“CSA has had an effect on safety, but people want to make sure their scores are correct and fair,” said Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy, American Trucking Associations, during an update on the program at the recent Zonar user’s conference held in San Antonio last week. Also part of the update, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance head Steve Keppler went over the top CSA violations.
CSA is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s primary tool for identifying and targeting unsafe motor carriers and improving overall truck safety. It is probably a sufficient tool to improve safety, Abbott said, but he added that it’s inappropriate for shippers to make judgments based on individual scores and how they relate to crash rates.
But there are problems with the system. Some of these issues were addressed with changes made in December, which included:
- Renaming the Fatigue BASIC to Hours-of Service
- Changing Cargo BASIC to HazMat BACIS and pushing all cargo securement violations into vehicle maintenance.
- Changing how CSA determines HazMat carriers.
- More accurately identifying HazMat carriers and passenger carriers for lower thresholds.
- Aligning violations in the SMS database with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection levels (eliminated driver violations from vehicle-only inspections and vehicle violations from driver-only inspections.
- Removing 1-5 mph speed violations since that’s the variance allowed in speedometer design.
- Lowering the severity weight for speeding violations that do not designate how much over the speed limit the driver was driving.
- Aligning the weight of paper and electronic log violations.
Currently the program is being audited by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s office and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress to access the effectiveness of the program.
A key issue, Abbott said, is whether or not there enough data within the system at this point and if the data covers enough fleets. The data for CSA comes from the 3.6 million commercial vehicle inspections performed by state and federal inspectors each year and from state crash reports.
He said only about 12% of carriers have scores in a least one BASIC category and only 3% have scores in all categories.
And the GAO says the FMCSA only has enough data to score 5.7% of small carriers (five or fewer trucks) in any basic.
While research shows a relationship between CSA scores and crash rates for some BASICs, there is no clear relationship between the HazMat scores and crash rates.
Another question, Abbott said, was the weighting that certain violations receive (some violations are counted higher than others based on their crash risk.)
While FMCSA says the severity weights reflect crash risk of the violation, a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said it is unknown if the weights used in CSA are appropriate.
Another study, by the American Transportation Research Institute, said that it’s likely the severity weighting methodology places too much weight on safety-irrelevant violations and too little on safety-critical violations in the Drug/Alcohol BASIC.
Top 10 Violations
Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, outlined the top driver and vehicle violations cited during roadside inspections:
Top Driver Violations
- Log-form and manner
- Record of duty status not current
- No medical certificate in possession
- Non-English speaking driver
- Speeding 6-10 mph over limit
- Failing to use seat belt
- 14-hour violation
- Failure to obey traffic control device
- False record of duty status
- Expired medical examiners certificate
Top Vehicle Violations
- Does not have required lamps
- Defective lighting
- Tire tread depth less than 2/32”
- Inspection/repair and maintenance of parts and accessories
- Brakes out of adjustment
- Oil and or grease leak
- Failing to secure brake hose
- Operating a CMW without periodic inspection
- No or a discharged fire extinguisher
- Automatic brake adjuster, air brakes