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Carrier report cards deserve some added attention

Fleets can learn a lot from the report cards that emerge through carrier safety rating systems. The underlying data can be used to track everything from how well a business complies with regulations, to trends in mechanical problems that are...


Fleets can learn a lot from the report cards that emerge through carrier safety rating systems. The underlying data can be used to track everything from how well a business complies with regulations, to trends in mechanical problems that are spotted during roadside inspections.

A focus on the grades may also be more important than ever before.

Everyone from government auditors to customers are basing decisions on the results from programs like the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system and provincial profiles. Fleets with conditional safety ratings or shortcomings in one of CSA’s seven measured categories have been blocked from selected bidding processes. Legal teams are certainly eager to use a poor score as “Exhibit A” in their lawsuits after a collision. Savvy drivers could even use the publicly available numbers to decide whether to apply for a job. After all, a poor rating could predict unwanted delays or an increase in targeted roadside inspections.

With a growing number of people digging into the data, fleets have a vested interest in ensuring the reports are as accurate as possible.

Fleets have adopted a number of different strategies to keep on top of their respective numbers, whether the information comes through a free CSA report or on a replacement profile. Staff members are often assigned the role of tracking the results on a regular basis, and cross-checking any supplied information with internal data such as reports from drivers and the results of fleet investigations. In general, the process involves reviewing reports of collisions, convictions against the driver or carrier, and mechanical inspections. But something as basic as a difference in the size of the fleet or the number of kilometres travelled can also affect overall violation rates.

Managers are also exploring ways to avoid any unwanted surprises. Drivers, for example, are often asked to report any interactions with police or Department of Transportation personnel as soon as they happen.

It is not just a matter of reporting the bad news. Every clean inspection can play a role in improving scores, affecting how quickly a business approaches an unwanted threshold. This is why some fleets are paying bonuses to their drivers who supply clean inspection reports, such as $50 for a clean Level 1 inspection of a vehicle and driver, and $25 for a clean Level 2 or 3.

These good news stories can help to reduce violation rates, but they also encourage the thorough pre-trip inspections that can reduce the cost of roadside breakdowns.

There is value in sharing the wider safety ratings with staff as well. Improving scores validate safety programs, improve morale, and enforce a company’s broader safety culture. Besides that, the data is already publicly available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

The emerging insight even predicts future threats better than tracking high-cost events on their own. One driver who is moving too fast for winter conditions may lose control, cross the ditch and remain upright. Another driver in the same situation may cross the ditch and hit an oncoming vehicle. The underlying challenge is the same. The only thing that changes is the severity of the collision.

Once a report’s data is confirmed, fleets can use it in a proactive way to target any shortcomings, adopting a clear action plan, setting benchmarks, and monitoring the related results to see if strategies are making the expected difference.

But the action plans themselves will always be unique to each challenge. Climbing out-of-service rates may require a change in maintenance programs or service intervals; an increase in logbook violations might lead to hard-coded logbook sheets to eliminate form and manner violations, or even shifts in dispatching procedures. If a large share of collisions can be traced to drivers who are changing lanes, there may be a need to offer added training in defensive driving or adjusting mirrors.

The one thing effective action plans share in common is that everyone – from operations teams to safety departments, salespeople, drivers and mechanics – has a role to play in any lasting solutions. Issues with something like hours-of-service, for example, can require a combination of driver training, trip planning, and customer contracts that reflect more reasonable demands.

The process never actually ends. But those who keep a close eye on results, and set related goals every year, will be in the best position to identify the root cause of any challenges and track the related improvements.

That approach is bound to earn a good grade.

– This month’s expert is Kevin Cole, risk services specialist. Kevin has served the trucking industry for more than 25 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry.  Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbfc.com.


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