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Don’t be surprised – the audits are coming

HALIFAX, N.S. - Usually getting an A is reason to celebrate and a B is still good, but show up on either the A or B list with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and a pat on...


Piwowarski
Piwowarski

HALIFAX, N.S. – Usually getting an A is reason to celebrate and a B is still good, but show up on either the A or B list with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and a pat on the back will be the last thing you get.

The long chased after idea of having a North American Safety Code is still bogged in bureaucracy, but it is slowly starting to emerge and in the U.S. it’s all based on the SAFESTAT list.

“The SAFESTAT list … is based on the exposure and performance of the carriers who operate in the U.S.,” explains the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) division administrator (Maine) Steven Piwowarski.

With this program, the resemblance to golf is all too real. The lower your score, the less chance a company has of facing an FMCSA audit. But a good record doesn’t rule it out entirely. Once the FMCSA works its way through the A and B list – the worst operators comparatively speaking – it starts into the rest of the alphabet.

“If you kill someone we’re coming to see you … If you spilled a bunch of fuel and there is no reason, we’re coming to see you,” explains Piwowarski. “Complaint – has to be non-frivolous. Enforcement follow-up – to make sure you’re doing the right things.”

Getting fined will also leapfrog your profile to the head of the line. Wondering what’s on your profile?

“Check them, because you can end up with something on your profile that has no relation to you,” he says. “If an accident really wasn’t your fault, you should call D.C. to petition to have it removed.”

For example, he says Carrier A may know they haven’t had any crashes in the last year, they run the profile and two of them show up.

“Well they may have sold the truck, a driver may have used their identity or any number of things could’ve happened. If I was the boss of a carrier, I would certainly check to make sure the data in there, about my company, is in fact mine.”

Once on the hit lists for the first time, Piwowarski says the company will probably remain there for a while. “(But) as long as you clean things up and time passes you kind of drop back off the list.”

The data supplied to the FMCSA comes from the National Governor’s Association accident data, roadside inspections, compliance reviews and motor carrier management information systems. As of yet there is no uploading of information from Canada to the U.S.

“We don’t assign a safety rating yet so there is no exchange of that type of information going back and forth to the States. We in fact don’t even necessarily receive convictions on our drivers from the States,” admits Bill Lownds the coordinator of the National Safety Code Program in Nova Scotia.

“The whole issue of safety ratings is just a very difficult system to manage. Where can you go in and look in one window and get a true picture of a carrier? You can’t, you have to go, maybe to the jurisdictions in which he operates through and get information there. There isn’t a good exchange mechanism and there is not good record keeping,” says Ralph Boyd, the president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Pat Mallen, project manager in the Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch, says Canada is in, “kind of a test environment” where all the provinces and territories are sending event data to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

“The test plan is to review after one year of collection and then see how much effort will be needed to get it up and going so everyone can utilize the information exchanged,” he says. He adds it is “certainly” within the plan to see the exchange of information take place within the next five years.

“Every jurisdiction will utilize (the information) differently. For example, if you are an Ontario driver, no matter where the infraction occurs, the information will be sent to Ontario.”

In Lownds’ opinion, the slow conclusion to this portion of the National Safety Code is due to each province working individually.

“Rather than having one person develop it, you had 10 people – plus territories – developing it. So there were some difficulties there. They seem to be working their way through it. So I’m more optimistic now than say a few years ago.”

A company representative can request a U.S. carrier safety profile by calling 800-832-5660 or the direct line of 703-280-4001.


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