Point, click and monitor the CSA report cards

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) keeps a watchful eye on every truck that crosses the Canada-U.S. border, and it is quick to post every observation online. That means fleets are only a mouse click away from in-depth insight that can be applied to safety programs of every sort.

The Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) program now generates scores in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICS) — covering unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo related, and the crash indicator. Rather than relying on benchmarks pulled out of thin air, the numbers even compare a fleet’s results to industry peers. These can all be accessed with no more than an internet connection, a DOT number and a password.

But fleets that commit to regular and ongoing reviews of the all-revealing CSA reports can also tap into the information needed to identify shifting trends before serious problems emerge, and even spot errors in the reports before related audits are scheduled. Carriers can challenge & submit these reports to Data Q’s for review.

There is no question that the difference between a positive and negative ranking can be traced to outdated mileage. Consider the role that mileage figures can play in a CSA rating. A fleet that adds additional trucks to their U.S. fleet or begins to travel more miles on U.S. highways will likely face more roadside inspections, and there is a good chance that a higher number of inspections will lead to an increase in the number of violations. If the CSA system is using the outdated (and lower) mileage figures this will skew the Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) equation when the ranking is calculated.

This problem can be addressed by simply ensuring the system offers an accurate look at the number of miles annually travelled on U.S. roads. For its part, the FMCSA requires fleets to update the mileage every two years, and it clearly flags any outdated mileage when viewing the CSA homepage of a carrier.

Meanwhile, regular reviews of CSA also give fleets the chance to compare the recorded number of roadside inspections to the inspection reports that are provided by drivers themselves.

This can dramatically influence the final ranking since the number of “passed” inspections will offset the number of roadside violations. In fact, the number is so important that many fleets are offering incentives in the form of gift cards or financial bonuses to drivers who can report a clean roadside inspection.

But as important as individual rankings can be, those who take the time to dig a little deeper into CSA reports will also be able to learn exactly how the unwanted points are accumulated, and identify the specific activities that need to be improved. A few clicks of the mouse to explore the fatigued driving points for example, will show whether the violations involve exceeding allowable hours, falsifying a logbook, or form and manner. This information can help a carrier add focus training on specific issues.

The FMCSA will be looking for this kind of change. Fleets exposed to an audit are expected to show that they understand why individual problems emerged, demonstrate action like training programs to address these challenges, offer proof that the lessons of these programs are being absorbed and why are the violations occurring. This provides the opportunity for the carrier to take meaningful action and identify and focus training on specific areas.

The DOT or auditors can also scrutinize drivers who have had “red flag violations” for drug and alcohol use, not having the proper class of licence, or moving a commercial vehicle, when already placed out of service even and these “red flags” can be traced to when the driver worked at another fleet. Subsequently these can be added to audits to see if the driver has improved their behaviour.

Fleets don’t need to be surprised about a driver’s past. Issues like these can be spotted by obtaining the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP), which will provide details about any crashes the driver had in the past five years, and any roadside inspections that were recorded in the last three years.

Each $10 report can only be ordered before a driver is hired, but it will offer valuable information for any recruiter who wants to compare the contents of a job application to a driver’s record. At the very least, it offers the details that can be used to help identify a high-risk driver, and identify the additional training that should be in place to encourage safe activities.

CSA can validate a fleet’s safety management program or show areas to focus training.