Feature Article: Maximum exposure

Cover-story-main-photoThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 has some carriers and drivers wondering how drastically it’s going to change their profession. The program seeks to change the model for compliance from a sort of housecleaning approach tied to compliance reviews to one that uses real-time, on-the-road inspection results to determine carrier and, eventually, driver safety scores.

 

CSA 2010 could carry ramifications in the areas of employment screening and background checks, pay packages, hiring and firing, CDL certification, marketing of carrier services, ongoing in-house training and more. It certainly will bring all drivers into a new role where they will be held directly accountable for their own and their companies’ rigs’ performance during inspection, says Jet Express Safety Director Jeff Davis. “It’s the first time in trucking ever that a [company] driver has been held accountable for his actions on the roadside during inspection.”

 

Says Jay Thompson, president of Transportation Business Associates, “The key thing the truck driver will need to know is that this is an additional system that will be following your moves — and following your license.”

A great deal of the data being collected for the statistical models is driver-related. Of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs, five are all about driver performance.

 

HOW HAVE YOU PREPARED FOR CSA 2010?

Know nothing about it – 51%

Have heard about it – 22%

Read about it online – 15%

Attended seminars – 7%

Started better record keeping – 5%

Source: ETrucker.com poll, 259 responses

 

The Unsafe Driving BASIC is what American Trucking Associations Safety Vice President Dave Osiecki calls a “standalone BASIC,” meaning a carrier’s score in this area can trigger an FMCSA intervention by itself, regardless of how that carrier is rated in other BASICs. “If a motor carrier has a rating above a threshold for unsafe driving here … the carrier would be unfit,” says ATA Safety Director Dave Potts, using one of FMCSA’s three broad rating designations: “continue to operate,” “marginal” (with ongoing intervention to improve the rating) and “unfit.”

The “unfit” rating is, in effect, an “out-of-service order,” Osiecki says.

All violations incurred by a carrier’s current drivers over two years, with more recent violations weighted more heavily, will figure in the Unsafe Driving BASIC. These include both tickets and warnings for things like speeding, illegal passing, reckless driving and other violations.

Mike Rone, president of Texas-based RMR Consultants, emphasizes the inclusion of all violations in the statistical metric of CSA 2010 as particularly significant. Under the current SafeStat system, he says, scoring is based only on out-of-service violations uncovered during compliance reviews. Under CSA 2010, the “all violations” focus holds the potential to add points to safety scores of carriers previously deemed safe. “Scores that are now being used have a trigger point of 75,” Rone says. “A motor carrier that has a 50 value could see its score increased by 20, so he’d have a 70.”

Looking at how his carrier clients will fare under the new system, Rone says, in some cases the picture doesn’t look good.

 

The Fatigued Driving BASIC can trigger an intervention or have a carrier declared unfit, though its name is a little misleading. It’s focused primarily on one thing: hours-of-service violations. “We encourage FMCSA to relabel” the category, Osiecki says.

“My biggest personal problem was always log books,” consultant Thompson says of his brief period driving trucks for one of his clients to get a feel for the realities of the road. “I’d wait till the end of the trip and fill it in. I got caught three times at ports of entry doing this — our insurance company told us, ‘Jay shouldn’t be driving any trucks.’”

Violations contributing to the HOS BASIC take up just seven pages of a 65-page document outlining all the possible carrier violations assigned points under CSA 2010, but Thompson says for drivers, “What it all really boils down to is: Did you fill out your logs right?”

CSA 2010 holds the potential, he says, to force carriers and drivers across the spectrum to get serious about HOS compliance. It comes in a year when the hours-of-service regulations are up for potential revision yet again. This has huge ramifications throughout the industry, from basic productivity concerns to the balance of power between carrier and driver when it comes to scheduling.

 

The name of the Driver Fitness BASIC might also be a little misleading. FMCSA isn’t necessarily requiring you to run extra laps around the truck while you’re laid over. Fitness refers to whether a driver’s CDL and attendant certifications, including a certified medical certificate, are in order.

Violations in this BASIC don’t carry the weight of those in the previous two, but to the extent that health qualifications might become more stringent and complex for CDL holders, having up-to-date medical certifications and documentation in-cab could become a problem for many more drivers.

Driver health issues have garnered more attention in recent years. Late last year the National Transportation Safety Board joined FMCSA’s Medical Review Board advisory panel in recommending a mandate for sleep apnea testing for some drivers, for instance. FMCSA continues, also, to rewrite the rules for who exactly can give DOT physicals, with the potential of draining the pool of appropriately qualified doctors and raising costs for drivers.

What­ever your situation, if you’ve got any doubt about your ability to keep your medical certification current, act now. Violations incurred today will hurt your carrier (or your own business, if you’re an independent owner-operator) come July.

 

The content of the ­Controlled Substances/Alcohol BASIC is self-explanatory as it relates to driver violations of drug and alcohol laws, but the degree to which it might be a critical component in future driver safety ratings given the pending legislative landscape remains somewhat murky.

A large part of the potential change CSA 2010 represents for drivers, Thompson says, is in its furthering the sharing of information between states in regards to CDL qualifications. In the past, as long as you still had a CDL after a conviction for whatever offense, drug- and alcohol-related or not, “somebody may end up hiring you” in a different jurisdiction.

Today, drug and alcohol convictions often end a driver’s career, at least for a lengthy time period. But in terms of testing, a positive test for a controlled substance can go unnoticed from employer to employer, which was why last year Senate bill S. 1113 was introduced to create a national database of the drug testing results of commercial drivers. When the CDL was being adopted in the 1990s, “one of the key issues was to have a common testing criteria, and the other was to share data among states about violations,” Thompson says. “CSA 2010 is supposed to be another step to try to tie all that together.”

And contrary to widespread reports about CSA 2010, even under the new enforcement regime, FMCSA will not have the authority to revoke licenses directly. With everything related to CSA 2010, says FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne, “keep in mind that USDOT operating authority is granted to the carrier. CDLs are issued by the states. It is the carrier that is held responsible for complying with all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including regulations covering drivers.”

In other words, “if you’re an unfit driver and I’ve got you in my employ,” says Jeff Davis, safety director for Ohio-based carrier Jet Express, “the agency can take action against me about you. As far as removing a CDL — they wouldn’t have the jurisdiction to do that without regulatory change.”

But given Thompson’s point about CSA 2010’s mission of increasing cooperation between states and the feds, it’s not hard to imagine the agency wielding greater authority once the driver SMS is established. “If they continue to stay with the three safety ratings and a driver is deemed unfit,” says Davis, “I know their business is not to take a CDL away,” but if the states are fully participating parties in the system that could well be the result.

 

The Vehicle ­Maintenance BASIC is perhaps the most developed in CSA 2010, given how much the program’s predecessor, SafeStat, has focused on equipment violations in compliance reviews toward establishing carrier safety scores. The main difference here will come into play when the driver rating SMS becomes operational. “The consequences of violations in the past have been more so held by the trucking company,” Thompson says. “Before, what the trucking company did didn’t show up on your driving records.”

In the old safety-enforcement system, he adds, particularly with regard to equipment violations, “if you missed something on inspection and you’re put out of service, you get that fixed and it doesn’t show up on your driver’s license at all. In this system, it will still show up.” It won’t be tied to your CDL directly, but it will be part of your CSA 2010 record if it was something you should have been responsible for catching on a pretrip.

Drivers of company equipment cry foul here. Aubrey Allen Smith, driver advocate and a dedicated company fuel hauler himself, asks, “Why should the driver receive points or fines where they have no control over a company who operates with poorly maintained equipment?”

Norita Taylor, spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says the organization generally feels that, if a few concerns are addressed by the agency, CSA 2010 will be a better, more safe system overall. In terms of maintenance-related violations, though, she says no company driver should be penalized for things beyond their control.

“CSA 2010 from a driver’s perspective can be used to ‘tar and feather’ them for violations they could not have had any knowledge of, and the motor carrier will still run them off,” she says. “And not all alleged violations contained in an inspection report can be blamed on the driver. There is no requirement for drivers to perform a Level 1 inspection on their truck prior to operation, and that is the only kind of detailed inspection that is going to uncover maybe half of all violations noted. This is a big deal for company drivers who don’t own the equipment. I can see holding a person as an owner-operator accountable in a different way.”

 

The Cargo Related BASIC covers improper securement and other violations to contribute to carriers’ and drivers’ scores. As with the maintenance BASIC, driver advocates see the new shared responsibility here as troublesome in some aspects.

“Anything that improves safety is a good deal,” Smith says, but there are “a few things in this that could turn around and bite the drivers. Holding the driver responsible for making sure the load is secured and loaded correctly, for example. On a lot of these loads, drivers aren’t even allowed to watch the load being secured.” Smith tells of a driver backing a van into a door at a cross-docking facility, whereupon the shipper loads the truck, the driver is “told to pull forward, and the shipper closes the door. They say, ‘We’ll lock the doors and you take off.’ I had it happen to me, big 3,000-4,000-lb. rolls of paper. One of the braces came off of it, and it came out of the trailer. If they’re going to put points on the driver for a load he’s not able to survey, that’s wrong.”

CSA 2010 holds at least some potential to change the full gamut of relationships between carriers, drivers and shippers. If real-time performance affects a carrier’s new CSA 2010 safety score, wouldn’t the program give teeth to a driver’s demand that his carrier fix a problem with his truck quickly, and not push him to do the 700 miles from Atlanta to Chicago in one 14-hour window?

OOIDA’s Taylor says no. “Nothing in CSA 2010 is likely to change the ‘balance of power’ in driver/owner-operator relationships versus their motor carrier.”

But others, at least in part, disagree. Thompson sees CSA 2010 having little immediate effect on the majority of those in trucking, whom he characterizes as serious about scheduling loads within legal hours limits and “who have good maintenance practices.” For them, CSA 2010 will just be a different model to adjust to.

Scofflaw carriers, though, should watch out. “If it ends up being a PrePass kind of a thing” intended to better focus the efforts of safety investigators through access to data, Thompson says, “you end up having the compliance officers focused on the worst offenders. Maybe that will raise the bar.”

 

The final Crash Indicator BASIC is a standalone category in the manner of the Fatigued Driving/HOS and Unsafe Driving BASICs, and it is a measurement of a carrier or driver’s likelihood to be involved in a crash. “Details from on-site crash investigations” will feed this BASIC, says ATA’s Potts.

It’s at the center of what FMCSA is ultimately trying to do with CSA 2010 — reduce the number of deaths from truck crashes on the highway. This number could also be a quite sensitive one for trucking companies in the public eye. As with Safestat scores, the public will be able to access carrier scores, Osiecki says, with the exception of the Crash Indicator. “They’ll continue to hide it from public view,” he says.

Driver information, on the other hand, will only be available to parties with the driver’s consent, if current plans come to fruition. The recently announced Pre-Employment Screening Tool from FMCSA, though, appears to lay the groundwork for a potentially potent employment role for CSA 2010. As Debruyne explains the tool, “FMCSA has developed a means of matching roadside inspection and state-reported crash information from the longstanding Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) to individual CMV drivers across multiple employers.”

The same driver profile is being used in the driver SMS rating system under CSA 2010 only “when conducting CSA 2010 carrier investigations,” DeBruyne emphasizes.

Again, CSA 2010 will not lead to FMCSA knocking down drivers’ front doors, at least not directly. “Should any one driver’s safety rating be particularly troublesome, irrespective of the rating of the carrier that that driver is associated with,” DeBruyne says, “CSA 2010 will automatically flag that driver and trigger an intervention with the carrier he/she is associated with.”

 

 

WHAT TRUCKERS CAN DO

To prepare for CSA 2010, says Jet Express Safety Director Jeff Davis, the company established a program two years ago to “monitor, supervise and retrain drivers after each roadside inspection. We’ve done quite a bit of driver training both individually and in a group setting, also, on the whereabouts of CSA 2010. Some of the big things we’re emphasizing are that the driver will have to be accountable for his/her roadside performance.”

Also, carrier officials make clear to drivers that the eventual plan is for roadside inspection information to “result in a safety rating for the carrier and for each individual driver. We’re teaching them that they are accountable and will be accountable for their own performance.”

Jet developed a training video and will also review each inspection with the driver to determine its root initial cause to avoid that action and reduce the probability of problems with the number of inspections.

“Proactive education” is the name of the CSA 2010 game for carriers throughout their operations, says Transportation Business Associates President Jay Thompson. Drivers and leased owner-operators might expect an increase in the number of safety meetings, health and wellness programs and other direct carrier contacts industry wide.

Otherwise, Thompson says, the immediate transition this year to the carrier rating system should be simple for drivers:

1. Make sure you do your pretrips thoroughly.

2. Operate legally, particularly in terms of hours of service.

3. Don’t speed or do anything else on-road that would cause a roadside stop.

 

For carriers, including independent owner-operators, things are more complicated. Dave Osiecki, safety vice president for the American Trucking Associations, suggests these steps.

1. Understand the CSA 2010 methodology.

2. Obtain and review your Motor Carrier Safety Profile using the COMPASS system, a “relatively new Internet-based portal into your own data and various data they already have” accessible with a username and password, Osiecki says. Check this to make sure all inspections are included, since clean ones, which need to be written up on the roadside, will positively impact carrier scores. Visit https://portal.fmcsa.dot.gov

3. Clean up CSA 2010 data files via the DataQs system. “Correct errors,” Osiecki says, and don’t take no for an answer if something is obviously wrong. “The element of time is important in the system — the more quickly you do it, the better.”

4. Update your MCS 150 census data regularly.

5. Compare past violations to the high-severity weighted CSA 2010 violations.

6. Know why you’re getting inspections — “What prompts your truck inspections?” Osiecki asks — and take corrective action to avoid them.

7. Introduce efforts to raise awareness of the need and importance of clean inspections.

8. Allocate more time and resources to review safety broadly.

9. Impact the safety-fitness-determination rulemaking: Docket No. FMCSA-2004-18898.

 

 

Seeing the CSA 2010 Future

“Safety performance history from CSA 2010 may become the gold standard of measuring driver performance and gradually replacing the motor vehicle record. The roadside will be the dominant force in not only the hiring/firing criteria but the overall marketability of a truck driver as well. For the first time ever, driver safety performance could make a play in pay scales. When we were in the middle of the recruiting battles a couple years ago, you’d see pay scales set up on years of service. I could conceivably see where [CSA 2010] would not only be years of service but with the correct safety rating.”

— Jeff Davis, Safety Director, Jet Express

 

 

 

CSA 2010:  New accountability for drivers

To learn more details on CSA 2010, log in to our Jan. 21 evening webinar, featuring consultant and Certified Fleet Safety Director Mike Rone.

• Date: Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

• Time: 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. CST

• Space is limited.

• Reserve your webinar seat now at:

www.truckerwebinars.com

System Requirements

• PC-based attendees: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, 2003 Server, Vista

• Macintosh®-based attendees:

Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer

 

For further information:

CSA 2010 http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov

Ask the Trucker www.askthetrucker.com

ATA www.truckline.com

RMR Consultants www.rmrconsultants.com

Transportaton Business Associates

www.tbabz.com

 

 

 

 

 

An FMCSA rulemaking will be required to implement the overall carrier and driver scoring systems the agency plans. For carriers, including independent owner-operators, ratings will be based on two years’ worth of violation and inspection history. For drivers’ individual scoring system, three years of data will be used. The new carrier Safety Measurement System is slated to roll out in July. FMCSA says it will begin driver SMS rating in 2011.

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