All That's Trucking

When CSA Scores Don't Make Sense

In this guest post, Evan Lockridge, Senior Contributing Editor, shares a scratch-your-head story about how one small fleet is being affected by the CSA enforcement program.

September 11, 2013

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability program is no longer new, but a recent on-air conversation painted a clear picture of just how it's affecting trucking company owners.

While filling in as a host a show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s trucking channel, I discussed CSA with guest Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications with the California Construction Trucking Association and The Western Trucking Alliance. He illustrated CSA's effect by talking about one carrier, who remained anonymous.

This operation has 13 trucks and 15 drivers, according to CSA Safety Measurement System snapshot from late August, with total vehicle mileage traveled more than 1.3 million miles in 2011, the most recent year on record.

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In the past two years, this fleet was involved in only one crash, a tow-away with no injuries or fatalities. During the same time, it had a total of 32 driver inspections with an out-of-service rate of just 3%, slightly below last year’s national average of 4%.

Of 32 total driver inspections, only three of them resulted in a total of four violations. All four were hours of service regulations. Only one was severe – falsifying record of duty status.

So 29 out of 32 inspections were clean. If you do the math, that's over 90%. In school that would likely mean an "A." But not in the CSA grading system.

Instead the CSA Safety Measurement System ranks this carrier in the hours-of-service compliance BASIC at just above the intervention threshold of 65%, at 67.2%. Its scores in all the other safety categories were low or there were no rankings. Yet according to FMCSA this carrier is in “alert status.”

“This is exactly the issue with CSA,” Rajkovacz said. “This really tells you where the emphasis is with CSA. It’s too heavily weighted toward violations as opposed to clean inspections."

What’s going to really hurt this carrier, he explained, is that in the next couple of weeks, as the rolling 24-month snapshot rolls on, their clean inspections will drop off their profile and amp up their negative percentile ranking even more.

“This is an example of someone who is a really good operator, a clean actor and not one of these frauds," he said.

Rajkovacz likened the situation to doctors graduating from medical school. “Statistically, half of all doctors end up in the bottom of their class, but they still end up being a doctor.”

So you can go to school, graduate and be a doctor who performs heart surgery, but if you want to have a trucking company with a good CSA record, just a very small minority of problems can make an operation look like the medical equivalent of Dr. Jekyll – on paper.

No one expected CSA would be a perfect system when it was rolled out three years ago, but it was hard to imagine there would be a system that grades a trucking operation that’s passing nearly all of its inspections as one that has a serious problem. It’s safe to say this carrier is not alone.

Comments

  1. 1. jai [ September 12, 2013 @ 04:15AM ]

    CSA is a harassment for small company.

  2. 2. Kris Wangerin [ September 12, 2013 @ 05:40AM ]

    Here is another flaw with this system. Yesterday I had two drivers go through a spot brake inspection in Michigan. Both had the inspection, but because the inspectors found nothing wrong there wasn't anything documented. Positive and negative inspections need to be documented.

  3. 3. Rich Walck [ September 12, 2013 @ 06:49AM ]

    I am not a fleet operator so I'm not sure how everything works, but, from various news stories, I would guess that falsifying HOS records is judged as a serious violation and if you get caught I doubt that you will ever convince an official that you don't deserve a poor score.

    My guess is that your story could be used to "prove" that the system works.

  4. 4. Joe Rajkovacz [ September 12, 2013 @ 08:54AM ]

    Rich, the driver who got busted was a leased on o-o whose personal actions properly are reflected on the motor carrier - no excuses there. However, that was one egregious violation in 32 inspections. Do you really think one in 32 is reflective of poor safety management practices? I hope not.

    BTW. The o-o is looking for a new lease since this company has a zero tolerance policy for these violations. Guy's getting busted for falsification are the poster children for a push to mandate EOBR's.

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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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