most aggressive states are issuing almost six times as many violations per inspection as the least aggressive.