CSA’s golden triangle more like a ‘scarlet letter’

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That’s what two speakers, standing up for the public comment period at the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee’s CSA Subcommittee meeting yesterday, had to say about the system’s Safety Measurement System’s scores. The “scarlet letter” metaphor, particularly, a reference to 19th-century writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name about an adultress sentenced to wearing a giant red A by her community as punishment for her crime, came from Irwin Shires of all-owner-operator Panther Expedited Services, where he works as government qualifications coordinator. Shires has “fought very hard,” he says, to get what he sees as fundamental flaws in the CSA percentile ranking approach into public view. Among the most fundamental of such flaws, and he was echoed by some members of the MCSAC CSA Subcommittee yesterday on this, is the very fact of the BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) scores’ public nature.

The percentile-ranking basis, in the Unsafe Driving BASICs, in the small Safety Event Group Panther’s igolden trianglen (with just 73 of the largest straight-truck carriers in the nation), “dooms approximately 25 carriers to never being able to imporve their score to a point to where there golden triangle goes away,” Shires said. “It’s like a scarlet letter that brokers and shippers are using in determining whether to put their freight on a carrier’s truck.”

Tom Sanderson, the CEO of the Transplace brokerage, followed Shires’ testimony with further perspective on how many in the shipping and brokerage communities view and/or are using the CSA program. Sanderson, it should be noted, is Chairman of the Alliance for Safe and Efficient Truck Transportation coalition and party to their lawsuit over what ASECTT sees as FMCSA’s encouragement of public, business use of SMS scores.

One — and not the only one, Sanderson said — shipper customer has of late instructed Transplace to under no circumstances use a carrier to haul their freight that had even one BASIC percentile ranking above the intervention threshold. “CSA is doing significant harm to the nation’s supply chain,” Sanderson said. If problems in the SMS BASIC scores resulted in no more than a misprioritization of law enforcement resources, Sanderson noted, it would be a hassle for motor carriers, but “carriers are losing business branded with the golden triangle” making the issues associated with CSA that much more important.

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You can hear Shires and Sanderson’s comments to the CSA Subcommittee in the audio below.

Have you been denied business after crossing the intervention threshold in one of the CSA BASICs? Tell us in the comments… Other thoughts on the CSA program are welcome.