Over the road movement of goods and passengers in heavy vehicles is a “mission critical” component of our economy. As the saying goes; “Without Trucks, America Stops!” Since heavy transport is so critical, it is equally vital that the drivers and companies responsible for their safe operation be held accountable to reasonable, consistent, and measurable standards.
Since the 1970s, governmental agencies and other stakeholders have been responsible to establish and monitor these standards with the purpose of improving roadway safety results. Along the way, revisions have been made to the standards, how motor carrier operations have been evaluated and what methods are used to communicate violations and the need to improve their compliance efforts.
Now, the CSA program is being introduced to help target poorly performing motor carriers before they stray far out of compliance, and the targeting method is based on reported safety results.
The CSA model redefines the performance measurement system. In the past we had SafeStat scores based on Safety Evaluation Areas (SEA) tied to Accidents, Drivers, Vehicles and Safety Management. Now, carrier performance will be tied to seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)1:
- Unsafe Driving — Operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner. Example Violations: Speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 397)
- Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service) — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations. This BASIC includes violations of regulations pertaining to logbooks as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of CMV driver fatigue. Example Violations: HOS, logbook, and operating a CMV while ill or fatigued. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 395)
- Driver Fitness — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications. Example Violations: Failure to have a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license and being medically unqualified to operate a CMV. (FMCSR Parts 383 and 391)
- Controlled Substances/Alcohol — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. Example Violations: Use or possession of controlled substances/alcohol. (FMCSR Parts 382 and 392)
- Vehicle Maintenance — Failure to properly maintain a CMV. Example Violations: Brakes, lights, and other mechanical defects, and failure to make required repairs. (FMCSR Parts 393 and 396)
- Cargo-Related — Failure to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, overloading, and unsafe handling of hazardous materials on a CMV. Example Violations: Improper load securement, cargo retention, and hazardous material handling. (FMCSR Parts 392, 393, 397 and HM Violations)
- Crash Indicator— Histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity. It is based on information from State-reported crashes.
Under this BASIC approach, whenever a driver receives a violation for unsafe driving, hours of service, fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, unfit vehicle condition, or cargo issues, it will directly affect the safety score for the motor carrier who has engaged their services as either a contractor or employee. The Crash Indicator will be based on state-reported crashes. The ultimate goal is to use these component BASICs to establish an overall score. That score will be compared to the rest of the industry based on fleet size to “rank” your efforts against others. Operations with poor standing will receive an intervention to help them improve their results.
The “Bookends” of the BASICs
Each of the BASICs is important; however, it’s no coincidence that the first and last BASIC listed are “unsafe driving” and “crash indicator”: each serves as an anchor for the whole safety program. How?
First of all, each is the most public expression of your team’s commitment to safety discipline: a failure to exercise strong discipline in working with your drivers may result in greater violations, and ultimately, crashes. On the other hand, well trained, disciplined and motivated drivers who display no reason to be pulled over (due to their consistent on-the-job performance) will:
- Pay fewer fines out of pocket
- Maintain a cleaner MVR / Driver Abstract
- Have less down time due to avoidable violations/inspections
- Be somewhat less likely to receive additional violations related to their equipment, cargo or log books (assuming that a speeding ticket could open the door to greater scrutiny of these areas by the initiating police officer, etc.)
- Place a greater emphasis on vehicle self-inspections and getting repairs completed to avoid down-time and violations from roadside inspections.
In fact, the carrier’s measurement for each BASIC depends on2:
- The number of adverse safety events (violations related to that BASIC or crashes)
- The severity of violations or crashes
- When the adverse safety events occurred (more recent events are weighted more heavily).
Therefore, minimizing crash events accomplishes several, equally important objectives: preserve the wellness of your drivers; maintain a lower score; keep out of the public eye; keep insurance rates competitive and predictable; preserve the resale value or service life of company owned/leased vehicles.
To shift unsafe driving towards consistently safe driving, commercial fleets have relied on programs like: driver education; driver safety hotlines; electronic profiling of drivers based on their violation and crash data; various on-board technologies to monitor and modify behavior. Insurance carriers, private research boards and for-profit safety vendors are regularly investigating ways to help fleets reduce unsafe driving. Progressive fleet operators don’t look for a single “silver bullet” solution. Instead they use a layered approach – piling one method on top of another to get the best coverage and the fewest gaps in their total safety effort.
A second reason that the bookends serve as anchors is that they signal the start line and finish line to your safety “race” – it starts with a commitment to measure, manage, and motivate your driver’s best behind-the-wheel performance (replacing “unsafe” driving with “safe” driving) and finishes with improved safety results (fewer crashes). The monitoring of crash rates also helps your team to determine if they’re getting better or worse at modifying driver performance. While CSA 2010 monitors only “state reported” crashes, progressive safety teams often measure all crash events (even minor physical damage-only type claims) to build a cushion into the program. If the “all events” gauge gets into the red-zone, they have a little breathing room since the BASIC considers “state reported” only. Using a driver management database (i.e. E-Driver File, et.al.) to record and report crash events can help you manage these metrics for both internal reporting and CSA dashboarding.
What about the other BASICs? Fatigue management, driver fitness, controlled substance use, and to some degree, cargo-related issues are tied to how the management team and drivers work together. A lot of your efforts to encourage safe driving (training, communications plans, incentives, progressive discipline, et.al.) can have a direct impact on these areas, too. When drivers clearly understand your expectations and they recognize that meaningful support is being provided, they should perform consistently in recordkeeping, wellness and cargo securement procedures.
Vehicle maintenance depends on effective self-inspection and repairs being carried out in a timely fashion. Like avoiding unsafe driving maneuvers, drivers have to bear the responsibility to take appropriate action when they recognize a defect.
Keeping the BASICs, well, basic…
Someone once said “rule number one is not to sweat the small stuff and rule number two is that it’s all small stuff”. I don’t know if that’s really true, but I do know one thing from working with many hundreds of trucking fleets: those who seem to “have their act together” focus on keeping their bookends under control. They help their drivers stay safe through aggressive candidate screening and a lot of communication (feedback, coaching, training, etc.). They’re also fanatics about measuring to see how well they’re doing (using lots of tools and methods). When they get these “bookends” done right, the stuff in between the bookends tends to be less stressful to manage, and they enjoy a healthy working relationship with the bulk of their drivers.
If you need help shifting driver performance from unsafe to safe, or in recording and measuring crash rates, please consider contacting our company – SafetyFirst. Our current, active client base is over 3,800 commercial fleets representing more than 200,000 vehicles. I’m confident that we can support your fleet, too.
1 – http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/basics.aspx
2 – Ibid.