Whether fleets realize it or not, their operations will change, and change dramatically, this summer. Once the FMCSA's new Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010) program kicks in this July, the old way of recording safety will be thrown out and fleet managers may be surprised by what they see.

“I think it will change the way carriers operate,” says Tom Kretsinger Sr., chairman & CEO of Liberty, MO-based American Central Transport (ACT). ACT is a truckload carrier operating 300 tractors and 900 trailers and has been testing the CSA 2010 system for more than a year now. “I think some carriers will find their business model is as obsolete as the Polaroid camera.”

The big change, says Kretsinger, is the information CSA 2010 incorporates into its reporting practices. Unlike the SafeStat system it will replace, CSA 2010 records all incidents or contacts carriers and their drivers have and records that information into what FMCSA calls the seven BASICs (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). A fleet is ranked as either “deficient” or “not deficient” in each category, a spokesman for FMCSA says, triggering intervention thresholds that determine if further action is warranted. Those steps include a warning letter followed by an investigation, a “cooperative safety plan,” fine or further steps that could include naming the carrier unfit.

When ACT began its testing, Kretsinger was surprised by the results it found. “Under SafeStat, we had an ISS score that was in the low to mid 30s. That's pretty good,” Kretsinger says. “Now, when we started using CSA 2010, we found we were deficient in two of the most critical areas.”

Carriers will be able to start seeing their CSA numbers this month. FMCSA will begin using the numbers in July. Kretsinger advises every fleet to start researching software packages that present the information in an easy-to-read format for managers.

“I would investigate the various computer programs out there that get the data and [see which one] presents it in the way you want,” he says, adding that educating drivers should be the other major initiative for carriers, “starting yesterday.”

The CSA rankings will be updated monthly, providing plenty of information on any carrier's profile, and that information will be available to shippers as well. Fleet data will remain in the database for two years, and driver data for three years. The exception will be accident data, which will remain for five years.

“Some of whom we thought were our best drivers under SafeStat are some of the worst,” Kretsinger says. The reason, he adds, is the nature of the information and what the CSA system records versus what the SafeStat system uses for calculations. “In our case, 27% [of our violations] were out of service and 73% were non out of service and therefore not counted,” he adds. Those 73% could include warnings for excessive speed, for instance. Under CSA 2010, that contact would be factored into the equation.

“When you look at SafeStat and then start looking at CSA 2010, three-quarters of your violations are non out of service, and you didn't see that with SafeStat,” Kretsinger adds.

The big areas of concern for fleets and drivers should be the unsafe driving and fatigued driving areas (the other five BASICs are driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related and crash indicator), which incorporate hours-of-service compliance. “If the drivers do two or three things, most of this problem will go away,” Kretsinger says. “If you're a driver who tries to do a good pre-trip and tries to obey the laws, this is not a problem.”

ACT is not using electronic logs today, but is testing several versions, Kretsinger explains. He did say that going to paperless logs will also fix many of the problems, as there are tighter controls on a driver's time and less room for manipulation. That, in and of itself, will correct many problems that CSA 2010 compliance will highlight.

In the end, Kretsinger believes this is a positive step forward for the industry. “We're a company that tries to do things right. …What would be really good is everyone on the road playing by the rules.”

That would be good for the industry — and good for ACT.”