Shippers have role to play in CSA program

Dec. 1, 2012
Shippers need to be just as involved in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program as truck fleets.

Shippers need to be just as involved in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program as truck fleets.

That was the heads-up delivered by John Conley, past president of National Tank Truck Carriers, during the 2012 Intermodal Bulk Liquid Symposium held October 18 in Kemah, Texas. Conley provided a detailed review of the federal safety initiative and discussed recent program changes.

He stressed that CSA is not a new federal regulation. Instead, it is a tool developed by FMCSA to help ensure the best use of the agency's resources. Specifically, it is a tool for measuring carrier safety performance.

“You need to understand what this program means, so you can address rumors that are still floating around,” Conley told those attending the symposium. “You need to be the resource on this, whether you are a carrier or shipper. You need to assign someone to be your in-house CSA expert.”

Rumors out there include warning that driver information is now publicly available on the FMCSA web site; that FMCSA will publish a driver “black list;” and that driver scores will automatically convert to “marginal” or “unfit.”

The new Carrier Management System provides internal tools, including more detailed information on individual drivers for investigators to enhance carrier investigations conducted for FMCSA. This allows for targeted sampling and greater follow up on serious violations.

Under CSA, individual drivers will not be assigned safety ratings or a safety fitness determination. However, a carrier might use CSA data provided by FMCSA to evaluate a driver. Additionally, insurance companies almost certainly will want this data.

Drivers get a closer look in another new driver program from FMCSA is the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP), which was mandated by Congress and is not part of the CSA program. Driver profiles from FMCSA's Driver Information Resource will be available to carriers through PSP. However, driver profiles will only be released with driver authorization.

While drivers are covered under CSA, the key objective is carrier safety assessment, according to Conley. The program is designed to give FMCSA the ability to identify unsafe carrier and driver behaviors that lead to crashes. It uses all safety-based roadside inspection violations on that process.

CSA is supposed to give FMCSA the ability to reach carriers earlier and more frequently when safety issues are identified. It focuses on specific unsafe behaviors, identifies root causes, and defines and requires corrective actions. CSA was designed to make carriers and drivers more accountable for their safety performance.

A key part of the program is the Safety Measurement System (SMS). The program weighs time and severity of violations based on relationship to crash risk. Safety performance is calculated on seven behavior analysis and safety improvement categories (BASICs). FMCSA interventions are triggered by the BASIC score.

Recently announced changes to the CSA program added a hazardous materials BASIC. To fall under that BASIC, a carrier must have had at least two inspections on a vehicle transporting placard-required hazardous materials within the past 24 months, with one inspection occurring within the past 12 months. In addition, these inspections must make up at least 5% of the motor carrier's total inspections.

Any motor carrier that has an FMCSA hazmat permit or that has been identified as a carrier of placarded quantities of hazardous materials from an investigation in the past 24 months will be subject to the increased intervention scrutiny. This would include container drayage carriers.

“These changes (as well as the entire CSA program) will have an impact on shippers,” Conley said. “CSA will bring shippers more into the game. You really need to know your carriers and whether they broker their loads. FMCSA is developing a crash review process, and so should you.

“It is important to view safety as an investment and an operating cost. You can't simply select a carrier based on the “lowest rates anywhere, anytime.” Is that how you would pick a vet for your dog? Shippers and others will not have access to the CSA's crash BASIC, but shippers still need to discuss crash information with their carriers.”

FMCSA is looking much closer at shippers for shipping paper and marking violations under CSA. “You need to have a written plan that you will feel comfortable having on an 18-ft screen in a courtroom, and you need to follow that plan in managing your carriers,” he said. “Remember, plaintiff attorneys are looking for the “deep pockets.”

Conley summed up by saying that CSA is still a work in progress. However, CSA is working. More carriers are being reviewed, and compliance is improving. ♦