All That's Trucking

How Will CSA Data Be Used?

January 12, 2011

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Last month, the next stage of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's new CSA 2010 enforcement program went live, making carrier safety information available to the public.
Drivers with good CSA scores may be looking for carriers with good scores to drive for.
Drivers with good CSA scores may be looking for carriers with good scores to drive for.
This was after a federal appeals court denied a suit by several groups of small trucking companies to prevent the release of the data. The carriers were concerned that their CSA BASICs data don't adequately reflect their safety performance and that publication of that data would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

So, wondering about the effects of the data being public, shortly after the results went live, I asked a LinkedIn Group of trucking, logistics and supply chain professionals what the move meant to them.

Good drivers, good carriers

There has been much concern that since driver violations and crashes now more directly affect a carrier's safety rating, trucking companies will tighten standards, and some drivers will likely be driven out of the business entirely, unemployable because of their CSA scores.

A former driver recruiter and carrier consultant for J.B. Hunt noted, "I've witnessed a few larger firms that have put recruiting minimums in place that are more strict and set to take effect Q1. That says a lot right there." He wonders, however, about what insurance companies will do with the information. "I get the feeling insurance companies will leverage a lot more involved role in hiring." On the other hand, he says, perhaps companies might get insurance breaks for raising the bar on hiring standards relevant to CSA.

One group member, who works at a truck driver training school as well as an industry consultant, said they already had had a call from one driver who found himself unemployable due to his personal CSA scores.

However, it also works the other way. The good drivers will be in more demand than ever.

"I personally wonder how many drivers will be telling their company to stuff it when the company requires them to drive junk and run illegally," continued the truck driver training/consultant. "Lots of companies appear to do just that! Once the drivers figure out how the new CSA program will affect their ability to get a job, I expect more companies to start whining about driver retention. My opinion has always been: treat drivers fairly, pay them well and give them decent equipment and they won't leave."

An owner-operator weighed in with similar observations. "A trucker friend and I were on the phone yesterday, reviewing carrier scores that are now available at http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms/Default.aspx," he writes. "He saw that his carrier has an alert indicated on one of the BASIC categories and wondered aloud if that meant his carrier would be flagged for increased scrutiny at scales and he would be pulled in more often for inspections as a result. His driver CSA score is zero (perfect). If he notices more frequent inspections because of his carrier's scores, he gains an incentive to lease his truck to a more compliant carrier.

"This is not a conversation we would have had without the FMCSA's SMS data to easily view and compare. Such at-a-glance carrier comparisons may not be the proper way to understand this data but I think it will nevertheless be so used by drivers and many others."

Shipper demands

Getting back to the lawsuit, there is indeed some anecdotal evidence that some shippers are going to be looking closely at CSA scores when choosing who to do business with.

A national account manager at the logistics arm of a major trucking company noted that the pre-CSA safety system, SAFER, has been in use for a long time. "Some of our customers require that we use 'satisfactory' carriers only. I am still waiting to see what our compliance team is going to come up with as far as our own internal standard. I read a blog yesterday on Logistics Management website stating that shippers may be liable for accidents involving their freight if they hire questionable carriers. I would think that this would motivate everyone to investigate their carrier pool and ensure that they use the 'quality' safe carriers. It should bring a premium rate for the best carriers out there."

The president of a supply chain management consulting/3PL/software firm noted that its transportation management software has been enhanced to screen for undesirable carrier scores. "We were very relieved that all of the motor carriers we use in our managed transportation division had great scores. Our concern now is the impact on market capacity, no doubt, it will have an impact!"

A broker reports, "We have seen a change. We use the government guidelines for hiring carriers and a lot of carriers do not meet the current standards. We are having to cover some lanes 2-3 times to ensure a safe carriers are used on the loads. Our work load has increased and I predict 2 things happening that will directly affect brokers. Smaller unsafe carriers going out of business and bigger carriers line haul rates going up. Building strong, mutually beneficial relationships, with safe carriers will be important going forward."


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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

Truck journalist 21 years, joined us in 1998. Plans and coordinates editorial, specializes in maintenance, drivers and fleet operations.

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