The safety rating system currently in use by the FMCSA, Safestat, will change shortly to a new program called CSA 2010. Why change safety rating systems in the trucking industry?
In the 1980’s there was approximately 300,000 trucking companies. That number has ballooned to over 675,000 carriers currently operating in the US. Additionally the miles driven and the trucks on the road at these carriers has increased. Freight volume shipped by trucks in the US is expected to grow 50% over the next 20 years, and the country’s infrastructure will not even come close to keeping up.
Since the 1980’s the primary tool for carrier evaluation by the FMCSA has been a compliance review (CR). The CR takes days to conduct, is paper and manpower intensive, and is the only way that the FMCSA has to assign safety ratings. Under the CR process less than 2% of trucking companies in America were inspected in a given year. Another problem was that once a rating is given it doesn’t expire until the carrier is rated again, regardless of how bad the carrier is currently. The rating has improperly become a "seal of approval" even though it was meant to simply take a snapshot of the company at one point in time. The process was the same whether the company had one truck or 1,000. Companies found to violate the safety regulations were assessed small civil penalties. The civil penalties for these violations were modest on the whole, with some carriers simply concluding that they were the cost of doing business.
Currently under the Safestat system carriers were assessed under 4 areas (1. Driver 2. Vehicle 3. Safety Management and 4. Accident). The new CSA 2010 system will measure seven areas (1. Unsafe Driving 2. Fatigued Driving 3. Driver Fitness 4. Vehicle Maintenance 5. Improper Loading/Cargo Securement 6. Crash History 7. Controlled substance/Alcohol) and has been tested in 4 states (Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, and New Jersey). As with any new system there will be implementation problems but, if properly used, the system will result in safer roadways. Already the system has resulted in many more warnings and other contacts from the FMCSA to unsafe carriers.
Other changes involve the fact that CSA 2010 includes two new safety measurement systems (SMS), one for carriers (CSMS) and one for drivers (DSMS). Drivers were never directly measured before for safety under the SafeStat system. The 7 factors, above, will be assessed for each driver and a weighted score will be give to each violation found for the driver or the company. The more likely the violation is to cause a crash, the greater the score. Thus carriers can find out from one source, assuming everything is reported and false identities are not used, what they need to know about a potential driver before hiring them. Bad drivers, in a perfect world, will find it much harder, or even impossible, to find a job.
The safety ratings that we are familiar with under SafeStat are Satisfactory, Conditional, and Unfit. These will be replaced by Continue to Operate, Marginal, or Unfit. Marginal ratings will result in FMCSA intervention while unfit ratings will result in a suspension. Intervention will be as follows, from least to most severe:
- Warning Letter
- Targeted Roadside Inspection
- Off site Inspection
- On-Site Investigation – Focused
- Cooperative Safety Plan
- Notice of Violation
- On-Site Investigation – Comprehensive
- Notice of Claim
- Settlement Agreement
- Unfit Suspension
More on this topic later where I will discuss, in part 2, the CSMS and in part 3, the DSMS.