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CSA 2010 Test Results Raise Some Concerns
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:00

Testing of CSA 2010, a new safety protocol, is under way in nine states. The results have generated some praise but also have raised some hackles among carriers and trucking industry association executives.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began a 30-month test of the safety protocol in February in four states: Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey. The test covered 50% of carriers in those states, with the remaining carriers serving as a control group.

All carriers were included when FMCSA extended testing to Minnesota and Montana in May, Kansas in September and Maryland in November. Delaware was added in December.

“Most carriers really like [CSA 2010],” said Patti Olsgard, safety director for the Colorado Motor Carriers Association and chairwoman of the American Trucking Associations CSA 2010 Task Force.

Olsgard said FMCSA officials have done a “really good job” of responding to questions and concerns raised by carriers.

One Colorado-based carrier that saw a spike in equipment violations has “reworked” its maintenance department and has hired additional personnel to improve “weaknesses” in its vehicle maintenance practices, Olsgard said.

Tom Crawford, president of the Missouri Motor Carriers Association, said a lack of data in states with the split testing format has made it difficult to assess the effects of the new safety rating system.

“It’s caused some difficulties,” he said, but he added that most carriers applaud the “intention and direction” of CSA 2010.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said she has noticed an “uptick” in people stopping by to inquire about safety compliance, mostly operators of dump trucks or construction fleets and port drivers that are being “caught in the loop.”

Freight haulers have expressed some concerns, but “no one’s panicking,” Toth said.

In Kansas, nearly 600 motor carriers received warning letters indicating that their safety performance was “unacceptable,” even though many of the companies have good safety and compliance records, said Thomas Whitaker, executive director of the Kansas Motor Carriers Association.

Although there is support for a performance-based safety rating program, Whitaker said CSA 2010 “creates a program based on penalties with little or no consideration of positive initiatives.”

In a Nov. 18 policy statement, KMCA’s board of directors insisted that FMCSA address five areas “immediately to provide fairness.”

KMCA said it wants documents other than violations to be excluded from the database being used to score safety; steps to assure that fleets aren’t penalized for crashes caused by passenger vehicle operations; use of vehicle miles traveled instead of power units to determine crash exposure; limited public release of safety information that could be misconstrued; and a revised system of weighting the severity of crash risk indicators.

John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, said members have raised several “serious” issues based on recent test results. They include:

  • Inconsistent enforcement from one state to another.
  • Unreasonably severe weighting of some violations. Moving or changing residences from one state to another and not transferring a driver’s license has a severity weight of 6, for instance, and improper loading and cargo securement has 108 possible 10s (on a scale of 1 to 10), which puts flatbed carriers at greater risk than other carriers.
  • Unfair enforcement burden. Motor carriers in test states face greater scrutiny than carriers in neighboring states.
  • Insufficient access to information on drivers. FMCSA has flagged some drivers for violations but has yet to make the information available to carriers for use in hiring.
  • Inadequate means to challenge violations. Carriers cannot easily remove violations when a court has overturned the infraction.
  • Damage to carriers that are “wrongly rated.” Some carriers with good safety records and favorable SafeStat scores are being found deficient in the test program, which could lead to loss of business, higher insurance premiums and increased litigation unless data are “proven to work.”

Transport Topics, 1/4/2010