HazMat BASIC Could Affect Non-HazMat Carriers

As reported in August, changes to the CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability) are set for the month of December. The most notable change is the removal of the Cargo-Related BASIC which will be replaced with a new Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance BASIC.

What the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) did was pull all cargo-related violations — over a hundred — and drop them into the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. Any HazMat related violations were kept… and then FMCSA added some more.

The change, as with most CSA changes, could drastically affect your CSA score if you’re not paying attention.

The Reasoning

The reasoning behind changing the Cargo-Related BASIC to the Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance BASIC was two-fold: first to better identify HM safety and compliance problems, and second, to eliminate a bias in the Cargo BASIC against flatbed and open deck carriers. “This is going to eliminate that bias,” said Drew Anderson, director of sales with Vigillo, during the second of three webinars the company held in this week.

“It was unfair,” added Sloan Morris, director of client services, also with Vigillo. “Countless stories of folks getting tagged for throwing an extra strap on a load and that extra strap happened to be frayed and the inspector saw that and wrote them up for frayed strapped or unsecured load; that wasn’t really in the spirit of CSA.”

While those changes are making life a little more fair for flatbeds, the new HazMat BASIC has some interesting characteristics than the other BASICS.

So let’s break it down:

Roughly 240 hazmat violations were moved over to the HazMat BASIC, and CSA added another 100+.

The intervention threshold for all carriers, regardless of their classification, is 80.

HazMat BASIC information will not be made public for one year.

According to Vigillo, “Hazmat can increase the severity of crashes — not the frequency. FMCSA wanted to use this to better identify and address safety compliance problems related to HazMat and increase the ability of first responders. The goal is not to predict future crash risk; what it does is a better job of identifying HazMat compliance problems.”

So don’t think of it as a Safety BASIC; think of it as a Compliance BASIC. Think placards and paperwork.

“What we see now is a shift from the agency to big ‘C’, little ‘s’, little ‘a’ — Compliance as starting to be more of a focus,” Vigillo stressed.

It’s Sensitive

The new Hazmat Basic has 60 percent less violations than its previous incarnation, which makes for a “very sensitive” BASIC; a few violations can cause spikes in your score, perhaps even giving you an Alert. “That’s something you’re going to want to be aware of in this BASIC,” said Anderson.

Non-Hazmat Carriers Can Get Dinged

There are now three tests to see if you are subject to the HazMat carrier threshold:

1. Obviously, if you have an FMCSA HM Safety Permit… you’re probably a Hazmat carrier.

             a) at least two inspections on a vehicle transporting HM requiring placards within the last 24 months, or

             b) one inspection occurring within the past 12 months, and

             c) If 5 percent of your total inspections involve a vehicle transporting HM requiring placards.

3. If, in the last 24 months, an investigator noted that you transport placardable quantities of materials.

For clarification, Today’s Trucking followed up with Drew Anderson. “It’s driven primarily through inspections,” he said. “An example would be if a motor carrier who happens to be carrying a motorcycle or a quad-runner with gasoline in it; technically, that gasoline is hazardous material. And if they aren’t placarded, they can get cited for a violation. So then they become, in the eyes of the agency, a HazMat carrier for the next 12 or 24 months. And so then their thresholds across all BASICS shifts.”

As Sloan said, the Vehicle Mainatance BASIC will now be “the mother of all BASICs,” as it now includes over a hundred violations carried over from the old Cargo-Related BASIC.  But the severity of those violations has been lessened. What was once the number one violation in the Cargo BASIC is now number 41 in the Maintenance BASIC.

Other Notable Changes

Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service (HOS)) BASIC renamed to “HOS Compliance BASIC.”

Including intermodal equipment violations that should be found during drivers’ pre-trip inspections.

Removing 1 to 5 mph speeding violations to ensure citations are consistent with current speedometer regulations. These violations will be removed retroactively.

Vigillio stressed that there’s going to be more changes coming down the pipe in 2013. And remember, FMCSA often asks for public comment. Just remember to go to them with facts instead of anecdotes, they advised — they’ll listen to you better.

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