How Does CSA Affect Small Carriers?
The size of the carrier is not a factor in deciding which carriers the FMCSA will investigate, but size is a factor in how carrier scores are calculated.
March 2013, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive
There are 'minimums'
Each of the BASICs has minimum standards; that is, inspections, violations, and crashes, to be scored. If the carrier does not have enough data in a BASIC, the carrier is not scored in that BASIC. Here is a table that explains what is required in each BASIC to receive a score.
All three criteria below, where applicable, must be met before a BASIC score (percentile) will be assigned.
Min. # of inspections/crashes in past 24 months
Min. # of violations/crashes in past 12 months
Min. # of violations recorded during latest relevant inspection
Drug & Alcohol
These standards are why many small carriers, including one-truck owner-operators, are not scored in most or all BASICs. They either do not have enough inspections or violations to receive a score.
Drivers are separate
The driver scoring system is different. All drivers are scored in the Driver Safety Measurement System, which works basically the same as the carrier system discussed above. The differences are that drivers are not held responsible for certain technical violations and the driver system uses a different time weighting.
In the driver scoring system, drivers are scored independently of the carriers. It does not make any difference what carrier the driver is working for when the inspection and/or violation occurs.
Driver scores are completely confidential and they are only used by FMCSA investigators when investigating carriers. Part of the carrier investigation process is to review the carrier’s drivers’ BASIC scores, and investigate the drivers that have high scores.
How do I make my BASIC scores better?
The easiest way to get better BASIC Scores (as a carrier or as a driver) is to get good inspections. In five of the BASICs, this will make an immediate difference due to the “violation free” inspections being used directly in the math. In the other two BASICs (Unsafe Driving and Crash), good inspections do not help in the math, but they don’t hurt you either since there is no violation to bring into the BASICs for scoring.
What’s the challenge with being a small carrier?
As a small carrier, once you get a bad score, it is hard to get it to come down. What’s the solution to this challenge? Avoid violations in the first place.
The challenge is, once a small carrier gets a score, the carrier does not have a broad base of inspections over which to “spread” the violations. The result is that each violation has a significant impact on the carrier’s BASIC Measures, and therefore scores. The Safety Event Groups used in the comparison process help even this out, but only to a certain point. In most BASICs, the smallest Safety Event Groups are based on 3 to 10 inspections or 5 to 10 inspections. One violation spread over 3 inspections has quite a different impact than one violation spread over 10 inspections.
Also, small carriers are not likely to see an increase in inspections due to increased BASIC Scores, so getting good inspections to offset high scores is difficult. Large carriers that have high scores will see an increase in inspections, and if they can pass them they can actually see their scores lowered fairly quickly.
So what is the biggest challenge with being a small carrier as far as CSA is concerned? Once you get a bad score, it is hard to get it to come down. What’s the solution to this challenge? Avoid violations in the first place. This can be done by being aggressive with maintenance and inspection, and keeping your credentials and log current at all times.
Thomas Bray is an editor in the Transportation Publishing Department of the Editorial Resource Unit at J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc, specializing in motor carrier safety and operations management.