FMCSA is going after the motor carrier, hard and heavy, so attention to detail has become critical

CSA 2010 is now simply CSA. And CSA no longer is an acronym for Comprehensive Safety Analysis. It has been changed to mean Compliance Safety Accountability.

But that doesn't mean it's any more understood than it was last year.

Bert Mayo, senior loss control consultant for The Lockton Companies, tried to clear up the myths and confusion in his HDAW presentation, “CSA: Threat or Opportunity for the Heavy-Duty Aftermarket?”

“There's been a lot of misunderstanding about it,” he said. “Initially, they were going to issue fitness ratings for drivers. They scrapped that, so they focused mainly on companies.”

What is CSA and why is it being implemented?

  • CSA is a major Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve the effectiveness of the agency's compliance and enforcement programs. Its goal is to achieve a greater reduction in large truck and bus crashes, injuries, and fatalities, while maximizing the resources of FMCSA and its state partners.

  • CSA is being implemented to better use FMCSA resources to identify drivers and motor carriers that pose safety problems and to intervene to address those problems as soon as they become apparent. FMCSA believes that the CSA program will help the agency assess the safety performance of a greater segment of the industry and intervene with drivers and more carriers to change unsafe behavior early.

“Continued improvement is an absolutely needed and important step for the improved safety and well-being of the motoring public and our professional drivers,” Mayo said.

CSA was tested in Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, and New Jersey for up to 18 months. Mayo said the test states supported expectations of the CSA Operational Model, with preliminary analysis indicating that carriers subject to the CSA process are showing improvements in their safety performance and the CSA process is better at identifying and correcting behaviors leading to crashes.

“FMCSA is not backing down,” Mayo said. “They are going after the motor carrier, hard and heavy.”

In July 2010, test states began full implementation of CSA “interventions,” a new word for “audit.” From July 2010 through the early part of this year, state enforcement officials have been involved in CSA training.

“States don't have any money to retrain inspectors so the Feds are training everyone,” Mayo said. “Historically, we have seen tires, lights, and brakes in roadside inspections. Now we're seeing stuff we'd never heard of: conspicuity tape on a mud flap. I hadn't seen that — ever. And I've seen it a thousand times in the last six months. So we have these new, green, hungry inspectors fresh out of school with their clipboards, and they're looking at trucks with a fine-tooth comb. Interventions began in January, to be phased in. And this is only the beginning.”

Breaking it down

He said there are several important differences between the new Safety Measurement System (SMS) and the agency's old measurement system, SafeStat:

  • SMS is organized by seven specific behaviors or Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) while SafeStat is organized into four general Safety Evaluation Areas (SEAs).

  • SMS uses scores (percentiles) between 50 and 80 as deficient, depending on the category and carrier type (HM or Passenger). SafeStat used 75.

  • SMS identifies safety problems in the same structure in which CSA addresses these problems, while SafeStat prioritized carriers for a compliance review.

  • SMS uses all safety-based inspection violations, while SafeStat only used out-of-service violations and selected moving violations.

  • SMS uses risk-based violation weightings, while SafeStat does not.

  • SMS impacts the safety fitness determination of motor carriers while SafeStat has no impact on motor carriers' safety fitness rating.

  • SMS assesses individual drivers and carriers, while SafeStat assesses only carriers.

  • In the current methodology, drivers will receive warning letters, notice of violations and notice of claim.

  • Drivers will keep BASIC points on their record for 36 months.

  • Motor carriers can now use the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) to review a driver's roadside inspection history for 36 months and the driver's crash history for 60 months. Approximately 30% of motor carriers are doing this now, but due to increased liabilities and insurance issues, this will become common within the next 12 months.

The BASICs are Unsafe Driving (Parts 392 & 397), Fatigued Driving (Parts 392 & 395), Driver Fitness (Parts 393 & 391), Drugs and Alcohol (Parts 382 & 392), Vehicle Maintenance (Parts 393 & 396), Proper Loading/Cargo Issues (Parts 392, 393, 397, & HM Violations), and Crash Indicator.

He said there are five important differences between the new CSA interventions and FMCSA's old compliance review (CR):

  • CRs are generally deployed at a carrier's place of business as a one-size-fits-all tool to address what may not be a comprehensive safety problem, while interventions under CSA may not be at a carrier's place of business and can be focused on a specific deficiency.

  • The outcome of a CR can be the citing of acute and critical violations, while the outcome of an intervention determines the root cause of the safety problem and provides guidance on corrective actions.

  • A CR determines a carrier's safety rating, while CSA interventions will ultimately combine violations with on-road safety performance for safety fitness determination.

  • The focus on a CR is compliance while interventions are focused on compliance and improving behaviors that are linked to crashes, and identifying causal factors.

  • CRs are time consuming and result in reaching fewer carriers, while interventions efficiently address safety problems and help reach more carriers, earlier in the process.

Carrier interventions (listed in increasing severity) are: early contact (warning letter, targeted roadside inspection); investigation (off-site intervention, on-site intervention-focused, on-site investigation-comprehensive; follow up (cooperative safety plan, notice of violation, notice of claim/possible settlement agreement, and unfit (out-of-service order resulting suspension).

What triggers intervention

The intervention process is triggered by: one or more deficient BASICs, a high crash indicator, or a complaint or fatal crash. Intervention selection is influenced by safety performance, hazardous material or passenger carrier status, intervention history, and investigator discretion.

It is estimated that over 20% of all motor carriers will have some type of “active” intervention in process all times.

That's over 160,000 motor carries scheduled for a visit by the FMCSA.

He said the intervention process includes four types:

  • Targeted roadside inspections. CSA provides roadside inspectors with data that identifies a carrier's specific safety problems, by BASIC, based on the new measurement system. Targeted roadside inspections occur at permanent and temporary roadside inspection locations.

  • Offsite investigations. A carrier is required to submit documents to FMCSA or a state partner. These documents are used to evaluate the safety problems identified through the SMS and to determine their root causes. Types of documents requested may include third-party documents such as maintenance files, repair receipts, toll receipts, border-crossing records, or drug-testing records. The goal is to identify issues responsible for poor safety performance. If the carrier does not submit requested documents, it may be subject to an onsite investigation or to subpoena records.

  • On-site investigations — focused. The purpose of this intervention is to evaluate the safety problems identified through the SMS and their root causes. An on-site focused investigation may be selected when deficiencies in two or fewer BASICs exist. On-site “focused” investigations target specific problem areas (for example, maintenance records) while on-site “comprehensive” investigations address all aspects of the carrier's operation.

  • On-site investigations — comprehensive. This intervention is similar to a CR and takes place at the carrier's place of business. It is used when the carrier exhibits broad and complex safety problems through continually deficient BASICs, worsening multiple BASICs (three or more), or a fatal crash or complaint.

Nationwide, the BASICs that are most frequently cited are the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC (all operations) and the Cargo Related BASIC (flatbed and auto transport operations).

“Roadside inspections are the critical event,” he said.

There are five levels of inspection:

  • Level One is the most comprehensive and includes a thorough vehicle and paperwork review. It takes about an hour. Only a Level One inspection will give you an inspection sticker.

  • Level Two inspections do not require the inspector to get under the vehicle, but other requirements are the same as level one.

  • Level Three is a paperwork inspection.

  • Level Four is the inspection of a particular item like brakes.

  • Level Five is an inspection that takes place at the carrier.

All of the data that will generate action by the FMCSA comes from on-road safety performance (crashes or roadside inspections). He said 70%-80% of all points accrued in CSA are tied to non-out-of-service violations, which were never included in SafeStat, and 66% of all roadside inspections arise from an observed behavior or defect.

“Trucks must be kept clean, with all lights, conspicuity taping, and tires working and securement systems in good order,” he said.

The four most common items cited for Vehicle Maintenance violations are: brakes out of adjustment; other brake issues; lights and conspicuity taping; and tires and wheels. These violations make up about 75% of all vehicle maintenance violations. Zero-defect roadside inspections will be crucial in the CSA program, he said.

Most speeding violations carry a weighted severity between a “1” and “4”. Lamp and light violations carry a weighted severity score of “6”. Tire-related violations carry a weighted severity score of “8”. Most “cargo securement” violations carry a weighted severity score of “10”.

There are 219 total possible Vehicle Maintenance BASIC violations, the second-highest number of violations. Forty different violations are valued at six points or higher. He

Suggested reviewing the FMCSR Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance Regulations, Parts 393 & 396, at, and the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria at

“Be prepared,” Mayo said. “This information is public. Anyone with a computer has access. Plaintiff attorneys, potential customers, and the general public will all be able to see the results of your maintenance program. The media have already begun to exploit CSA scores after large-truck crashes. Expect attorneys to dig deep when possible. Documentation is critical. If it's not documented, it doesn't exist. Training is critical. Look to the CVSA, ATA, TCA, and JJ Keller for training sessions.”

He said there are approximately 800,000 motor carriers registered in the United States, with 97% having fewer than 20 power units.

“Motor carriers must ensure that their maintenance program is complete,” he said. “Motor carriers cannot risk operating units if repairs are not done. Motor carriers will find maintenance partners that understand the new regulations and have systems and processes in place to ensure their vehicles do not operate with Vehicle Maintenance violations and are maintained in the absolute best shape possible. Most motor carriers will not be able to do this on their own. Today's equipment is too complex and requires frequent training and updates to stay current.

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