The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced in December of last year a new safety program for commercial motor vehicles designed to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities. The initiative, called Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), is a new operational model that strives to provide a better view into “how well large commercial motor vehicle carriers and drivers are complying with safety rules, and to intervene earlier with those who are not,” according to the FMCSA’s website.
The changes in regulations come after the number of fatalities involving commercial trucks and buses showed it had leveled off. The FMCSA conducted a study that suggested more attention needed to be paid to the drivers of these vehicles.
SafeStat was the former operational model used for measuring safety performance. The program was effective in reducing the number of crashes since the 1970s, but had its limitations, such as grouping safety problems together to apply a one-size-fits-all compliance review. Additionally, it was criticized for not focusing on driver behaviors causing crashes.
“Right now, there is a lot of misinformation going around,” said Dale Wessendorf, safety and fleet director for Smith and Solomon, a company that provides commercial driver’s licenses training programs. “The original program wanted to rate the driver the same as the carrier.” Thus, if the carrier was sent a warning letter, so, too, would the driver, as a way to deal more directly with driver behavior.
“People thought they would lose hundreds of thousands of drivers because of this,” he said. This, however, was tweaked in the current version. The following breaks down the new CSA operational model into its three major components: measurement, evaluation and intervention.
Within CSA, the Safety Measurement System (SMS) uses a motor carrier’s data from roadside inspections and other safety violations as well as crashes to identify drivers needing intervention. To evaluate and quantify the safety information, the SMS uses the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
These categories are designed to focus on behaviors linked to crash risk. The first, unsafe driving, is an incident related to operating vehicles in a dangerous or careless manner, such as speeding. Fatigued driving (or hours of service) is drivers who are sick or tired or in non-compliance with the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations. Driver fitness refers to drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV, such as those who don’t have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). The controlled substances/alcohol category is drivers who are impaired by these drugs. Vehicle maintenance relates to failure to properly maintain a CMV. Cargo-related is failure to properly secure loads, unsafe handling of hazardous materials, etc. Crash indicator uses state reported information on crashes to determine histories or patterns of high-crash involvement.
A carrier is measured in each of these categories by the number of violations, the severity of those violations and when those violations occurred (with more recent events being weighed more heavily). A carrier’s percentile, from 0 (best) to 100 (worst), is determined based on its BASIC measurements compared to the measurements of other similar carriers.
After the data is collected, the next step in the CSA model is to evaluate the safety performance of the carriers using new measures. The new process strives to be more effective by identifying which carriers require what type of intervention. The SMS determines the carriers should be called “unfit” to operate according to the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD), which expands the use of on-road performance as calculated in the SMS and includes results of all investigations.
The intervention segment of the model has three parts and provides carriers with the information necessary to understand their safety problems and to change their behavior.
The first category is early contact, which starts with the warning letter. A carrier identified for having safety problems is sent a notice that provides instructions for accessing carrier safety data and measurement. Carriers can get their measurement results (BASICs scores), as well as the inspection reports and violations that went into those results.
Carriers and drivers can also monitor this data for accuracy and challenge it as necessary through FMCSA’s DataQs system.
“The most important thing for drivers is to realize that a database is out there with all their safety information,” said Wessendorf. “It contains the results of all roadside inspections and all crash data. This data exists even if the driver was not put out of service or at fault for the accident.” If the incident was a Department of Transportation reportable crash, then it goes on the driver’s record.
“With any system, errors can be made,” he said. “It’s the driver’s responsibility to check it and correct it.” If there is a mistake on a record in the DataQs system, drivers and carriers can present their case to dispute the claim and have it taken off. It costs $10 for both drivers and carriers to request the information by visiting the FMCSA website.
“Employers can access this data only for new hires,” Wessendorf said. Also, safety investigators will have access to it, indicating a carrier’s specific safety problem. A carrier can then be investigated, which includes an offsite and onsite focused investigation to target specific problem areas, and onsite comprehensive investigation that addresses all aspects of operation.
Finally, if the problem persists, the carrier can go through the follow-on category. The carrier and FMCSA collaborate to come up with a plan to fix the underlying safety problems. A notice of violation is used when the regulatory violations discovered are severe enough to warrant formal action, but not a civil penalty. A notice of claim is sent when violations are severe enough to warrant assessment and issuance of civil penalties. An operations out-of-service order requires the carrier to stop all motor vehicle operations.
The rollout of the CSA is already well-underway. Last fall, SMS replaced SafeStat and FMCSA started sending warning letters to carriers alerted BASICs. Additionally, roadside inspectors have already begun using the SMS results to target carriers needing inspections.
This next year Safety Fitness Determination Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is scheduled to be released. Furthermore, the FMCSA’s enforcement staff is continuing to be trained, and new interventions will be implemented state-by-state.
The CSA 2010 is not the only change to come for those in the CMV field.
“(A) notice of proposed rulemaking came out in January to make (electronic on-board) recorders mandatory," for all interstate carriers, said Wessendorf, “which can get pretty expensive for fleets.” The EOBRs are devices attached to commercial vehicles that automatically record the number of hours drivers spend operating the vehicle. This new proposed rule could be related to the DOT’s recent proposal to change the Hours-of-Service regulations.
Additionally, changes regarding CDLs and medical certifications will happen after Jan. 30, 2012. Drivers will be required to present their medical certificate to obtain or renew their CDL from their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA). The SDLA updates the information in the Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS).
After Jan. 30, 2014, all drivers will be required to be registered in CDLIS. A medical certificate carried by the driver is not a substitute for the CDLIS database.
If the medical certificate expires and the driver does not get a new medical certificate and/or the SDLA doesn’t update the CDLIS within ten days, the CDL is classified as “Not Certified” and the driver can be ticketed and placed out-of-service. After 60 days, the CDL is downgraded.
“That is going to have a huge impact on drivers,” said Wessendorf, especially because there is no way to prove a driver submitted his medical certificate to the SDLA since receipts are not issued when certificates are turned in. Also, there is no way to hold the state accountable for entering the medical certificate information into the CDLIS within the ten day deadline.