The Vigillo data firm, counting around 2,000 trucking fleets as customers for their compliance data mining and monitoring services, recently completed an analysis of clients’ rates of driver attrition, or turnover, and found a correlation between carriers with high turnover rates and generally more negative numbers in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s compliance measurement/ranking program. Speaking at Conversion Interactive Agency’s Recruiting and Retention conference last week, Steve Bryan, president and founder of Vigillo, laid out the results for the audience of recruiters.
The analysis was meant to ask these questions, he said: Does high driver attrition impact CSA scores? And more to the point: “When you’re battling the turnover problem – does it matter” where the rubber hits the road in true safety?
Granted, CSA as it exists at present has no shortage of problems, all of which led to Congress ordering the FMCSA to pull SMS scores from public view and retain the National Academies to analyze the program for improvements, as Bryan outlined in his presentation. Setting those issues aside for the moment, however, Bryan urged his audience to consider what he sees as “strong correlations” between the broader “safety culture that exists in a motor carrier — I’m going to propose that it can be measured in CSA — and turnover rates.”
Vigillo’s service allows the company visibility into client carriers’ driver-employees as they enter and exit in the company’s database. He and data scientists at the company measured all client carriers’ turnover rates on the basis of such entries and exits, discarding those who fell in the middle and looking at the difference in compliance performance for equivalently-sized groups in the 25 percent with the highest turnover versus the 25 percent with the lowest turnover. Results showed that in all 9 analyzed metrics, high turnover carriers performed significantly worse than low-turnover carriers.
Here’s how the SMS scores in the seven CSA BASICs worked out, with high-attrition/turnover carriers represented by the orange bar in each pair, the low turnover fleets by the blue:
Average CSA scores — Vigillo carriers with high (orange) v. low (blue) turnover
The differences were even more stark in metrics that drivers and carriers tend to trust as better correlating to safety performance, those outside of CSA BASIC scores, such as out-of-service inspections and volume of DOT-recordable crashes. High-turnover carriers had a “driver out-of-service rate 189 percent higher,” Bryan said, than low-turnover carriers. The vehicle OOS volume for those high-turnover carriers was 300 percent higher.
As regards reportable crashes, the high-turnover group showed 1,177 total. The low showed just 303, a huge difference.
“CSA hurts, turnover hurts,” Bryan concluded. “I know I’m standing up here telling you about a problem” carriers are well aware of — everyone would love to have better retention. “What I am hopefully bringing here is something you can take back to your company as a new lever. … You know your turnover, maybe you can use some of this information to help focus your companies in on how much the turnover/attrition rate can hurt you as a motor carrier in some aspects of safety.”
It all reminded me a bit of an idea former Overdrive Owner-Operator of the Year Henry Albert had quite some time ago. Read about that one here:
FAST Act CSA requirements, update
Bryan also offered just a bit of update on what’s happening with the aforementioned effort by the National Academies to put together recommendations for the CSA program and its Safety Measurement System. “They convened a panel of outside PhD statisticians from every walk of life,” Bryan said, from “universities all over the country. They quite frankly don’t know much about trucking, but know a lot about data and government programs.” The group was very busy in 2016 with five total meetings, three of which were public.
“What I saw was very encouraging,” Bryan said. “CSA will never come back to light again unless the FMCSA implements the reforms that the Academies suggest.”
Timeline for the Academies’ report is for it to be published by June. “We’re a few months from seeing what the Academies will suggest. … My opinion is the suggestions are going to be strong, and deep and detailed. It will take time to implement it all. These are very serious people that have no interest at all in having a program that measures safety that isn’t very, very good. I think, for a guy that loves data, it will be a very interesting summer when we see that report come out.”