If you are reading this column at the very onset of the delivery of this magazine, you could possibly be preparing for the Truckload Carriers Assn.’s Annual Safety Div. meeting in Phoenix, AZ, or you could not be preparing for it, thus ending my shameless plug for attending one of TCA’s finest meetings. Regardless, a funny thing has happened when it came to prepping for this meeting, laying out the program, and even contacting speakers for it. CSA has almost faded into the background.
Established under the name CSA 2010, then morphed into CSA or Compliance, Safety, Accountability, we have reached a point where the desired effect came and went, and the inaccuracies and false truths inevitably made the removal of scores from public view a necessity.
The program as it exists today is still the same program, and it still measures the safety performance of motor carriers as that performance compares to other like-minded motor carriers that happen to fall into the same pier grouping and to the trained eyes of our motor carrier safety professionals. That program, however, still does not paint an accurate picture of that carrier’s safety performance because of the biases that exist and the holes in its platform.
Don’t get me wrong. CSA, in theory, has been a good thing. TCA supports determining the safety fitness of a motor carrier. In fact, the carrier members of TCA take pride in their safety record, and they should because they work hard every day to prove it, but the recent removal of the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rulemaking from the regulatory landscape proves what our industry has been speaking about for years—that CSA needs fixes to better portray the safety performance of a motor carrier.
The SFD? That was wrong to begin with. Its very design made it a program that only provided data for roughly 15% of the industry, or 75,000 carriers. Over 400,000 carriers would not have garnered enough data to actually be measured unfit or not.
Without that amount of data and solely the “unfit” title, many would assume a carrier was fit to operate without ever having been proven able to do so. That in itself was reason enough to sideline the rule, but using flawed data to actually determine the title was also a problem.
Finally, it appears that the agency has read our comments in the Federal Register on this issue, good news for an industry that believed many of our CSA criticisms had fallen on deaf ears.
Where do we go from here? That becomes the big question, the elephant in the room if you will when it comes to CSA. We have a program that is not only still up and running, but one that identifies carriers that may not be as forward thinking on safety as the rest of the industry; however, the data that has been compiled has been removed from public access. Make no mistake about it; CSA is alive and well. Carriers are still being held accountable by the agency and are still being rated, many times incorrectly or because of geographic bias. But the hope is that the program has not lost its impact.
I have said it before and I will say it again. CSA, in theory, is an aggressive approach to rating carriers by not only identifying the bad apples of the bunch but also highlighting the responsible players.
We are an industry that always seems to suffer from the poor-performing carriers that make safety an afterthought. We know that there are responsible carriers on our highways, and those carriers often work in conjunction with our enforcement community and develop strong relationships with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Not only must we continue to applaud these efforts as sensible and beneficial, we must highlight and place them at the forefront of trucking. Perhaps that is the next logical step for the agency to take so that the positive nature of an industry that continues to endure will be mentioned in the prideful manner it so richly deserves.