A Power Shift in Maintenance Management is Coming

I hope by now you are very familiar with the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010.

A new safety initiative from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), CSA 2010 is designed to improve road safety by increasing FMCSA’s efficiency in collecting and utilizing inspection data to identify high-risk carriers and drivers.

The program goes “live” in every state by year’s end. Its affect is going to make the driver the new boss in trucking.

CSA 2010 is built around new enforcement and compliance models that make for a comprehensive profile of carriers and drivers. It helps zero in on exactly where the safety issues are, and better targets enforcement efforts against unsafe operators.

A centerpiece of the program is the new Safety Management System (SMS). It organizes safety performance into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs): Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator.

The SMS calculates a measure of “safety events” for each BASIC by assigning a value, time weighted against the probability of the violation causing a crash, and the severity. The time weight of an event decreases with time, resulting in more recent events having a greater impact relative to older violations.

The most heavily weighted violations are those that, statistically, have a higher likelihood to cause an accident. Violations related to Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related and Driver Fitness BASICs are among the most heavily weighted violations.

Basically, the SMS creates a carrier score and a driver score. The driver score applies to every driver, regardless of whether they work for a company, lease their truck to a company or are an owner-operator running on their own authority.

With CSA 2010, driver performance plays a considerably more prominent role than ever before on a carrier’s safety rating. While violations will stay with the carriers for 24 months, they will remain with a driver for 36 months.

In a separate initiative earlier this year, the FMCSA implemented a pre-employment screening program (PSP) that allows companies to access driver inspection, violation and crash records as part of the hiring process.

As drivers become more aware that every roadside safety inspection affects their standing under CSA 2010, they are going to become much more averse to taking out a vehicle with maintenance issues.

With CSA 2010, if a driver finds something wrong with a vehicle, rather than taking a chance on running it down the road and hoping there will be no roadside inspection - which occurs too often these days, he will refuse to operate the truck until it is fixed.

CSA 2010 has no process for explaining a problem away. No longer will an excuse like, “My shop is only four miles away and I was heading there to get the problem fixed,” work.

The balance of power shifts even further to the driver because of the driver shortage and the difficulty in recruiting new drivers into the industry.

The bottom line: Drivers need to become more rigorous in the required pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections. Fleets need to be more vigilant in correcting issues.

It is advisable to train drivers, as well as technicians, in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations “Part 393: Parts and accessories necessary for safe operation,” and “Part 396: Inspection, repair and maintenance.”

Further, fleets must establish effective processes to assure that vehicle maintenance and safety issues are written up and handled promptly. This is the best defense against many potentially damaging BASIC violations for both carriers and drivers.

Research shows that the items most commonly written up in the BASICs are: lamps and wiring, brakes, tires, belts, hoses and leaks.

Relationships and communications between drivers, dispatch, operations, safety and maintenance must also become more open and closer to make sure a fleet keeps its CSA rating below the threshold of the “safety event” groups.

Pushing a driver out the door without correcting a defect puts the fleet in a potential situation for receiving violations and being fined for operating a vehicle that is in less than desirable operating conditions.