Considering CSA 2010

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CSA 2010 is not a big, ugly monster. There’s nothing too earth-shattering about it for carriers with an above-average approach to safety – all they may need to do is tweak a few things. It’s only going to make life harder for the ‘bad apples’ in the trucking business.” – Johnny Schrunk, vice president, Professional Safety Consulting

I had a refreshing talk with Johnny Schrunk the other day about the new comprehensive safety analysis (CSA) 2010 program now being put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

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In his opinion, CSA 2010 isn’t a bad thing for the trucking industry – in fact, it could be a GREAT thing for those fleets that take safety seriously.

He also believes complying with CSA 2010 shouldn’t be a hugely expensive deal, especially for those fleets that already invest in safety initiatives.

As a result, those types of fleets should view CSA 2010 as an opportunity to make “safety” a marketing tool for their business; to show shippers that safety is valuable to them and their cargoes and that it’s worth spending more to obtain it.

It’s an unusual take, to say the very least, on CSA 2010 – but Johnny (at right) told me it’s a viewpoint grounded in his many years in the field spent dealing with a wide variety of fleet operations, blended with his father’s safety philosophy honed after decades spent working as a safety director for several trucking companies.

[You can watch Johnny explain his take on CSA 2010 – and how fleets need to approach it – in more detail below.]

Johnny’s father started Professional Safety Consulting (PSC) in 1987, a business Johnny joined in 1995 the old fashioned way – at the bottom, travelling all over the country meeting with anywhere from five to 15 fleets a week, with some running no more than 10 trucks on up to big 500-unit operators.

Over those long years, Johnny told me he had a gradual epiphany of sorts. Fleets that approached safety the right way, that did the right things – such as tightening hiring standards, reward drivers for safe performance, diligently keep up to date on records, vehicle maintenance, etc. – never had any real worries. [Much of that is reflected in his blog, which makes for interesting reading: you should check it out.]

From folks using nothing but No. 2 pencils and yellow legal pads of paper, right on up to the latest in technology, always posted above average safety ratings – and tended to be more profitable as well.

Steve Keppler , interim executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), shares a very similar outlook on the subject of safety and trucking, as well – with numbers to back it up. “Safety should be less about rules sand subsets of rules than a mindset; a particular philosophy that drives a company’s actions,” he noted in a speech before the Arizona Trucking Association last year.

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“It is NOT just about regulatory compliance. It is something you have to practice every day. It is about going above and beyond the typical … as the ‘typical’ will not allow you to separate yourself from the crowd,” he said. “Investing in the safety mindset pays dividends in many ways. Some of these dividends are tangible, and some are not. However, they ALL help to improve performance and results.”

Keppler (at left) pointed to detailed safety statistics compiled by his group every year – data that goes into what CVSA calls “SAFER” runs on the group’s above-average motor carrier members to see how they stack up against more “typical” motor carriers.

CVSA’s last SAFER covered the time period from 2004-2006. For 178 CVSA member motor carriers, the following were the results:

• Vehicle OOS [out of service] rate: 8.4%, vs. the national average of 23.4%

• Driver OOS rate: 1.4% vs. the national average of 6.6%

• 74.7% had Satisfactory Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 57.9%

• 4.5% had Conditional Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 30.1%

• 0% had Unsatisfactory Safety Ratings vs. the national average of 9.2%

Finally, CVSA’s member fleets recorded a 1.15 per 100 million miles fatal involvement crash rate, versus the national average of 2.15. “Clearly, these data show that the safety mindset DOES pay dividends AND helps separate you from the ‘typical’ carrier,” Keppler noted.

That “mindset” in how fleets approach safety overall should help them comply with CSA 2010 as well, PSC’s Schrunk added. “If you look at this as just another compliance program, then yes, you’ll probably be very pessimistic about it,” he told me. “But if you wade in and say, ‘OK, let’s look at this and find out what we’re doing right and where we need help,’ then I thing you will benefit from it enormously.”

[Here’s an overview of CSA 2010 compiled and narrated by Johnny’s father. More information is available at PSC's dedicated CSA 2010 web page.]

One of the reasons Johnny takes such a positive view of CSA 2010 stems from the wording used by FMCSA.

“When I saw the words ‘creating efficiencies’ in the CSA 2010 document, I knew the FMCSA was on the right track with this,” he explained. “The ultimate goal here, then, is if a fleet puts strategies in place to make CSA 2010 a part of their business, they are going to gain efficiencies from doing that – and from greater efficiency you can create profits.”

Now, Johnny does stress that this isn’t going to easy – it’s require fleets to roll up their sleeves and invest some sweat equity in re-tooling their operations.

“We’re not talking about money so much as how you approach the business,” Johnny said. “For example, I talk to some fleets about why they don’t have a driver award program for safety compliance. They’ll tell me, ‘Oh we tried that years ago and it didn’t work.’ Well, maybe it’s time to try it again – maybe you need to go back and try things that failed in the past to see if you can make them work to your advantage now.”

[Here’s some insight into how fleets can make CSA 2010 work for them.]

One the things fleets forget about CSA 2010, in Johnny’s estimation, is that by driving out “bad operators” – those that cut corners and rates, that treat drivers poorly – it will make life better for those that remain in the business.

“You can fear CSA 2010 as the final straw that breaks the camel’s back … or you can say, ‘Hey, this will put my low-ball competition out of business and boost mine,’” he said. “If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and look behind the curtain of CSA 2010 – to let this program point out the flaws in your business, in terms of hiring practices, etc. – this could work to your advantage.”

He knows this isn’t what a lot of fleets want to hear, wither. “Change is hard right now, with the economic environment so difficult – with freight scarce, fuel prices climbing, etc.,” Johnny told me. “So many people in this business are licking their wounds right now, it’s hard to find clarity about CSA 2010. But like anything else, it takes time and effort to work through – and fleets that do the hard work should significantly benefit in the end.”

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