Who’s keeping score: Carrier use of driver-ranking tools

| February 15, 2013

The article below is part of an ongoing, in-depth series on the U.S. Department of Transportation's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program that analyzes federal inspection, investigation and crash data and offers original reporting. Overdrive and CCJ editors have built a site dedicated to hosting the stories, interactive maps and downloadable data at CCJdigital.com/csa.

The first and second installments of “Who’s keeping score” examined issues surrounding driver PSP reports, carrier use of them in qualifying/screening procedures for new hires/lessees and Vigillo’s “Roadside Resume” CSA Scorecard tool for drivers

Click through the image for a larger view of the chart, a quick-glance comparison of services offering various tabulations of and/or information on drivers’ inspection/crash activity.

At carriers that use Vigillo and other providers to rank their current drivers in the CSA BASICs, drivers often are compared only to peer groups at their carrier.

Phoenix-based Transportation Performance Inc. is a service provider with a customer base made up primarily of larger fleets, says President Mark Martin. In its system, drivers’ numbers in the BASICs in TPI’s CSA Performer tool will be relative only to fellow lessees or employees at their carrier. Data contained in the TPI system is available to drivers only to the extent that the fleet wants to share it.

The CSA system’s potential to “screen out” drivers via unintended ripple effects is the subject of our February installments in this broadly focused monthly series on the FMCSA’s Compliance Safety Accountability program.

At Minnesota-based Transport America, the carrier’s scores as well as TPI-generated driver CSA numbers are shared routinely with the company’s 1,800 drivers, including 300 owner-operators, during annual reviews. “We make sure they know right where they stand,” says Gary Falldin, safety director. “The more drivers know and understand about CSA, the better. It really can affect their careers.”

With TPI’s tools, fleet personnel can set thresholds in the different BASICs that, when reached, will mark that driver for action as deemed necessary by the company.

At Transport America, says Falldin, the process for CSA score-initiated driver reviews is “more intuitive. … If there’s a problem, we would have identified that even before the annual review. But that’s a good time to sit down face-to-face and see where they are and what extra training they may need.”

Prime Inc. began sharing TPI-produced driver CSA rankings at safety meetings leading into the program going live in 2010. “We used to just bring it up in live meetings,” says Don Lacy, safety director. “ ‘Who wants to know their CSA score?’ We’d pull them up” and spend up to an hour or more telling everybody where they stood. “We still get a steady supply of calls, and people can walk in,” Lacy adds. “We pull it up and explain to the guys where they stand. We’ve had a few guys who’ve gotten up too high, and we’ve suggested they need to go somewhere else.”

Lacy says those cases have been few, though, and that termination is not something the company bases solely on a TPI-generated number without an audit of the reasons for numbers being high. “We start really warning them up in the 65 percent range – the conversation is more about your performance and behavior” than the numbers.

“If it’s a maintenance-related issue, they sit down and take a 42-minute course on how to do proper pre- and post-trip inspection,” Lacy says. “The number-one violation in [the Unsafe Driving BASIC] is the seatbelt violation. If they don’t wear the seatbelts, they’re required to take a four-hour Smith System course. We feel we have to take corrective action on whatever it is.”

(For an infographic on carrier use of driver PSP reports and third-party scoring services — first published with Part 1 of the “Who’s Keeping Score” story — follow this link.)

Martin says TPI has no plans to market carrier and driver data to drivers directly, but rather will remain simply a carrier compliance management tool. “The risk of providing that information is greater than the temptation to expand that market,” he says. “There’s no way to give the drivers a complete picture of their performance … with the turnover in this industry. There are too many holes. The only way [for carriers] to get a complete view of the performance is to spend the PSP money.”

TripPak, in partnership with Vigillo, offers the CSAdvantage program, combining its log-auditing service with Vigillo’s CSA Scorecards and utilities similar to what TPI offers its carrier subscribers. “Knowing your scores is great, but what do you do with them once you know them?” says Steve Sichterman, TripPak vice president of business development. “It’s about helping the fleets have training in place so they can be proactive in their training with the drivers before the DOT comes in.”

Carriers that use CSAdvantage can adjust follow-on action thresholds in the BASICs and group drivers under various managers responsible for keeping an eye on performance. Access to training materials also is offered.

“We partner with J.J. Keller, and we’ve developed our own training,” says Sichterman. If a carrier owns rights to other e-learning courses, “we try to be receptive to other training” and can integrate those into the system. “We’ve also done a good bit of one-off development for fleets.”

J.J. Keller & Associates itself offers PSP reports as a service to carriers. Keller’s new PSP tabulates the violation severity weighting points that would contribute to the carrier’s CSA rankings if a prospective driver were driving for the company today, says Cody Puuri, senior business development manager.

Provision of a statistical metric of a driver’s PSP appears to be what happened to independent owner-operator Martin Jez when he was told his CSA score was 300. That was likely a time- and severity-weighted aggregation of his report data. Such tabulation tools aren’t intended to offer a ranking within a driver peer group, but rather to provide a total number of points represented by the violations on a PSP. Some carriers of size have developed their own proprietary systems that function this way. J.B. Hunt driver M. Rick Richards says the carrier enables his access to view his own violations and points totals through an online portal, and Joe Beacom, a Landstar safety executive, reports the all-owner-operator carrier administers a similar tool.

Jez, counting up the basic severity weights of the violations on his PSP, came to only 46 points. The key to understanding how the carrier got to 300 is likely in the time weighting. FMCSA’s internal Driver Safety Measurement System methodology specifies violations within the last year are multiplied by three, those in the second most recent year by two. Out-of-service violations then add points to each weight that also are multiplied if they took place within either of the last two years.

In early December, Jez reported having found a potential lessor. That carrier, Texas-based RoadMasters Transport, “takes a different view of the PSP,” he noted – one he felt was more suited to the reality that an incoming driver’s prior violations don’t contribute to the new carrier’s CSA score.

RoadMasters has no rankings in any of the CSA BASICs above the intervention threshold level, an indication that they’ve gotten their compliance operation in shape. Two of the carriers that denied Jez a lease, however, had three rankings above intervention threshold in the SMS Results database (find the public lookup tool at csa.fmcsa.dot.gov, click “SMS Results”). Such carriers are likely to view a driver with a pattern of inspection violations, for whatever reason, to be too great a risk.

Just as carriers will do their homework on a prospective driver, drivers should do their own before applying for a lease or job at a carrier to mitigate unknowns and lofty expectations.

  • Jackie

    Again this is all corporation BS and it’s time to tell these companies to take their jobs and shove it,lets start organizing and get fair pay for what you do,this type of BS has been going on for years,you spend the time out their not them, believe it or not their are web sights in Europe and other countries telling these idiots how to get to America and steal your jobs from you,and your government allows this to happen and how to pass driving test I can’t believe these companies and what they do hire,I was a driver for years and noticed this BS happening,these companies want to control everything you do,and their lies to our government they can’t find drivers,BOHOO the truth is they don’t want to give you a living wage and their 401 Ks are a scam to but thats another subject for later on,and OOIDA is all right but their hands are tied to organize you because they don’t want to get into a pissing match with lawyers,but remember labor relations boards are in most states,and they can help,and don’t be scared to use them make sure you have time and dates of everything you do and your coloring book matches I am going to post my e-mail some day as soon as what I can do for you guys you all need help with all this craziness,and now that I am retired I need something to do

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1269137418 Mike Jones

    Wow..what a load of crap…..need more money to take an interest in all this B.S. The little tiny pay the driver gets sure isnt worth all this HARASSMENT.

  • Dave

    1.Whos keeping score on the company. When you take the fall for doing them a favor. 2.I’ve been in this business 25yrs.you can pre-trip all you want.Doesnt mean you cant go down the road,get pulled over.To find out somethings wrong.Of course D.O.T WILL FIND SOMETHING WRONG.3.For an industry thats short handed they sure in hell aint making it better.4.Some of these companies get ticked off when you walk.And put what they want on DAC or whatever.We have to fight with that.Now some more crap to deal with.5.Most of these idiots that even judge you at these companies. Couldnt even start a truck. Its funny! I got caught with a trailor brake out of adjustment. Okay.Fair enough. My safety guy was being a a**. So,i told him to go show me where to adjust it.NO CLUE! He didnt like my comments. 6.So,i guess its okay to be judged by him that doesnt know anything.That a book didnt tell him.To the man that actually works on the truck/trailor.7.And,they have the nerve to pass their crap on to possible better companies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1269137418 Mike Jones

    They want obedient robots…Comply, Obey…Yes Sir No Sir…..but no extra PAY for any of this NEW CRAP. Seems like a Rip Off. Total Stress…..Company driver doesnt buy the tires..but if tread is low on ONE tire…24 points on your file…8×3 rite now.
    Inspection after Inspection…..how funny…..what a sickening joke….best to get a job as an INSPECTOR!

  • No Reform

    Vigillo and TPI make up CSA “scores” FMCSA does not even HAVE a CSA score/number on DRIVERS..only companies….vigillo and those companies are quck buck DATA MINING companies that sprung up out of nowhere to tend to “needs” of Data Addicticted execs…..those Scores mean NOTHING to the cops……they will be the first to tell you….just a Joke.

  • No Reform

    They want Dash Cams Pointed in the drivers Face…Speed Limiters in every truck…electro logs for all….and hopefully the dumb trucker will Opt In for the Mark Of The Beast!!!

  • 2WildT

    The thing that really concerns me with all this is that even when you as a driver are trying to do the right thing and get a bad trailor some place to get it fixed, if you’re stopped enroute you’re screwed, law enforcement could care less that you’ve documented on your pretrip the trailor has a light out, a bad mudflap, what ever. You’re being inspected and they want their revenue, period. If this was truely the safety issue everyone is trying to make it out to be alot of these super carriers wouldn’t be in business right now. Take a good look at a Sneider or Werner trailor the next time you pass one. We the drivers are the ones loosing pay by trying to stop and fix their crap and still make something for a pay check. Getting harder to do these days. Trailor break down pay, when your manager stops laughing, maybe he’ll change the delivery schedule so you can get the trailor in compliance. Break to many of their trailors requesting repairs though, and you’ll be run off, been there, done that.

  • martymarsh

    After reading that horse jit I’m beside myself, oh no that is my twin brother again, but I’m still upset.
    What we read up there is the reason for all of these stupid regulation, give corporations more money. It is actually very laughable, corrupt but laughable. The things they come up with, make laws and then have companies help you comply, only you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, must be why they are getting rid of us.
    Another great product is the Smith System, little do they know most of us old dogs was practicing the Smith System even before there was a Smith System. I bet I’ve seen that a dozen times and the only thing that ever comes to mind is, they have to actually teach people this stuff.
    But because America will never be more corrupt than it is today, we need to do something or lay down and die, and from what I’ve see of my brother truckers I think I will just lay down and die.
    So I will just be sitting here waiting my turn.
    I would rather get off the planet than to live with the corrupt scum of the earth politicians and big trucking companies buying everyone out of business.
    Payback is not a beach.

  • martymarsh

    Harassment is a control tool, and many use it, that is how they keep most quiet about their little pay check. In other words, shut up or you will be doing a lot worse. And of course the government has to get their cut and nothing is beneath them. It has always amazed me how these slugs write laws and make it look like it’s good for the country when they are actually stealing with words.
    Sorry about the ranting Mike, every time I see that word, harassment, it sends me off the deep end.
    It is uglier than most know.

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