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.
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.