Editor's Journal: In the Driver's Seat

 CSA 2010 will present a golden opportunity for good drivers
 It’s likely many of you have heard fellow drivers griping about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new compliance system that goes into effect this year.


RandyRandy Grider is editor of Truckers News. He is the son of a career trucker and holds a CDL. He blogs regularly at truckwriter.wordpress.com. Write him at [email protected].

Many factors play into why a lot of drivers may feel this way: confusion, misunderstanding or just plain mistrust of the government casting more scrutiny in their direction. It’s true that Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (See our cover story, Page 18) is a bear of an initiative to get your arms around. It’s completely different from the safety compliance program now in place. And it will impact you directly on an ongoing basis.

CSA 2010 is two-fold. When fully implemented, it will have a rating system for carriers and drivers. Twenty-four months of data will be used for carriers while 36 months will be used to rate drivers. Unlike the current compliance review used to find the worst of the worst, a point system in seven safety categories, with recent data given the greatest weight, will give FMCSA a monthly evaluation of the carriers.

FMCSA can allow the carrier to continue to operate or determine if the carrier is marginal or unfit. The agency will address the problem area through intervention, which includes warning letters, targeted roadside inspections, off-site or on-site compliance reviews or placing the carrier out of service. The system blends enforcement and education.

Driver data will play heavily in the carriers’ safety ratings (the driver safety measurement system is not slated to be implemented until at least 2011). Because driver data includes all inspections, warning letters and violations, many critics of the system are concerned about the potential for abuse or mistakes in the reporting process. Some problems are expected, allowing for the vast amount of data being collected. And there needs to be a fair appeals process that doesn’t strangle drivers in red tape.

Another area of concern is placing responsibilities on the driver that may be out of his or her control, such as load securement where drivers have no direct contact with the cargo, or improperly maintained company equipment.

The tweaking of the system has continued throughout its testing phase, which began in 2008. And FMCSA still has to prove it can pull off such a massive undertaking. The intervention components alone will take a great amount of resources.

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CSA 2010, despite these concerns and the challenges it will have to work through in the beginning, offers a partial resolution to something drivers call me about all the time — bad drivers. Because driver violations will reflect directly on the carrier’s score, carriers can’t afford to hire or retain drivers who hurt their ratings.

The system will force carriers to be selective in recruiting and put a premium on keeping the best drivers.

And with an expected large number of sub-par drivers being weeded out, it likely will create a true driver shortage when freight makes a recovery. This means wages will go up as demand exceeds supply in the constricted driver pool.

Safe drivers have reason to celebrate CSA 2010. When it’s fully implemented, drivers can afford the luxury of being more selective in where they work. Both the carrier and its drivers, whether employees or owner-operators, will share a vested interest in each other’s overall performance. The very best drivers will truly be in the driver’s seat.

None of this should overshadow the goal of CSA 2010, which is to reduce truck crashes. If the FMCSA follows through with the system as it’s being set up, it has a good chance of accomplishing that goal in coming years.

At first glance, CSA 2010 is intimidating. But taking a deeper look at its potential to change the industry for the better, it seems to be the answer to what so many of you have been asking for.