Because commercial vehicle crashes are still far too common, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been actively seeking ways to be more proactive about safety monitoring. The result of the agency’s efforts is an initiative called Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010.
Prior to CSA 2010, the odds of a company being subjected to any meaningful onsite compliance review were slim. Due to a lack of staffing and the high levels of paperwork required, each year FMCSA officials have been able to conduct compliance reviews on less than 2 percent of the motor carriers in the U.S. The new system, however, utilizes electronically compiled data to analyze all inspection reports on motor carriers and drivers. The database system will produce monthly safety ratings for companies. This will enable regulators, and the carriers themselves, to more quickly identify trends of noncompliance.
So how does CSA 2010 work? First, there is the Safety Measurement System (“SMS”). The SMS is essentially a report card quantifying the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers by using state and federal data from roadside inspections, reported crashes and other sources.
BASIC Safety Categories
To arrive at a safety score, the SMS tool rates a commercial carrier’s performance in seven categories. Known as “BASICS” – for Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories – these categories consist of:
- Unsafe driving (including violations for speeding and reckless driving)
- Fatigued driving (including logbook violations)
- Driver fitness (including license violations and lack of medical qualification)
- Controlled substances/alcohol
- Vehicle maintenance (including violations for brakes or lights)
- Cargo-related (including improper loading and hazardous material handling)
- Crash indicator (including the history or patterns of high crash involvement)
The resulting measurement for each category depends on the number of adverse safety events, the severity of violations and when the adverse safety events occurred. More recent events are weighted more heavily. Using the data from these measurements, the SMS tool places carriers with similar numbers of inspections into groups. The next step is to determine a percentile for the carrier by comparing BASIC measurements of carriers in the group. The range is from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating the worst performance.
By using these scores, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is better able to identify which carriers require what type of intervention, and which carriers should be proposed unfit to operate. Interventions by the FMSCS can vary widely in severity, and include anything from a warning letter telling a company to straighten up its act to the dreaded comprehensive onsite investigation, the commercial carrier equivalent of an IRS audit.
Carriers do have access to their BASIC scores, as well as the inspection reports and violations that went into those results. With this information, carriers can establish their own course for improvement in order to avoid CSA 2010 review down the road. Carriers also may monitor this data for accuracy and challenge it if necessary.
What CSA 2010 Means For You
For the average traveler on the road, CSA 2010 will be an invisible regulatory framework. Since it only applies to commercial carriers, most drivers will not have to worry about fitting into CSA 2010’s sometimes complex web of regulations. However, the FMCSA anticipates that public users, including shippers and insurers, will soon be able to access SMS results. The transparency will not be complete, because privacy-related material like driver name will be removed and the crash indicator BASIC score will not be displayed. But the public record will include all crashes, even those where the carrier was not at fault. For those who often utilize commercial carriers, CSA 2010 could lead to better, and above all safer, service.
The primary benefit of CSA 2010 to the public, however, is likely to be safer roads for everyone. CSA 2010 will help the FMCSA and its state partners assess the safety performance of a greater portion of the industry, and will allow intervention with more carriers to change unsafe behavior early. The results of this increased scrutiny will hopefully include continuing progress in reducing the rate of commercial motor vehicle-related crashes.