Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010

How FMCSA will know and judge your company’s safety performance

How a motor carrier’s safety performance will be evaluated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will change in mid-2010. All motor carriers need to be aware of these changes and how it will impact roadside inspections, compliance investigations and, eventually, their safety ratings.

The new assessment program called Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 will be significantly different than SafeStat—the current evaluation system used by FMCSA. CSA 2010’s aim is to help FMCSA and its state partners contact more carriers and drivers, use improved data to better identify high-risk carriers and drivers, and apply a wider range of interventions to correct high-risk behaviors. Its ultimate goal is to reduce the occurrence of large truck and bus crashes.

Creation of CSA 2010 has been a long process for FMCSA. Since 2005, there have been stakeholder meetings to gather input on the initiative, and there has been an open request for public comments. Pilot testing of CSA 2010 is now occurring in Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and New Jersey. Motor carriers domiciled in these states are already under the CSA 2010 program on a 50 percent or 100 percent basis.

How Is FMCSA’s Safety Evaluation Process Changing?
There will be new safety measurement systems, a new intervention process, and a new approach to safety ratings. Phase one of CSA 2010 is the Carrier Safety Management System (CSMS). The CSMS is scheduled for nationwide roll-out between July and December 2010 and will focus on compliance problems by a motor carrier and its drivers. FMCSA also has plans for a Driver Safety Management System (DSMS), which will separately rate drivers and hold them individually responsible. The DSMS is expected to be delayed at least several months.

FMCSA will use a mix of interventions rather than just compliance reviews to seek correction of safety problems. More motor carriers will be contacted and more often through this process. A motor carrier will need to take corrective action in response to each FMCSA intervention.

FMCSA is expected to propose rulemaking for its new safety rating process, called the Safety Fitness Determination (SFD), early next year. Until the SFD rulemaking is completed, FMCSA will continue to issue safety ratings under the requirements of the existing 49 CFR Part 385. The revised and future safety rating process will be tied to a carrier’s overall safety performance and not just limited to acute and critical violations from a compliance review. Under this new rating system, motor carriers will receive a monthly safety rating of “Continued Operation,” “Marginal” or “Unfit.”

What Information Is Used to Measure a Motor Carrier’s Performance?
The CSMS uses a motor carrier’s data from roadside inspections, state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census to quantify performance. Of particular significance, CSA 2010 will use all safety-based violations found during roadside inspections to measure a motor carrier’s safety performance—not just out-of-service violations as has been the case in the past. CSA 2010 will use the last 24 months of this on-the-road safety data, looking at driver performance, truck condition and cargo handling to measure motor carriers. Driver performance will be based on the last 36 months of applicable roadside data. Violations from the roadside inspections and any crash data are submitted and compiled into the CSA 2010 database. This violation and crash information is then applied to Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, more often referred to as the BASICs. The seven BASICs are: Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substance/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo Related and Crash Indicator. It is important to know what is generally input into each BASIC in order to control the negative effects.

  • Unsafe Driving will include traffic violations and convictions for speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, inattention and unsafe driving behavior.
  • Fatigued Driving data will be based on hours of service violations discovered during an off-site or on-site investigation, a roadside inspection, or a post-crash inspection, and crash reports with driver fatigue as a contributing factor.
  • Driver Fitness will involve inspection violations for failure to have a valid and appropriate CDL or medical or training documentation, crash reports citing a lack of experience or medical reason as a cause or contributing factor, and violations from investigations resulting from use of unqualified drivers or failure to maintain proper driver qualification files.
  • Controlled Substance/Alcohol will include roadside violations involving controlled substances or alcohol, crash reports citing driver impairment or intoxication as a cause, positive drug or alcohol test results on drivers, and lack of appropriate testing or other deficiencies in motor carrier controlled substances and alcohol testing programs.
  • Vehicle Maintenance will comprise roadside violations for brakes, lights and other mechanical defects, crash reports citing a mechanical failure as a contributing factor, and violations from an off-site or an on-site investigation associated with pre-trip inspections, maintenance records and repair records.
  • Cargo Related consists of roadside inspection violations pertaining to load securement, cargo retention, hazardous material handling and crash reports citing shifting loads or spilled/dropped cargo as a cause or contributing factor.
  • Crash Indicator data incorporate law enforcement crash reports, crashes reported by the carrier and those discovered during on-site investigations.

Each BASIC is time and severity weighted to determine a motor carrier’s performance level. The carrier’s score in each BASIC is then ranked against similar motor carriers to decide whether there is a need for an FMCSA intervention.

What Can Be Expected if a Motor Carrier’s Safety Performance Is Found to be Lacking?
There are several ways that FMCSA can reach out with its enforcement arm and touch more motor carriers and drivers under CSA 2010. These new means or interventions allow FMCSA and its state enforcement partners to reach into their toolbox for the method that they perceive will lead to a fix of the problem. A motor carrier could receive a warning letter that identifies issues within one or more of the BASICs. Targeted roadside inspections will occur at weigh stations and temporary roadside locations, which will allow law enforcement to focus on known motor carrier and driver problems. In an off-site investigation, a carrier will be required to submit documents to FMCSA or a state partner regarding suspected deficiencies. An on-site, focused investigation will concentrate on specific problem areas. A comprehensive, on-site investigation will address all aspects of the carrier’s operation and is similar to today’s FMCSA compliance review.

What Follow-up Enforcement Actions Can FMCSA Take to Assure Correction?
FMCSA has several options. These include:

Cooperative Safety Plan – The carrier and FMCSA can together create a plan to address the underlying problems in a carrier’s safety performance. This safety improvement plan is implemented by the carrier and is intended to be voluntary.

Notice of Violation – A NOV is the formal notice of safety problems that requires a carrier response. It is used when the regulatory violations are severe enough to warrant action but not a civil penalty/fine. It is also used when the violation can be corrected immediately and there is a high level of cooperation.

Notice of Claim – A NOC is issued in cases when violations are severe enough to warrant issuance of civil penalties.

Settlement Agreement – A settlement is a contract negotiated with the carrier to make changes that address a root cause of a safety problem, modify penalties or end enforcement proceedings.

Out of Service Order – Ultimately, FMCSA can remove a motor carrier’s operating authority if an “unfit” rating is applied.

What Is The Likely Impact on a Trucking Company’s Operations?
Some motor carriers that have never, or have infrequently, been contacted by FMCSA will now receive interventions from the agency. Motor carriers will come to understand that more roadside data will feed the CSA 2010 and thereby learn that the shortcomings in their safety program will be known and will need correction. Some motor carriers that had good rankings under the existing SafeStat evaluation system may now find they are not so good in certain CSA 2010 BASICs. Carriers may unfortunately find out that a deficiency in one or more BASICs can lead to an intervention and potentially, after the SFD rulemaking, could lead to an “unfit” status.

There also will be noticeable driver-related impacts. Roadside inspectors will have information telling them the BASICs in which a given carrier is deficient. If the deficiencies are driver-related, the inspector may choose to look at the driver rather than the vehicle. Investigators will also know a driver’s record not only for the company that he or she now works for, but also across previous employers. The intent is to allow law compliance officers to focus on the “worst of the worst” drivers.

What Can a Motor Carrier Do to Prepare for CSA 2010?
There are several ways to get ready for CSA 2010. Here are a few:

  • Know the CSA 2010 operational model/process. For more information on CSA 2010, check out
  • Focus on the data, especially those violations that feed each specific BASIC.
  • Understand what FMCSA emphasizes in CSA 2010. The Unsafe Driving and Fatigued Driving BASICs are given the highest priority. Cargo securement is given more severity weighting than hazmat.
  • Set up an internal company plan to be used to respond to interventions.
  • Review your motor carrier and driver records.
  • Focus now on problem areas by using the available FMCSA sites and company reports. Access FMCSA’s SafeStat database and use the agency’s COMPASS portal to detect issues, make corrections to incorrect FMCSA/state data through the agency’s DataQs program, update your MCS-150 motor carrier census information, check the status of your drivers’ license records and medical certificates, etc.
  • Clean up all existing data quickly. Remember, the newer a violation or crash, the more it counts against your company’s CSA 2010 scores.
  • Consider using FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) to review driver history prior to hiring. The PSP startup was January 2010.
  • Know your Inspection Selection System (ISS-D) number and find out your BASIC scores. Do this now if headquartered in a pilot state or as soon as these scores are made available by FMCSA.
  • Understand what prompts inspections of your trucks, and correct problem areas. These are most likely speeding and observable vehicle defects.
  • Have drivers insist on an inspection report if there are no violations. Roadside inspections with or without violations will count in CSA 2010 score calculations and therefore influence rankings within certain BASICs.
  • Educate drivers and management personnel on the CSA 2010 process.

2010 will likely bring another year of difficult challen-ges for motor carriers and their drivers. CSA 2010 should be considered as one of these tests of will and skill. Assure that all aspects of your company’s safety program measures up to government standards by taking action now.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
David L. Potts is the director of safety & operations for the American Trucking Associations. He is responsible for regulatory compliance issues involving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and advising ATA members on safety management issues.