Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story.
As previously mentioned, the CSA Safety Management Cycle for Unsafe Driving identifies six categories to be reviewed. The categories are:
• Policies and Procedures
• Roles and Responsibilities
• Qualification and Hiring
• Training and Communication
• Monitoring and Tracking, and
• Meaningful action.
In the first part of this article, the first three were discussed.
In the “Training and Communication” section, it states that a carrier should “communicate the carrier’s deficient unsafe driving score to all staff and explain to them individually what they can do to help the carrier improve the score.”
Now, I am all for working as a team to improve a poor unsafe driving score. However, the requirement to relay this information to all staff seems a bit over the top. It seems to me that the carrier should be able to determine which staff members it tells without the government stepping in. This section also states that carriers should “ensure that managers and supervisors communicate and demonstrate their commitment to safe driving.” Again, everyone should be committed to safe driving but what type of “communication and demonstration” will the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determine to be adequate?
In the “monitoring and tracking” section, it states that carriers should “ensure that dispatcher and/or safety manager monitor drivers’ speed for violations with use of an electronic or manual movement record — that is, that they track driver movements via driver reports, global positioning systems (GPS) and travel receipts.” Again, we should all strive to track truck movement and monitor for speeding; however, if you do not have EOBRs on your trucks this can become very time consuming and create a large financial burden.
In these economic times, everyone is trying to make ends meet and cannot readily shoulder additional expenses. Of course, the easiest way to comply with this is to have EOBRs installed on all trucks (again at a significant financial expense) and I believe this is just another not-so-subtle attempt by the government to push carriers towards EOBRs.
Finally, in the “Meaningful Action” section it states that the carrier should “discipline carrier’s officials for knowingly and willfully allowing violation of unsafe driving regulations — for example, for encouraging drivers to speed.” Again, this mimics what was mentioned in the earlier section and confirms the FMCSA position that carrier officials should be disciplined for things such as encouraging drivers to speed.
Of course, the question must be asked what constitutes encouraging a driver to speed and what punishment will be sufficient? Is a verbal warning enough? Will they require a written warning? Is a monetary penalty for the “official” realistic? If all else fails, will they resort to water boarding? Again, I do not know and it looks like FMCSA is also unsure since they are not specific in what they will accept or require.
In theory, an inspector would only look at a carrier’s BASICs above the threshold — again, in theory — but there is nothing to stop the inspector from looking for and finding missing or inadequate policies and procedures in Basics that are under the threshold because they still represent an area for carrier violation. Don’t forget, the inspector is authorized to check all six BASICs and the Crash Indicator for violations, not just the Unsafe Driving Cycle.
In my opinion, the CSA resembles our just passed new health care law. By that I mean that the rules are changing as you read this and no one really knows the outcome, or the unintended consequences, of the current or future rules and regulations. We do know that changes will be and are being made. Some changes because they violate the law (i.e. no chance to appeal the charging officer’s opinion of whether you violated the rules or regulations, or even the warning ticket issue where there is no way to contest it at all) and some just because the system they thought was going to work has proven not to work (i.e. SMS points on over weights and over lengths have been eliminated). Additionally, the “firm, set-in-stone” date for CSA to go live has been changed from this past July 1 to Dec. 1 and the last “firm” date I have heard is Dec. 5. I cannot guarantee this will be the last “firm” date change for CSA, or 2011 or even 2012 because of the many proposed lawsuits waiting for FMCSA to go “live.”
Drivers need to be aware of the changes coming for the carriers and be prepared to work with the carriers to reduce or eliminate any reason for the FMCSA to send inspectors to do a carrier audit. Self-preservation of the driver requires that they know and follow all the new and ever-changing rules and regulations of CSA if they hope to continue their career as a professional driver.
At the end of the day, the FMCSA seems to believe that the best way to eliminate unsafe driving is not to go after the person who is driving unsafely but to go after the company.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the 48 states on both moving and nonmoving violations. He is also president of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. A former prosecutor, he is a lawyer who has focused on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking and life over-the-road and has his Commercial Drivers License.
The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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