SPECIAL REPORT: Fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities goal of CSA 2010

| 11/16/2006

WASHINGTON, DC - Industry stakeholders got a glimpse into FMCSA's crystal ball Thursday when the agency hosted a listening session on what the industry could see in 2010.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration updated a group of more than 100 people on what sort of regulatory enforcement the trucking and bus industries can expect if the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 Initiative - called CSA 2010 - is approved.

FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill said he hopes CSA 2010 will be a vital tool in reducing the number of fatalities in the large truck and bus industries.

"The top priority of the agency is to reduce the number of fatalities," Hill said.

He explained that he is especially concerned because while fatalities have not increased, they have not decreased, either.

"For three years we have seen a plateau in the number of fatalities and fatality rates," Hill said. "We have to drive those numbers down."

Hill said he sees the combination of roadside checks, compliance reviews, enforcement and new entrant training as keys to reducing the number of fatalities.

And perhaps the cornerstone in this agenda to reduce fatalities is the CSA 2010.

In August 2004, FMCSA kicked off CSA 2010 with a comprehensive review and analysis of the agency's existing compliance and enforcement programs. The goal of the program is to develop a new approach for FMCSA resources to identify drivers and carriers that pose safety problems and steps to intervene and address those problems.

Currently, because of the complexity of compliance reviews and staffing limitations within FMCSA, only approximately 2 percent of all registered motor carriers are reviewed each year. And, the compliance reviews are targeted at the motor carrier and not the individual driver.

FMCSA officials have said that they hope that CSA 2010 will, among other things, change that.

The CSA 2010 model presented at the listening session is designed to:

  • Provide for an assessment of a greater portion of those regulated by FMCSA;
  • Analyze data related to specific safety areas of interest that are known to contribute to crashes;
  • Leverage modern technology to continuously evaluate and monitor compliance and safety performance; and
  • Apply progressive intervention to correct safety deficiencies before they become so ingrained that they case a "significant breakdown" in the safety performance of a motor carrier.

The agency hopes to utilize data collected on carriers in seven different areas including unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, drugs and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement and crash experience.

With that data several things could happen if CSA 2010 is fully adopted.

Currently, carriers are assessed one of three fitness ratings: "satisfactory," "conditional" and "unsatisfactory." The CSA 2010 model proposes two new categories: "unfit" and "continue to operate."

The plan also outlines a number of intervention steps that a carrier may encounter before a full-blown compliance review is conducted if there is data that indicates a company's behavior isn't up to snuff.

In fact, carriers could face any one of 10 intervention points including a request for data, targeted roadside inspections, an off-site review, or a comprehensive on-site review.

Throughout the presentation of the CSA 2010 model, drivers were actually mentioned very little. Including driver data and assessing a safety rating of sorts on a driver is progressing more slowly than the carrier portion of the CSA 2010 plan.

Hill explained following the general overview of the proposed program that there are several issues revolving around assessing a driver safety rating before it can be fully implemented - and those issues are being addressed.

FMCSA officials are currently evaluating what kind of data is available on individual drivers and how all of that data will fit into the parameters of the program.

In addition to data availability, complexity and variance in reporting from state to state, Hill said that, for example, there are privacy issues with individual drivers when it comes to drug and alcohol reporting.

Hill said the agency is faced with attempting to capture the data and still preserve privacy for the individual driver as required by law.

However, once the kinks are worked out, Hill sees the driver information being at the fingertips of any enforcement officer conducting a roadside inspection. Officers will be able to see inspections and violations by individual driver simply by calling up the driver's CDL.

FMCSA is also looking at possibly providing data on individual drivers to motor carriers to utilize in the hiring process.

After the general session, attendees broke into four groups to voice their opinions and concerns on different aspects of the CSA 2010 plan. Attendees included representatives from motor carriers, insurance companies, bus companies - and, of course, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Those comments will be reviewed as CSA 2010 continues to be developed and rolled out by FMCSA.

In the grand scheme of things, CSA 2010 is a few years away from even possibly becoming a reality. The agency is still currently in the prototype development and testing phase, and plans to continue through 2007.

If all goes as planned, FMCSA hopes in 2007 to roll out some pilot tests in various states for about a year. The results from those pilot programs will be evaluated in 2009, and the targeted deployment of the program is January 2010.

In addition to the Washington, D.C., listening session, FMCSA has also posed the same questions that were presented in the smaller listening sessions for interested parties to submit comments on. Those comments will be accepted through Dec. 18.

To view an overview of the program and the questions asked in the small-group listening sessions, click here.

- By Jami Jones, senior editor