How will the new Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, the safety measure now being rolled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, impact the way carriers handle their drivers?
Well, it depends on which carrier you’re pulling for. The federal government’s new system just assigns a score: how a carrier chooses to improve that score is an operational/business decision.
So the Truckload Carriers Association convened “Weathering the Storm — CSA 2010 and the Driver Shortage,” a webinar meant to explain what trucking companies can expect from the upcoming safety program, and how to “soften the impact of CSA 2010” on driver management. Indeed, TCA sees “a perfect storm” on the horizon: a reduced driver pool meets increasing truck demand, along with the great unknown variable, CSA 2010.
Discussion leader Jeff Davis, vice-president of safety and human resources for Jet Express, explained that under CSA 2010, essentially, there will be compliant drivers — meaning those whose records suggest they will be safe — and noncompliant drivers who, by the FMCSA’s statistical analysis, are at a higher than acceptable risk for crashes.
Additionally, fully three-quarters of the data counted against carriers and drivers under CSA 2010 was not part of the score under SafeStat, the safety system being replaced, Davis noted.
“We’ll have to look at things through a different lens,” Davis said. “The result is drivers that appeared compliant under SafeStat are now appearing non-compliant under the CSA 2010 model. Our job as risk managers, as recruiters, is we’re going to have to determine how to correct our new problems of non-compliance, and then work with our drivers — even beginning at the point of hire to make sure that they understand the program, and more importantly, that we continue to work with them so that they can avoid safety events in the future.”
Data, data everywhere
On the hiring side, with the implementation of the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP), three years’ worth of a driver’s FMCSA data are now available to potential employers. The problem for anyone screening applicants these days is that they suddenly have a lot more background information to sift through.
(For this discussion, we won’t even get into carriers’ courtroom concerns — namely, that plaintiffs attorneys also will be going over the now-available driver data and demanding to know how and why a carrier responded to each and every inspection violation. Needless to say, there’s more to this than just the CSA 2010 score.)
As for retaining drivers, the “easy way out” is just to set a policy and fire all drivers with potentially bothersome scores — and while a number of carriers are doing just that, Davis cautions that such an approach could prove short-sighted.
“The path of least resistance is to disqualify drivers at every turn, each time you get a new piece of data,” he said. “I think the challenge for us today is how can we use this data as a training tool to retain more drivers — to put more drivers back into our driver pool. That’s the challenge.”
Among CSA 2010 myths, Davis disputed the idea that 175,000 drivers would lose their jobs. The figure was based on aggregate data that showed 6 percent of drivers would be in the deficient category under the new system, he explained.
“It did not look at how many drivers possibly could rehabilitate themselves, or change, once they understand this model of accountability,” he said. “We may lose them to economic and other issues, but as far as being disqualified for safety, I just don’t see it.”
He also noted the FMCSA is not revoking CDLs, and that there is no “magic number” on driver data points.
“For the most part, it will be the motor carriers policing themselves,” he said.
Every carrier will have its own standards for what sort of driver history is acceptable and what is not. Davis anticipates the standards might be high early in the CSA 2010 transition, but the standards could be eased if replacement drivers get harder and harder to find.
Among carriers participating in the webinar, a poll showed that two-thirds had not set a hiring standard based on a driver’s PSP record — even though almost three-quarters said they were requesting PSP records on every applicant.
“We are in the middle of setting history,” Davis said.
He challenged carrier executives to identify the company’s most at-risk drivers under CSA 2010. “You personally take the time to go intervene with them. I think you’ll hear a very interesting story,” Davis said. “It will really help you understand C SA 2010 even better than from behind your desk.”
He also emphasized carriers must do a better job of managing speed.
“The number one unsafe driving violation is going to be speed,” he said, noting that carriers tend to talk a lot about it— but many take speed seriously only when fuel prices are high.
On average, one in three roadside inspections is the result of a speeding stop, Davis pointed out.
“If we control our speed, we can simply get rid of one-third of our roadside inspections,” he said. “If you’re going 15 mph over the speed limit, you have hung a sign on the side of your truck that says, ‘I’m defying you to pull me over and inspect me.’”
New drivers, or veterans?
What about the idea that carriers should look for drivers who’ve just earned their CDLs — since, data-wise, they have a spotless record?
While that might seem to make sense, Davis pointed out that carriers are only responsible for a driver’s safety violations while he or she is with that carrier — meaning, as far as the carrier’s CSA 2010 score goes, every driver starts with clean record, though the points will stay after a driver leaves.
On the other hand, Davis expects roadside inspectors may well target drivers with little or no background information in the system.
And what about drivers who might just give up, thinking CSA 2010 is stacked against them?
“It’s all in the way we deliver this CSA 2010 to them,” he said.
Indeed, he cautions carriers to be patient with veteran drivers as they adjust to the new expectations.
“As long as we see improvement, I think we’re on the right track,” Davis said. “Be slow, be gentle — but be firm.”
But won’t a driver who has run safely for years have a hard time suddenly needing to be “re-trained” because of CSA 2010 scores?
“We had a veteran driver that had six points total on his record, and I thought he was going to March on Washington,” Davis said. “Nobody likes this type scrutiny placed on them. It can be very imposing on the driver. Usually with the veteran driver it does not go quickly.”
The key, he suggested, is to make sure drivers understand immediately the new significance of violations under CSA 2010.
“It may become very difficult to keep drivers that we’ve had in our fleets for years,” Davis said. “We want to work with them, respond to every violation now and see where the chips fall in the future. That’s a tough answer, but I don’t know any other way to give it.”
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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