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.

53 foot trailer

CSA Enforcement Up in 2014

cropped-truck-traffic.jpgThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to step up the enforcement of its regulations by targeting the worst performers.   In 2014 the FMCSA has revoked the operating authority of more than 75 unsafe bus and truck companies, as reported by Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) Magazine.

In a recent article by HDT (click HERE) they profile a recent shutdown of a carrier based in Texas.  From that article:

In the past 12 months, the company was involved in five preventable crashes and has a crash rate nearly 25% higher than what FMCSA considers unsatisfactory. In two of those crashes, FTW Transport drivers were cited with careless driving. The agency also found on 10 separate occasions in the last 12 months, FTW drivers have been cited with violations demonstrating that they were failing to obey fundamental driving safety laws, including speeding and failing to obey traffic signals and texting while driving, the agency said. 

Atri 2011 coverA very clear emphasis is being placed on safety results as documented by driver violations and crashes.  The two activities are strongly linked — drivers with violations are much more likely to become involved in subsequent collisions — a link validated by two studies completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (and summarized on this blog site – HERE and HERE).

Considering that FMCSA is strengthening its resolve to audit and enforce with it’s new targeting system, I would think that enacting a strong “Unsafe Driving Remediation Plan” would be critical for most motor carriers and those companies who are subject to regulations but do not consider themselves in the transport industry (i.e. telecom, power distribution, contracting, etc.)

E-DriverFile(Click HERE to see our article on Safety Remediation Planning).

Further, the clear link between violations and crash rates should encourage carriers to fine tune their MVR review programs — tightening standards for MVRs can directly reduce crash rates by curbing unsafe driving and disallowing the ongoing accrual of violations by drivers. (Click HERE for our article on Digging Deeper on MVR Review)

cropped-more-thanksgiving-traffic.jpgSafetyFirst has been a leader in providing a single portal system to warehouse, sort and report on violations, compliance, at-risk driving events (telematics) and remedial efforts to improve behavioral results.

Our system can automate your annual performance reviews; pull and score MVRs (to your standards) and even assign multiple, tailored refresher training modules based on newly received violations or risk-taking alerts.

Another example of a blended scoreAll of the activity is documented to provide a paper trail that escalates to top management and highlights those drivers who are burning your scores within CSA’s SMS.

Even if your fleet isn’t regulated, but you need to mitigate your fleet safety losses and strengthen results, our system has been deployed with great success at non-regulated corporate fleets, too.  Compliance with corporate safety policies and tracking results gives you the ability to track your team’s efforts for full accountability.

SafetyZone-LMS