Twists and turns in managing commercial vehicle safety

If you go online to Wikipedia and search for “CSA,” you will see that it lists 70 individual acronyms for CSA, including the Cub Scouts of America, China Southern Airlines, Czech Society of Actuaries and my favorite, Canadian Space Agency.

With the exception of the U.S. DOT’s CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability) and Cub Scouts of America, I didn’t know any of the other CSAs even existed, or that Canada needed a space agency.

Please, Canadians, don’t beat on me for this. It is intended with all good humor and is not meant to disparage your country. (Besides, Bob and Doug McKenzie started it.)

The long list of CSA acronyms probably helps to explain why you get a somewhat confused look when you ask someone their opinion of CSA.

It is even more confusing when you ask someone what they think CSA will mean to our industry.

The range of ills and disruptive actions cited in these discussions resembles the opinion blogs one reads under political news articles on the Internet. Some claims are legitimate, many are a little bizarre and several are just plain wrong.


I have read through all of the BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) of CSA and found the list to be quite extensive. There are six individual categories with well over 600 possible violations. Some 100 or so deal with driver-related issues. The rest concern vehicle maintenance issues and cargo control.

That is certainly a massive amount of compliance issues to address for a fleet or individual truck owner.

In the past year, I have sat through six separate Compliance Safety Accountability presentations by the DOT. Nevertheless, I haven’t even come close to being well-informed on this onerous set of regulations and potential violations for the nation’s truck operators, the basic intent of which is improved highway safety.

Safety Record

In this country, we have a superb record in the commercial vehicle industry of reducing heavy truck-related highway accidents and fatalities.

Much of this has to do with the diligence of truck operators to do the right thing. A significant amount also has to do with carriers employing safe truck drivers.

I have mentioned before in my columns that I have shaken hands with many truck drivers with several million miles of accident-free driving. The ATA annually names its America’s Road Team - drivers that exemplify highway safety and the pinnacle of professionalism.

Playing Field

So why do we now face the arguments and misunderstanding of the CSA rules? Quite simply, the main intent is to level the playing field and raise the bar for all truck operators to the highest levels of the industry.

While that is a noble thought, it would be like requiring all NBA teams to staff and play to the standards of the 1990 to 1997 Chicago Bulls. I don’t mean to trivialize the analogy, but the net result of the NBA example would be a league with maybe three or four teams.

While all truck owners, drivers and maintenance people want to operate to that level, the reality is that it will take considerable time to bring the industry into compliance with the CSA rules as currently written.

Helpful Resources

The CSA rules are here and will be fully enforced by law enforcement in all states, including cross-border carriers. Dealing with the reality is the main challenge.

There are many resources, including insurance companies, consulting firms, trade associations, law firms and others, that all have the ability to educate and help manage the risks and ensure compliance. All of us involved in the supply chain have a responsibility to seek out whatever knowledge can be gained from these resources.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the U.S. DOT is a very good resource. FMCSA is the actual writer of the CSA rules and is responsible for their administration. Its website - - contains a wealth of information.

Aftermarket Week

HDMA co-owns an event, Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) that is a gathering of the independent distributor and shop owners and management, along with the same people from their suppliers. You can find a link to HDAW on the HDMA website at

One of the key issues we will address with an extensive education program at next year’s HDAW is government-related issues affecting our industry. One segment in particular covers CSA and how the service and parts providers can assist their customers in CSA compliance.

We have the former administrator of FMCSA, Annette Sandberg, as a presenter on that topic, and Gov. Bill Graves, CEO of the American Trucking Associations as a featured speaker.

We also plan to have an information booth in the product expo that will be staffed with experts from FMCSA to discuss the ways that HDAW attendees can assist their customers in CSA compliance.

Through the process of working with various resources on the HDAW program, we have had the opportunity to interact with many individuals on this important issue. The net result is to hopefully present a future webinar that better explains the entire topic to those on the actual “firing line” - the direct stakeholders involved in compliance with CSA: shop personnel, parts professionals, trainers, truck operators, etc.

Look for more information on this topic in future editions of this and other publications.

Hopefully, many Canadian readers made it past my “humour” in my opening. The CTEA (Canadian Transportation Equipment Association) has resources available to you on its website for compliance for Canadian fleets.

Tim Kraus is the president and chief operating officer (COO) of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA). Prior to joining HDMA, he served in various executive positions with heavy duty industry parts manufacturers. The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association exclusively serves as the industry voice of the commercial vehicle product manufacturers. It is a market segment affiliate of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA).