The new Federal safety rating system is creating a great deal of anxiety among fleets, and for good reason. It's going to change the way fleets and their drivers work.
The Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program (CSA 2010) doesn't impose any new safety-related regulations on fleets or drivers. Instead, it's intended to make it easier for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to identify the worst risks in the trucking industry by collecting and organizing information that's already out there. There will be separate databases for fleets and drivers that centralize roadside inspection reports, violations, accident records and other safety-related information that currently gets stored in a variety of different individual systems.
The data will be divided into seven specific categories so FMCSA can quickly pinpoint a developing safety risk. Ratings will be based on the individual categories rather than overall performance. In fact, failing one of two specific categories — the ones largely based on traffic and hours-of-service violations — will lead to an unsatisfactory rating even if everything is fine in the other six.
Unlike the current SafetyStat rating system that can be based on very old historical information, the CSA fleet and driver data will be updated monthly. That means one bad month can quickly change a fleet's rating, a rating that is publicly available to shippers and any other interested party. And that data will be held in a fleet's record for two years and a driver's record for three. The one exception is accident information, which will be kept on file for both fleets and drivers for five years.
It's easy to understand why many have called CSA 2010 a game-changer.
While FMCSA has released the broad plan, many details are still to be worked out. For example, drivers with an electronic log system are often waved through a roadside inspection site under the assumption they're running legal. How does the driver get credit for a clean log inspection in that scenario? That's important because both the driver's and fleet's safety scores are based on both good and bad inspections. Without enough inspection data, that driver's CSA record would show “insufficient data” instead of the good rating it deserves.
Also, FMCSA will replace the current SafetyStat rating system, but it hasn't written the rules yet on how that new system will actually function.
Such uncertainty on the details is not reassuring when it comes to a program that will have such a far-reaching impact on your business. In fact, it can be downright scary.
But before you start railing against unnecessarily complicated government interference, take a breath and consider the intent and likely effect of CSA. FMCSA is committed to getting the bad actors out of trucking, whether they be drivers or the fleets that employ them. CSA will make it easier to identify the industry's worst safety risks and to take action to mitigate those risks. Not only does the entire industry benefit when its overall safety record improves, but getting rid of those who cut corners on safety also levels the competitive playing field for the vast majority of fleets that value safety and bear the costs of meeting their obligations. For those fleets, CSA should really be seen as an opportunity to fairly value their services to reflect the real cost of truck safety.