Ghosts of violations past

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Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 was supposed to spread to all 50 states this month, though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now is hedging. Its most recent word is that the “national rollout will occur no earlier than December 12, 2010, despite reports to the contrary.”

Well, whenever it gets the full treatment, should you be worried?

For starters, ask yourself if you’ve been naughty or nice. And not just since last Christmas – CSA 2010, for owner-operator purposes, started three years ago. That’s how far back your violations are taken into account.

Next, if you’re leased, ask the same question about your carrier, whose last two years of violations will be scrutinized. A carrier unsafe enough to receive intervention from FMCSA will be under the microscope for months. If a carrier is feeling the heat, its problem drivers – those who didn’t get fired immediately – will feel double the heat.

During a visit to our offices, Crete Carrier executives discussed their response to CSA 2010. They’re telling drivers and owner-operators not to overlook any rules of the road, says Tim Aschoff, Crete’s vice president for risk management and general counsel.

Based on the experience of carriers in CSA 2010 test states and from CSA2010 information released to carriers, he says, inspectors in states requiring probable cause to pull someone over look for any apparent violation, often issuing a warning and then checking for other things. This includes the usual, such as broken lights or missing mud flaps, but also the more generic. For example, “failure to follow a traffic control device” appears to be a common umbrella for all sorts of things, such as crossing the white line on the shoulder, he says.

Drivers at Crete, like those in test states, have been wising up to the CSA 2010 standard of maintenance accountability. Before, a driver discovering an underinflated inside dual on an empty trailer might think nothing of driving a short distance to a truck stop to remedy the problem, knowing the company would pay the fine in the outside chance he got inspected. “Now, they’re not going to risk getting stopped and have it be on their record,” Aschoff says.

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CSA 2010 discussions have speculated whether drivers with stellar records will be courted with higher pay. Given that a carrier’s rating will be largely dependent on its drivers, it seems the answer is yes.

In Crete’s case, Aschoff says, there is no immediate plan to change its pay scale, but for good reason. The company pays higher than average, allowing it to hire safer, stable drivers. This results in reduced turnover, and therefore lower recruiting and training costs, which in turn offset some of that pay premium.

Likewise, as CSA 2010 kicks in, Crete is reaping the rewards of a long history of rigorous safety controls. The company’s scores on CSA 2010’s seven safety categories are less than half the level that would trigger intervention. “We really haven’t had to make any fundamental changes,” Aschoff says.

Owner-operators, too, with clean records and established safety habits shouldn’t be bothered too much by CSA 2010. If you’re not in that category, taking steps to get there could be your New Year’s resolution. Three years from now, you’ll be glad you made the effort

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