2011 is sure turning out to be a year of change. New safety ratings, anti-texting regulations, driver distraction studies, a new EOBR regulation and last but not least, proposed changes to the Hours of Service (again) regulations. You look at all of this and you just have to wonder, “What's next?”
When I was thinking about what to write about for this month's blog post, I was originally going to gripe about the new HOS and its effects on the industry. But upon further reflection, I felt that I needed your attention on CSA one more time. Bear with me and you'll soon see why.
Hot off a local news channel in Illinois is an important and valued lesson of what trucking companies can look forward to. Please click on this link. I cannot think of a better way to describe of the way the new system will be “abused” by the media, and surely by Law firms that are just foaming at the mouth waiting for the next big truck accident. This news report was 3 days after the CSA system went live.
Scary stuff. No matter what the actual circumstances of this accident were, a perception (or misperception) has been established. Moving forward, it will be become crucial for motor carriers to place themselves in a position of safety responsibility in the eyes of the public. The following are some tips I suggest you implement to help your company achieve this goal:
1. REVIEW YOUR SCORES. Use your DOT number and enter your Pin #. (If you don't have one yet, get it.) http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms/ Review your inspection history and any listed problem areas. Even if you are below the threshold in all BASICs, focus on the areas where you are closest to the threshold as this is where a few bad inspections could put you over the top.
2. Document all company policy changes, including operational and personnel changes, that you are planning to implement or have already implemented. It will be very important for you to show that your company already has plans in place for corrective action in the event of a legal action.
3. Review your drivers' history. Nobody wants to talk about this, but the fact is if you have drivers that bend the rules and continue to receive citations you will have to step up the enforcement of policy and process. Communication is key; your drivers have to understand the consequences of poor performance. The drivers that refuse to react positively to training and coaching, well, quite honestly, you don't need them. Remember, the FMCSA won't be putting 175,000 drivers out of a job, carriers will because of their performance and poor history.
4. EOBR's. If you have them, use them. If you don't have them, consider them. Nearly half the risk and exposure to violations are Hours of Service related violations. 11, 14 and 70 hour violations all point to an illegal operation. This type of history does not stand up well to scrutiny in the public eye. The cost saving benefits still outweighs the regulatory reason to have these, but if you are in an ALERT status in Driver Fatigue, this is your best ticket out of trouble. Plus, it will be received in the public eye as doing the right thing.
5. Company buy-in. Here's a suggestion for all you safety managers out there that continue to carry the safety flame and just keep getting water thrown on it by operational demand. Show them the above video link over and over and over again. I don't even run a trucking operation anymore and it scares the crap out of me. Sorry, but your company will need to understand the consequences of things like:
- Letting a driver use the CMV to drive home on personal conveyance after already driving 11 hrs.
- Booking a load that's 11 ½ hours away and promising next day delivery: “Oh, it's okay. The driver will find a way to make it work.”
- Not having a policy that limits Personal Conveyance distance.
- Poor violations reporting. Do you actually get your drivers to sign off on their violations?
It is sad but true that this stuff still goes on. And it puts everyone, from the company itself to the driver to Joe Q public, at risk.
The safety program that your company has will lay the groundwork for how the media will present the facts of any incident one of your trucks might be involved in. It is big news now when a carrier gets fined and part of the agreement is an EOBR mandate. It's all out in the open and everybody is watching, including your insurance company. It's only a matter of time until they come knocking on your door for an increase because they've started using CSA scoring as a benchmark of comparison.
The bottom line is, the days of hiding information and playing dumb in court are long gone. With the information now available to them, a savvy attorney can make you look however they want. That is, unless you've already put Safety first. It might help if you visualize your CSA score as an open book that anyone can access. With nothing to hide, your programs and policies will stand firm for your company, even in the case where your driver is at fault, as you've taken an overtly positive position toward safety, which will hold you in good stead when it comes to final settlement dollars.
We all know why they're called accidents. Even the best run carriers catch one once in a while. But how you react and manage those incidents is what makes you a leader of this industry and, best of all, reduces your risk and exposure.
Good luck everyone, I'm out.
- CSA 2010 (www.csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov)
- DataQ (dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov)
- SMS Methodology (csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/SMSMethodology.pdf) [PDF]
- CSA 2010 FAQs (www.csa2010.com/articles/CSA2010_Questions.htm#108)