Improving highway safety can take more than one form — improving vehicle safety in crashes, installing collision barriers — but prevention is always better than mitigation. Based on that idea, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration introduced the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative. Here’s how it works:
A Three-Part Plan for Improving Safety
The CSA program is integral aspect of fleet tracking intended to identify potential problems and then head them off at the pass. It’s a multi-part system supported on three pillars: measurement, evaluation, and intervention.
The measurement portion uses collected inspection and crash data to create a safety record. It’s based on roadside inspections, violations incurred that relate to unsafe driving, and actual crash events. This is measured against a model known as BASICs: Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. CSA measurement methods are also familiar to many in the industry as the Safety Measurement System or SMS.
The SMS data gives the FMCSA the capacity to make a determination on safety performance, in effect deciding which carriers should receive what level of correction, or whether an operator has exceeded the acceptable minimum and will be classed as unsatisfactory to operate. The agency makes an effort to identify in advance those who run the risk of falling into that category and to help forestall that result.
This part of the program can take the form of anything from warning letters to onsite, comprehensive investigations. Interventions provide carriers with the information necessary to understand their safety problems and to change unsafe behavior early on.
A Wide Range of Parameters
These are some areas of scrutiny that are monitored by the CSA telescope:
- Unsafe driving — violations such as speeding, improper lane change, inattention.
- Hours-of-Service compliance — failure of operators to obey HOS regulations, including the maintenance of records of duty status.
- Driver fitness — covers training, medical issues, licensing and certifications.
- Controlled substances/alcohol — may require drug testing.
- Vehicle maintenance — examples of violations include mechanical defects or improper loading.
- Hazardous materials compliance — safe handling and proper documentation for these materials.
- Crash indicator — history or pattern of high crash involvement in accidents.
Is the CSA Program Fair?
After its introduction, criticism of the CSA initiative arose regarding the agency’s practice of making SMS rankings public. These scores were being used by insurers as a basis for assessing premiums to carriers. Critics charged that SMS provides an incomplete picture of a carrier’s or driver’s safety profile. There was also the contention that SMS rankings based on the established data tended to penalize smaller carrier operations.
Modifications to CSA
The complaints against the ranking system led to legislative changes. On December 4, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation). FAST is a federal law providing additional funding for highways and infrastructure — but among the provisions of the act was a revision to the way that SMS data are shared. In the words of the FMCSA:
“Pursuant to the FAST Act of 2015, certain information previously available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Safety Measurement System (SMS) Website related to property carrier’s compliance and safety performance is no longer available for public display.1”
To learn more, visit- https://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/SMS/