Highway safety program confuses, frustrates transport industry
From the Memphis Business Journal –
While the federal government’s newest safety guidelines are meant to be a system to make our nation’s highways safer, many in the transportation industry feel there are a lot of bugs to be worked out.
Comprehensive Safety Analysis, also known as CSA, is a program the U.S Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration launched in December 2010.
Lynn Parrish, vice president of safety and risk management with Inland Intermodal Logistics Services LLC, spoke to the Memphis World Trade Club today about some of the industry’s issues with the relatively new program. Seizing on industry frustration with the program, Parrish joked that some people think CSA stands for “Constant Speculation Abounds” or “Confusion Spreads Around.”
CSA was started to identify unsafe carriers and to improve safety on the nation’s highways. However, much of the data being used is drawn from the same databases, such as state accident reports and roadside inspections, which previous programs used.
“This may not be the complete overhaul that is being suggested,” Parrish said.
Parrish said the industry’s criticism is not directed at rank-and-file Department of Transportation employees or enforcement officers. Instead, he pointed out several issues the industry had with CSA.
Part of it is CSA’s Safety Measurement System, which is where the public can see a lot of data and assessments on trucking companies’ safety performance. Assessments cover 24 months of activity and results are updated monthly.
Drivers can be cited for unsafe driving, fatigued driving, lack of driver fitness, use of controlled substances, vehicle maintenance issues or crashes, among other categories. However, you have to dig deeper into the information, according to Parrish.
For example, while a driver might have his commercial driver’s license, if he leaves it at home, then the driver and the company take the citation hit.
Also, a good driver might be bad at paperwork, which exposes him to a fatigued driving violation, even if he follows the rules.
Parrish also gave an example of cargo-related violations. The CSA is unclear about sealed intermodal containers, which is something a driver can’t control.
Similarly, a driver’s CSA record can be affected if he’s involved in an accident which was not avoidable.
Outside of these issues with the CSA, another concern is the federal government’s ability to implement it effectively.
The FMCSA can only rate 2 to 3 percent of motor carriers annually, which means that many carriers don’t have a safety rating yet. This can cause unwarranted concern among potential customers.
Some industry groups, such as the Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation, say the CSA is failing and not fixable.
However, other groups say the program needs improvement and would like to see public access removed until this accomplished.
In the meantime, carriers will have to work with the system until it is refined or replaced.
Posted: March 1, 2012