Alternative Compliance Strategies for Motor Carriers

smc 1According to an article in the October 6th online issue of Fleet Owner (click here), the FMCSA is considering comments on whether to construct a plan for alternative compliance strategies for regulated motor carriers.

The article’s tag line sums it up nicely: “Agency to look into whether carriers should get credit for adopting technologies or advanced safety programs

Based on comments from Jack Van Steenburg, Fleet Owner reports an agency interest in “…recognizing carriers for steps they take to increase safety that aren’t required by regulation. Alternative compliance might involve use of safety technologies or perhaps safety management practices – driver health and wellness programs, fatigue management programs or use of the Pre-employment Screening Program – that go beyond what is required.

Simply put, if a carrier goes well beyond the minimums and invests in safety (i.e. wellness, crash reduction, etc.) then their improvement in their Bookend BASICs (Unsafe Driving and Crash Rate) ought to reduce their likelihood of audits or interventions by FMCSA.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287Central to this issue is the determination of what sorts of programs would potentially qualify carriers to get relaxed scrutiny?  If select technologies or products are highlighted, it could be boon to those manufacturers or resellers.

Countering this idea is the notion that fleets who already go beyond the minimum standards in their quest to reduce crashes also already benefit from lower SMS Scores and would fare well under the newly proposed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rule which would assign an “absolute rating to each carrier, not a relative score as seen today under [the present] CSA [program]”

I would suggest to FMCSA to consider the value of setting up a voluntary certification program (either self-certification through an online application and validation process or one administered by a third party agency such as CVSA, et.al.)

The Transportation Research Board produced a Commercial Truck and Bus Safety synthesis (#12) on “Commercial Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Management Certification” waaay back in 2007.  We would expect that the article’s findings should remain reasonably consistent over time.

The stated objective of this synthesis report is:

…to (1) document current information on existing commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety certification, self-evaluation, benchmarking, and best practices programs, (2) identify major common elements and protocols, and (3) critically assess evidence for the crash-reduction effectiveness of the programs….One of the potential applications of safety management certification and self-evaluation programs is as a supplement or alternative to governmental regulatory approaches to carrier safety management. The synthesis specifically examines the possible relationships between (a) results of certification and self-evaluation programs and (b) the more conventional compliance programs.

Synthesis 12Based on these comments, I would think that the entire document would be very pertinent to this present-day discussion.

When I first read this Synthesis article back in 2007, I investigated several of their recommended sources for certification.  Of most interest were the International Organization of Standards (ISO) 9000 certification and the Canadian Standards Association Safety Management System’s standards (“B619-00
Carrier Safety Management Systems”) (Click HERE).

Interestingly, the Minnesota DOT had produced a report as early as 2003 praising ISO 9000’s effects on accident reduction (CLICK HERE).

Trucksafe1Also noted in the original Synthesis report was the Australian Trucking Association’s accreditation program “TruckSafe” (Click HERE) which (as of 2002) had documented that participating, accredited members were “… involved in 40% fewer accidents than non-participating carriers and that participation is also associated with lower worker compensation and maintenance costs

Admittedly, certification programs are not a panacea to permanently solve a fleet’s crash problems. Clearly, a fleet’s management team that becomes dedicated to meeting a higher minimum standard will go through many steps to increase management oversight and control. That stair step improvement process alone would reduce crashes, but could that improved level of performance be sustained indefinitely by merely becoming certified? That’s a good question to ask, but a poor reason to ignore the immediate benefits of certification as a possible mechanism to provide “alternative compliance” with the FMCSRs.

If you are involved with fleet safety, fleet insurance or fleet risk management, I’d urge you to consider the benefit of investigating certification programs — voluntary, self-directed or as part of an association or official standards program.

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Safety Policy Expiration Date

EdiscoveryWhen did you last review and revise your company’s driver/vehicle safety policy?  What is it’s “expiration date”?

Creating an effective, enforceable safety policy to govern how drivers drive, how vehicles get maintained, what to do in the case of a crash and so on is vitally important for a host of reasons:

  1. Education:  you need to communicate your expectations as a management team so that the drivers know what to do and how to do it.
  2. Compliance:  your standard provides a benchmark for enforcement of minimum acceptable performance
  3. Anticipates contingencies:  well crafted and communicated policies enable managers to deal with the vast majority of situations that may arise during a day, week or month without having to seek guidance from above while providing an escalation path for true exceptions

One thing that the best policy can’t become is “timeless” — the world changes around us continually and as new technologies are introduced and case law is established our policies need to be reviewed to determine whether these changes warrant a revision to the policy.

Setting an artificial “expiration date” on driver/fleet safety policies would be one way to assure that the review is scheduled, budgeted and completed on a periodic basis.  Assuming that policies will be reviewed and revised “on the fly” as changes occur may be fruitless as the demands of the moment may rob even the most dedicated manager of the time needed to complete the review/revisions in a timely fashion.  By scheduling the review in advance, the manager can take a deliberate approach to the review.

ANSI Z15 2012 coverSelf Audit Against an Industry Standard

One way to assure that any policy review is comprehensive would be to conduct a self-audit of the existing policy against a published industry standard or benchmark.  The ANSI Z15.1 “sets forth practices for the safe operation of motor vehicles owned or operated by organizations” and was most recently revised in 2012.  The standard covers seven key areas including “Definitions, Management, Leadership and administration, Operational environment, Driver considerations, Vehicle considerations, Incident reporting and analysis.

While the standard may not cover all details of a specialty operation with unique exposures to loss, it does provide a baseline for comparison.  For the vast majority of fleets, it will cover those critical areas that are found in most driver/fleet safety policies.

Fleets who discover gaps in their current policy can document why the gap exists and whether the gap should be filled or ignored (i.e. the fleet doesn’t engage in that type of operation or the scenario will not present itself in the context of the fleet’s current or anticipated operations, etc.)

Realignment of Policies with Priorities

Many progressive fleet managers and safety managers take time during these reviews to realign safety goals and tactics to assure seamless compliance from both managers and Motivating Drivers to be saferdrivers — in the past, policies were often mis-aligned where drivers were expected to do X while managers told them to do Y. Recrafting the policy to make it work saves frustration, restores confidence in safety leadership and enables people to actually perform properly instead of ‘deceptively’ (either the manager or driver breaks the rules when goals are misaligned with policy).

This is also the time to address the effectiveness of the current policy as measured by past enforcement efforts — if the policy is unenforceable, or very difficult to monitor compliance, then a fresh discussion about compliance monitoring is appropriate.  A policy that is not followed, nor enforced isn’t much of a policy when called to testify on a witness stand following a tragic, and arguably preventable, collision.

All the News Fit To Print…

Another way to address periodic reviews/revisions is to keep a file of news articles announcing changes to regulations or laws that may affect your fleet operation.  Additionally, if any guidance is published about these changes by memorandum, keep a copy of each memo handy to incorporate into the review/revision at the scheduled date.

As the changes are incorporated into the new policy, keep a list of changes made to this edition so that it’s easier to communicate a short list of changes along with the final, revised policy.  This can boost your education efforts since most people would not want to have to re-read the entire policy solely to determine what has been updated.

Summary

Our company helps fleets to re-engineer their existing programs to get stronger results from the vendors they already use. Sometimes they’ve invested millions into programs that worked well for the pilot and then fell flat. Refreshing their approach and assigning Some parallels worth examininganalysts to “work the data mountain” into “urgently actionable” conclusions instead of frustrating “background noise” can rescue ROI from the gutter. Most of this comes from management teams who “wrote policies and bought silver-bullet systems” then stuck the notebook (policy) on a shelf and turned their attention back to their “day to day” after the vendor sales team leaves the building. Building discipline to deal with the mundane and tedious separates the winners from the whiners.

When was the last time your team reviewed your policy from start to finish?  Maybe you can leverage a standard like Z15 to help complete the review quickly, and focus on communicating the policy changes to your drivers and managers as a way to increase safety awareness and shake off complacency before any further collisions take place.

If you need help in conducting a review, call on us, we’re here to help.

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CSA BASICs and ANSI Z15

Some parallels worth examiningThe American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) z15.1 standard titled “Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations” was formally adopted in 2006; however, some fleet safety professionals may be unaware of the standard or how it can help regulated fleets maintain strong BASIC scores.

ANSI Z15 provides a “baseline” of fleet safety practices that are common to all industries and fleet types.  It can be expanded to fit unusual exposures to loss or specialized operations.  It separates fleet safety programs into five key areas:

  • Management Policies
  • Operational Environment
  • Driver Issues
  • Vehicle Issues
  • Incident Reporting and Analysis

Each of these five areas has a direct bearing on the seven CSA BASICS:

  • Unsafe Driving
  • Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service)
  • Driver Fitness
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Cargo-Related
  • Crash Indicator

Some of the connections are especially obvious:  the “Incident Reporting and Analysis” section of ANSI helps fleets systematically address their history of past crashes and try to manage that information to their advantage (ie. use trending to know where to focus current efforts.  This is a strong parallel to the “Crash Indicator” section of the CSA BASICs.

Other connections may be less obvious until digging into the standard and exploring its approach to structuring an encompassing program.

Yesterday, at the NJ State Safety Expo, I lead an industry discussion on this topic with both insurance and private fleet professionals.  There was considerable interest in re-evaluating ANSI Z15 in light of the FMCSA’s CSA program.  Our primary focus was using the Z15 standard as a “self-audit tool” to uncover gaps or weak points in a carrier’s existing safety policies, program elements, etc.  It’s a good way to test your program before you ever get a “warning letter” from FMCSA or become engaged in an “investigation” of your safety practices.

Additionally, if a motor carrier does become involved in an investigation, being able to work from an established, National standard provides a backstop to establish a reasonable, documentable “Cooperative Safety Plan (CSP)” which would be used to address any identified deficiences due to one or more low BASIC scores.

Current SafetyFirst clients can access several published articles and slideshows about the ANSI Z15 standard at our secure web site.  If you’re curious to learn more about the program we can also recommend two articles published in the ASSE journal called “TransActions” which specializes in transportation safety issues:

If you’d like to learn more about the FMCSA’s CSA program, check out:

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