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Ranking the Risks of CSA Poor Scores: Reasons Why Carriers Must Check Data

Come this December, is the dawn of a new era in truck safety enforcement. Unfortunately, only a few carriers have taken an aggressive interest in the significance of the new system to them.

According to agency Administrator Anne Ferro in comments at the annual meeting of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, only 13,000 of the 500,00 active carriers went online at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to check where they will stand in the new system. That's only 2.6 percent of the active carriers.

Ferro urged the truck and bus safety enforcement members of CVSA to spread the word out to the drivers they meet on the road. Drivers and carriers need to know that it is up to them to correct their performance, Ferro said.

To enforcement officials, why so few carriers have logged on is puzzling to them.

The program has been hard to miss for the past year or so. "Game changer" for truck industry, is how the carriers that have been trying the system have described it. It's really hard to miss this for it has been extensively talked about at industry meetings and in industry media, and has been the subject of fierce, public dialogue between the industry and FMCSA – not to forget to mention the hearing on Capitol Hill.

Officials came into conclusion the some percentage of the active carriers are not in the information loop or are extremely concentrated on their daily affairs to take notice of a deadline that, thus far, has been a few months away.

California Highway Patrol's Capt. Steve Dowling, who becomes president of CVSA at this week's meeting, revealed he is perturbed but not totally startled. It has been the practice of many trucking companies to delay action as long as they can. He's seeing more interest from California trucking companies now that the December deadline is fast approaching.

Ferro explained that even though CSA will start in December 2010, the implementation will take place constantly over the next year as the states get their enforcement people warmed up in the new system. She also added that the CSA label will immediately be changed to plainly CSA, for Compliance, Safety and Accountability.

FMCSA will be very busy on the month of December. The following will happen on this month: the CSA data that is now made available to carriers will be opened to the public; FMCSA will start mailing warning letters to carriers whose data does not measure up; and the agency will start discovering which unsuitable carriers will get field interventions.

Ferro said that within the first half of the year the agency will publish a proposal for how it will decide safety fitness under CSA. This is a vital element of the new system that in effect will separate the Compliance Review from a carrier's safety rating and attach it instead with monthly performance data from the new Safety Management System.

Bryan Price, senior transportation specialist at FMCSA, said a number of misapprehensions about CSA persist in the driver community. The agency is not producing a public driver scorecard, rating or ranking, he said. Furthermore, CSA will not result to mass CDL suspensions, and the agency has no plans to prohibit the ability to drive based on physical characteristics such as weight, body mass index or neck size.

On the other hand, here are very valid reasons why should carriers pay attention to their standing in the new system. Forget the risk of intervention by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a little awhile. The FMCSA is just a speck compared to some other risks.

David Mitchell, the Director of Risk Control/Safety Management at National Trucking Practice—Little Rock, Arkansas, have ranked the most serious risks of poor CSA scores using an enterprise risk management approach.

Here are the risks of having poor CSA scores according to their ranks:

Risk # 1) Adverse reaction by a shipper. When a shipper learns that carrier's scores are poor, they may transfer their business to another trucking company. The loss of revenue can be disastrous to your fleet. The largest risk is to any trucking company that has more than 5% of revenue from one shipper. Mitchell asks, "Who can survive with less revenue?"

Risk # 2) Adverse reactions from insurance underwriters. Underwriters have followed safety compliance scores for years, and they are certain to utilize CSA scores when deciding coverage and pricing. Poor scores are almost certain to lessen subjective discounts for your fleet; premiums will increase. Mitchell, again asks, "Does anyone want to pay more premiums?"

Risk # 3) Claims settlement values that rise because your fleet has poor CSA scores. This may only affect only the larger, debated claims where you are not ready to accept that your driver made an operating mistake. But these are the claims that may be worth millions$$. Again, Mitchell throws another question for you to ponder upon, "Aren’t claims expensive enough already?"

Risk # 4) Poor driver recruiting results as drivers gravitate to fleets with better CSA scores. Many drivers may not give a hoot; some will be very choosy and will join your competitors. Mitchell inquires, "How many drivers might be chased away?"

Risk # 5) Finally—–intervention by the FMCSA. This agency has a history of soft and discreet enforcement. They will assess your written plan and give you time to make improvements. Mitchell's final question is, "Haven’t you successfully managed enforcement risks in the past?"

Mitchell advises the trucking companies to evaluate and rank the risks at their fleet; to educate their management team about the risks; and for them to create their own improvement plans. He also added that effective solutions create career security for the carrier.

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