WASHINGTON, D.C. –Are Canadian truckers ready for the FMCSA’s new safety rating system, slated to kick off in July 2010? Or are they being caught with their pants down, yet again?
It depends on whom you talk to. Either way, those in the know say the new Comprehensive Safety Analysis system (a. k.a. CSA 2010) created by FMCSA, will monumentally change the way carriers track and hire drivers and owner/ operators.
“It’s like a tsunami,” says Peter Charboneau, the Canadian rep for a US company selling carrier solutions. “Honestly there is almost no awareness by Canadian fleets of what is coming towards them. The impact is going to be tremendous.”
“Up to now, the FMCSA was able to provide safety ratings for less then 2% of carriers in the US,” says Charboneau’s partner Steve Kessler, based in Dallas, Texas. “But with this new program, they’ll have the ability to generate safety ratings for every carrier on a monthly basis.”
So are Charboneau and Kessler just blowing smoke because they’re selling a product that they say will help carriers stay out of trouble?
Not according to industry veteran Ray Haight, executive director for MacKinnon Transport, based in Guelph, Ont.
“They’re fundamentally changing the way carriers are rated for safety,” says Haight. “Companies aren’t used to being measured by infractions. And they’re not used to being measured by their drivers’ infractions. The criteria for assessing safety ratings under CSA 2010 has grown exponentially. Canadian carriers need to know what’s coming down the pipe.”
Jeff Davis, vice-president of safety and human resources for Jet Express, a carrier based in Dayton, Ohio, agrees. He’ll be delivering a presentation on the new CSA safety rating system in Mississauga, Ont. in November, under the auspices of the Driving for Profit seminar series, organized by NAL Insurance in partnership with KRTS.
“I think it’s fair to say that carriers don’t know much about CSA, but I wouldn’t feel too bad about it if you’re Canadian. The system has been in the planning process for four years now in the US and US carriers are just finding out about it,” says Davis. In fact, the FMCSA has just completed a pilot project in four US states (Missouri, Colorado, New Jersey and Georgia), to determine how effective the new system will be. The results are either reassuring or alarming, depending on whether you’re already a carrier that tracks driver behaviour closely.
“The government has stated that it has been able to greatly increase the effectiveness of the use of auditors under the new system,” says Davis. In plain English, that means that the FMCSA has found that by tracking and rating driver roadside performance as part of its safety measurement system, it can keep a close eye on a lot more carriers for a lot less money.
And here’s the even scarier part, for some. Even though the pilot project has only been going on in four states, inspectors are already gathering the information they’ve been accumulating on drivers and inputting it into the new database. Which means Canadian carriers (and drivers) will already have a safety rating under the new system when it becomes official next July.
“It will take only three roadside inspections to trigger a safety rating,” says Davis.
So how does the new safety rating system work?
To begin with, drivers will receive their own safety ratings, based on roadside inspections. The criteria consist of seven categories of driver behaviour (see the BASICS chart). How drivers perform according to these criteria will of course impact carrier ratings. Ratings will consist of three categories: Continue Operation; Marginal; or Unfit. A rating number will also be calculated based on the new criteria and, as is now the case, the higher the number is, the more unsafe a carrier will be perceived.
Next, the way the FMCSA responds to a carrier rating will change. CSA 2010 ‘Interventions’ will include Tier, 1, 2 and 3 interventions. Tier 1 will consist of a warning letter and a focused roadside inspection. Tier 2 will consist of an off-site investigation, the requirement for the cooperative development (between the carrier and the FMCSA) of a safety plan to address the issue, a notice of violation, a focused on-site investigation, and a comprehensive on-site investigation. Finally, a Tier 3 intervention will include a notice of claim, a consent agreement and a safety fitness determination of ‘Unfit’. (Of course all of the above may also be accompanied by gradually increasing fines.)
If all of the above seems a little confusing, think of the whole process this way: If you get a notice that something needs to be addressed (including the roadside behaviour of your drivers) and you don’t provide proof that you’ve fixed it, FMCSA is going to step in and fix it for you or take you off the road. So is this good or bad for carriers and drivers? It depends on who you ask.
“This is definitely going to have an impact on the driver hiring process,” says Davis. “Carriers will be required to look at the driver’s safety rating under CSA 2010. In a way it’s a good thing, because carriers won’t have to dig and hunt for info on driver behaviour. Conversely, much more data will be used to calculate a carrier’s safety rating. And the algorithms used to calculate the rating will be weighted more towards driver behaviour. Every violation will count.” Davis says the FMCSA has severity-weighted 3,589 different violations.
A further impact on carriers will be that they will need more resources to track the increased volume of data on their own drivers, as well as more resources to train them, should action be required. The advantage, says Davis, is that drivers will be more accountable.
The driver/carrier relationship will therefore change, possibly for the better, says Joanne Ritchie, head of the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC).
“This new system is going to give drivers and owner/operators a higher stake in making sure they don’t do anything wrong,” says Ritchie. “That means they’ll have more motivation to push back if their carrier tries to push the envelope when it comes to compliance. Carriers won’t be able to pressure or threaten drivers into doing things they don’t want to do.”
So are carriers prepared? Truck News called one smaller carrier, which will remain nameless and discovered that the carrier’s compliance manager knew nothing of the CSA 2010 initiative.
“We’ll be watching for your article to find out more,” said the officer.
As for larger carriers, Challenger safety and compliance director Robert Halfyard believes the impact will be minimal, at least for “carriers who currently have effective safety programs and monitor their on-road performance.”
As for carriers who do not have ways and means to monitor and correct deficiencies, they “will most certainly have some issues to deal with.” For more info on CSA 2010 visit http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Drivers’ safety ratings will be calculated using data from the following BASICS (Behaviour, Analysis Safety Improvement Categories):