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Rules on the Run

By on January 7, 2011
RoadKing Mag

The nationwide rollout of CSA 2010 that got underway last year changed the way that roadside safety inspections affect both fleets and drivers, giving professional truckers a vested interest in the condition of the vehicle they’re operating. Road King sat down with Gary Woodford, CSA 2010 program manager for the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to learn more about the program and the key points drivers need to know.

Q What do professional drivers need to know about the Comprehensive Safety Analysis program, better known as CSA 2010?

A The agency is using more of the data it currently collects at the roadside than in the past and is categorizing it into seven specific areas representing unsafe behavior rather than four broad areas as in the past. This allows us to more readily see the specific safety problems present and better prioritize which carriers we should visit and where we need to intervene. If you’re a safe motor carrier and a safe driver, you have nothing to fear under CSA 2010. It is going to raise the bar on safety for everyone.

Also, drivers need to know the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The regulations are listed on the FMCSA website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Q What are common misconceptions among drivers?

A Many drivers think that we’re going to be rating individual drivers as we do carriers, and that is not true.

There is a carrier safety measurement system and a driver safety measurement system. The driver safety measurement system is used internally and only by our safety investigators. If the carrier safety measurement system indicates the need for investigation of a particular carrier’s safety performance, the safety investigator will also look at the driver safety measurement system as part of his or her preparation for the investigation. If the driver measurement system indicates the carrier employs a driver with egregious violations — for example, operating a commercial motor vehicle with a suspended commercial driver license — the investigator would look into whether the driver license issue was corrected as part of the carrier-based investigation.

Another misconception is that the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) is a part of CSA 2010. PSP is independent of CSA 2010.

PSP is mandated by Congress to assist the motor carrier industry in making hiring decisions by providing and assessing individual operators’ crash and serious safety violation history as a pre-employment condition. Violations will follow the driver through the Pre-employment Screening Program that was mandated by Congress. When a driver is applying for a job a carrier can, with the driver’s written permission, go into that system and look at a driver’s past violations across carriers.

Those violations will include safety violations at roadside and crashes. Crash data goes back five years, and roadside safety violations go back three years.

PSP is independent of CSA 2010, but it has come out at about the same time we are rolling out CSA 2010, and because of that people are tying the two together.

Q How does CSA 2010 benefit drivers as individuals?

A We’ve heard from drivers that they are supportive of the program because it will get the rogue drivers and carriers off the road. We anticipate as a federal safety agency that once CSA 2010 is fully implemented, it has great potential to make our roads safer.

Q How are you ensuring that roadside inspections will be consistent?

A In October 2010, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance issued a policy that provides guidance and instruction to roadside inspectors in recording roadside violations so that they are more consistently reported across jurisdictions and across states. We’re also looking at ways we can improve our information technology systems to improve consistency.

Q Do you expect to see more inspections now than in the past?

A Not necessarily. We have designed the new inspection selection system algorithm to prioritize high-risk motor carriers for roadside inspection. I believe the number of inspections will be about the same; it’s just that under CSA 2010 we are now using all of the data we have always collected at roadside rather than just those violations that resulted in out-of-service orders. The capacity of our state partners to inspect more vehicles has not changed. In addition to prioritizing motor carriers for inspection, the states must take throughput at inspection stations into account. Large trucks backed up along a freeway at an inspection station can also present a safety hazard to the motoring public. So, our state partners must balance throughput with inspecting those motor carriers that present the highest safety risk based on past performance.

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