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CSA 'raising all boats,' says Schneider's Osterberg

Dec. 30, 2011
On the one-year anniversary of CSA, it would be tough to find anybody who thinks it has been an absolutely perfect fit

On the one-year anniversary of CSA, it would be tough to find anybody who thinks it has been an absolutely perfect fit. There is, however, a growing wave of optimism about its effects on the trucking industry as a whole.

Don Osterberg, senior vice president, safety, security and driver training for Schneider National, is among those who are encouraged by the initial results.

“As I think about this one-year anniversary, I really am encouraged,” he told Fleet Owner in a recent interview. “I was convinced it would be an effective program, a step up from SafeStat, and it has been. Our experience has confirmed what we expected. CSA has improved accountability [for the industry.]

“We have a third party that helps us report CSA violations,” he noted, “and we have seen a significant sloping of the trend line when it comes to inspections with violations, especially when it comes to fatigued driving. CSA is ‘raising all boats.’ Because you are compared to other fleets similar to yours, you have to improve faster than your competitors to actually reduce your own score.

“It remains to be seen if CSA will actually improve highway safety, but my instincts are that it will,” Osterberg added. “We had made the EOBR decision before CSA was rolled out and I am delighted that we did. Even with our very careful auditing of our paper logs, using EOBRs for hours of service is still so much better. In fact, my number one recommendation for fleets that want to improve their fatigued driving BASIC is to go to EOBRs and electronic logging.”

Osterberg is also convinced that CSA will help to develop a valuable new sense of professionalism among truck drivers.

“We all want to be the best at what we do, or at least to be proficient,” he said, “and we behave in accordance with how we believe ourselves to be. If I see myself as a disciplined professional, I will behave that way.”

CSA, he noted, is giving drivers a new yardstick, a new way to measure their own performance and have it independently rated, independently validated for everybody to see.

“Drivers are embracing that,” Osterberg noted. “It is making a difference. We have to somehow take driver behavior back to the belief level, back to how they see themselves. I personally think that behavioral training is old school. If we can get individuals [to see themselves as professionals and to act accordingly], then we can elevate the industry as a whole. We are learning more all the time about what kind of person makes a safe and professional driver and that is where the real heart of the opportunity lies.”

When it comes to driver training, Osterberg’s view is nuanced and thoughtful concerning the impact of CSA.

“CSA is, of course, shaping certain technical aspects of driver training,” he told Fleet Owner. “However, say you have a problem. You have to ask, ‘Is it a training issue? Or is it a discipline issue?’ At least in our experience, most of the issues of non-compliance are discipline-related, not training-related. They are about knowing how to do the right thing, but, for whatever reason, choosing not to. CSA helps us to distinguish between these two problems—lack of training and lack of discipline-- so we can respond accordingly.”

From Osterberg’s perspective, it is, “a bit early to say if CSA is actually washing bad drivers out of the industry. And there should be no ‘safe haven’ for bad drivers,” he said. “What we have seen is that the number of applicants we wash out has gone up.

“CSA will probably be a catalyst to more actively manage driver recruiting and driver screening, he noted. “It is all about exposure to risk,” he added. “In many cases, that has not happened yet, but if a fleet has loose [screening and hiring] processes, it will. It is just a question of when.

“CSA is not perfect,” Osterberg observed, “but FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) seems to be actively listening and serious about fixing things, such as addressing the crash accountability issue. Fleets just can’t be held accountable for something we did not cause and could not prevent.”

It is interesting to note that first anniversaries are considered to be “paper” anniversaries in traditional wedding lore, while second anniversaries are “cotton.” Paper for the end of paper log books? Cotton for money, which is made from fabric? Trucking can certainly hope for happily ever after.

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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