Hear that knocking?

It's my conviction that opportunities are all around us. The challenge is to uncover them.

I believe there are opportunities for maintenance operations in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's new major proactive safety program - Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010.

Commonly referred to as CSA 2010, it's intended to reduce commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes, fatalities and injuries, while maximizing the resources of FMCSA and its state partners to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency's enforcement and compliance program.

The program is being rolled out, with states coming on board gradually. It will be fully implemented by this July.

Because safety research has indicated that more attention needs to be paid to CMV drivers, much of CSA 2010 focuses on improving driver safety performance. Measures have been designed to identify drivers, as well as motor carriers, that pose safety risks based on their crash experience and violations of safety regulations.

The safety initiative uses a new operational model for monitoring and tracking safety performance. One of the components of this model is the new Safety Measurement System (SMS) which better identifies demonstrated safety problems.

The SMS replaces the FMCSA's current SafeStat System (Safety Status Measurement System) that combines current and historical safety performance data to measure the relative safety fitness of interstate commercial motor carriers.

Based on the premise that CMV crashes can be traced to the behavior of motor carriers and/or drivers, the SMS is organized by six Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs): unsafe driving, fatigued driving (hours of service), driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance and improper loading/cargo securement; and one Crash Indicator: histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity, based on information from state-reported crash reports.

Among other things, CSA 2010 will evaluate a driver's previous 36 months and a carrier's previous 24 months of roadside safety inspections, tickets, violations, accident data, etc.

All "safety events" are give an assigned 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. Beyond a prescribed cutoff date, older events are assumed irrelevant and no longer used.

A severity weight from 1 (least severe) to 10 (most severe) is assigned to each applicable violation. The sum of all violation severity weights from any one inspection is capped at a maximum of 30.

A time weight of 1, 2 or 3 is assigned to each applicable violation based on how long ago a violation was recorded. Violations recorded in the past 6 months receive a time weight of 3. Violations recorded between 6 and 12 months ago receive a time weight of 2. All violations recorded earlier - older than 12 months but within the past 24 months - receive a time weight of 1.

By way of example, a citation for following too close or speeding carries a violation severity weight of 5. If the violation was received within the first 6 months, the time weight is 3, for an assigned value of 15 (5 x 3). After 13 months, the assigned value drops to 10 ( 5 x time weight 2); after 25 months, the assigned value drops to 5 (5 x time weight 1).

Drivers and fleets also get "dinged" for vehicle maintenance issues. By way of example: no pre-trip inspection, assigned value 4; inoperative tail lamp, assigned value 6; tire under-inflated, 3; improper head/auxiliary/fog lamp aiming, 6; mismatched slack adjuster effective length, 4; horn inoperative, 3; exhaust system not securely fastened, 1; no/discharged/unsecured fire extinguisher, 2; stud/bolt holes elongated on wheels, 2; oil and/or grease leak, 3; and the list goes on and on.

Consequently, CSA 2010 will "force" fleets and drivers to step up to the plate and take greater responsibility for having a properly maintained and safe vehicle or, accept the consequences if they don't. Therein lies opportunities for maintenance operations to assist a fleet improve its operational efficiency, safety and profitability by helping it correct deficiencies and weaknesses in its vehicle maintenance practices.

This in turn has an added benefit. It'll get the attention of your management, and that should work in your favor. As Milton Berle once said: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

For the particulars on CSA 2010, visit http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov and http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/default.aspx.