Working with CSA

July 11, 2012
Making contact with the enforcement community is a good start

Two years after being rolled out, it is safe to say that a majority of stakeholders in trucking have some serious concerns regarding CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability). As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to work through the development of this safety enforcement tool, its action, or lack thereof, on certain issues has instilled doubts in the program that perhaps did not exist before and have dampened the general attitude towards its integrity as a whole. Fresh from the 2012 TCA Safety & Security Div. meeting held last month in Norman, OK, I look back and see that amidst the seemingly troublesome and uncertain future of FMCSA’s wherewithal and intent to correct the flaws of CSA, there is a beacon of hope that turned out to be an inadvertent theme at our meeting.

This year’s Safety & Security meeting featured content on the current status of CSA and its future outlook from enforcement personnel who offered both a unique and valuable perspective to our attendees on different approaches they can take to improve their operations. The substance brought to the table by these officers in conjunction with industry perceptions of the functions and dynamics of enforcement truly enhanced the attendees’ understanding of the realities we all face in regard to CSA. Improving and maintaining safety on our highways is the end game for both industry and enforcement. Accordingly, as the major players in that game, it should behoove both parties to work together in creating openness that will benefit both in achieving that ultimate goal. And from the overwhelming positive feedback I have received on the presence of enforcement entities at our truck safety meeting, I am not alone in that assessment. Therein lies the beacon.

We can comment and complain about correcting the shortcomings of CSA, but FMCSA by no means has an easy task on its plate. In order for there to be a successful outcome in making CSA the sharpest safety enforcement tool that best portrays accurate safety assessments, both industry and enforcement must work together and with the agency in developing this program. Although we will never see eye to eye on every issue, there are many matters where we do agree, such as the need for crash accountability in crash data and improvements to the DataQ process. It is this common ground where unity between industry and enforcement can help the agency find working solutions to expediently eliminate these critical problems that exist in the current structure of CSA.

While this growing partnership with enforcement in offering suggestions and measures that FMCSA can take to improve CSA will be hugely beneficial, carriers should learn from this that benefits to forming relationships with enforcement at all levels is endless. Simply meeting any of your state enforcement officers will give you a contact that can offer invaluable insight in ways to improve your operations and overall safety culture. There really are no secrets in safety; it is just a matter of expanding your horizons and taking advantage of those opportunities that are presented before you and using them as a quality sounding board. That being said, however, enforcement personnel, our brethren in improving motor carrier safety, are willing to offer both good news and bad. It is up to you as the carrier representative to use both constructively.

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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