The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) initiative is a hot topic that's changing the trucking industry, yet according to recent surveys, many shippers don't know much about it-or how to use the new rules and regulations to benefit their business. If you're one of them, what you don't know, could be hurting you-and your bottom line.
In a nutshell, CSA is changing the way the industry measures carrier and driver performance. Rather than the old SafeStat system, CSA uses a new Safety Measurement System (SMS) that monitors seven new Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs:
• Unsafe Driving-includes speeding, inattention, improper lane changes and other reckless driving
• Fatigued Driving-includes hours-of-service (HOS) violations, as well as driving while tired or ill
• Driver Fitness-includes driving without proper training, experience or qualifications or not having a valid and appropriate commercial driver's license
• Controlled Substances-includes possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs
• Vehicle Maintenance-includes brakes, lights and other mechanical failures
• Cargo-includes spilling or dropping cargo, unsafe handling of hazardous materials and failing to prevent shifting loads
• Crash Indicator-includes patterns of frequent and severe crashes
Use CSA to your advantage
While many carriers and drivers are concerned about CSA and the information it makes available, shippers are among CSA's most enthusiastic supporters. That's because CSA scores make choosing safe carriers and drivers easier than ever. This is especially true when an Electronic Onboard Recorder (EOBR) is used. According to a study by Aberdeen Group, carriers using onboard technology, such as EOBRs, increased regulatory compliance by 25.8 percent.
An electronic device attached to a vehicle's engine, EOBRs record the amount of time a vehicle is being driven. EOBRs also track speeding, hard braking and other measures shippers can use to evaluate carrier and driver performance. Not only do those who use EOBRs tend to place greater emphasis on safety and compliance, they tend to have lower costs-savings that can be passed on to you. For instance, the same Aberdeen Group study showed that carriers using onboard technology cut operating costs by 10.4 percent. And shippers who chose carriers with low CSA scores reduce their liability and are often able to negotiate better insurance rates.
Compliance isn't enough to reduce risk of crashes
In addition to looking for carriers and drivers with low CSA scores, shippers also look for those with stringent policies on in-cab cell phone use. Recent studies, including the Strength in Numbers Fleet Benchmarking Study sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, show a high correlation between strong distracted-driving policies and safe driving. In fact, a study released last year by Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute showed that when trucker's text, they are two times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call. Even reaching for a cell phone increases the odds of a crash or other safety-critical event three times according to FMCSA research. No wonder the U.S. Department of Transportation is emphasizing safe cell phone use as part of its campaign to end distracted driving.
More regulation is on the horizon
FMCSA has proposed a new regulation that would prohibit interstate commercial truck drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a phone while operating a motor vehicle. The agency has also proposed a law requiring EOBRs in all commercial motor vehicles.
Although it's too early to know whether these new proposals will become law, one thing is clear: you can use CSA to your advantage. Here's how:
• Log in to the FMCSA website and view your carriers' BASIC score. Also, compare your carrier's score with that of other carriers.
• Talk with your carriers. Let your carriers know that you value CSA and plan to review their CSA scores regularly.
• Update your RFP. If you use an RFP to select carriers, be sure it asks about CSA scores and whether or not EOBRs are installed on all vehicles. If EOBRs are used, be sure to ask for driver data, such as speeding and hard braking, as well as vehicle data that could indicate maintenance issues.
• Talk with your insurance company. If your carriers have low CSA scores, ask for a reduction in your premium. If your carriers have high scores, ask if and how this puts you at risk and what you can do to minimize the risk.
• Establish-and enforce-a distracted driving policy. If you don't already have a policy that prohibits driving while talking on the phone or texting, implement one now.
• Choose carriers with EOBRs that run automatically. EOBRs that automatically record HOS, speed, MPG, idle time, hard braking and more require no driver intervention and will be compliant, even if the proposed ban on reaching for, holding or dialing a phone while operating a motor becomes law.
You have job responsibilities and a bottom line. Work with your carriers and drivers to reduce your safety and compliance risks. CSA and an effective EOBR can be the solution.
Source: Xata Corp.
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