DOT launches trucker safety program
The U.S. Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Tuesday officially launched a new program to improve commercial truck and bus safety.
The hallmark of the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which will analyze all safety-based violations from inspections and crash data to determine a commercial motor carrier's on-road performance. The safety program will also allow FMCSA to reach more carriers earlier and deploy a range of corrective interventions to address a carrier's specific safety problems.
'The CSA program will help us more easily identify unsafe commercial truck and bus companies,' said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a statement. 'Better data and targeted enforcement will raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and empower them to take action before safety problems occur.'
The program also advances the Obama administration's 'open government' initiative by providing the public with safety data in a more user friendly format. This would give shippers a better picture of those carriers that pose a safety risk. DOT noted CSA was tested in nine pilot states before the program was launched.
'We worked closely with our partners in the motor vehicle community to develop this powerful new program,' said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. 'CSA is an important new tool that will help reduce commercial vehicle-related crashes and save lives.'
SMS uses seven safety improvement categories called BASICs to examine a carrier's on-road performance and potential crash risk. The BASICs are:
' Unsafe driving.
' Fatigued driving (hours-of-service).
' Driver fitness.
' Controlled substances/alcohol.
' Vehicle maintenance.
' Crash Indicator.
Under FMCSA's former measurement system, carrier performance was assessed in four broad categories.
'By looking at a carrier's safety violations in each SMS category, FMCSA and state law enforcement will be better equipped to identify carriers with patterns of high-risk behaviors and apply interventions that provide carriers the information necessary to change unsafe practices early on,' DOT said.
Safety interventions from FMCSA include early warning letters, targeted roadside inspections and focused compliance reviews that concentrate enforcement resources on specific issues identified by the SMS.
DOT said it would continue to conduct onsite comprehensive compliance reviews for carriers with safety issues across multiple BASICs, and when a carrier has not taken the appropriate corrective action, FMCSA will invoke stiff civil penalties.
The new regulations have heightened shippers' awareness of the safety records of the trucking companies they employ to move their freight over the road. No longer can shippers rely on the carrier or truck broker as a liability shield in accidents involving reckless truckers.
In a recent American Shipper-sponsored webinar, Don Osterberg, Schneider National's senior vice president of safety, security and driver training, made several recommendations to shippers on how to better understand and use the new truck safety regulations in their day-to-day operations, including:
' Educate transportation managers about CSA.
' Solicit research carriers' CSA scores.
' Tender freight to carriers with compliant scores.
' Develop the capability to monitor CSA scores once public, and tendering freight accordingly.
' Engage legal counsel to ensure defensibility of the chosen approach. ' Chris Gillis