The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is shifting its safety-rating focus from paperwork compliance to performance issues. Earlier this fall, the agency announced an overhaul of its carrier safety-rating system, which it plans to test in four states early next year.

Scheduled for full implementation in 2010, the new system is called “Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010.” According to the agency, “CSA 2010 is designed to help FMCSA affect a larger number of motor carriers and drivers using a broader array of compliance interventions.”

Under the new model, safety fitness would be determined (and presumably published) without an on-site compliance review. Instead, it would focus on behavior that leads to or increases the consequences of vehicle crashes, including the following:

  • Unsafe driving: Dangerous/careless operation of vehicles as measured by driver traffic violations and convictions.

  • Fatigued driving: Driving while fatigued, as measured by roadside inspection/logbook violations or fatigue-evident crash causation factors.

  • Driver fitness: Operation of motor vehicles by drivers who are unfit, in terms of training, experience or medical qualification.

  • Crash experience: Patterns of excessive crash involvement.

CSA 2010 will also include interventions, described as “any action they would take to correct unsafe behavior and achieve safety compliance.” This might include targeted roadside inspections, off-site/on-site investigations, warning letters and cooperative safety plans.

In January 2008 FMCSA will begin testing the system in Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey. The test is scheduled to run for 30 months, or into mid-2010.

Although carriers taking part in the test phase will not be rated under the new operational model, those identified as having poor safety performance and found to be unresponsive to the CSA 2010 interventions will undergo on-site compliance reviews and be rated in accordance with FMCSA's current safety-rating system.

Reports from carriers that have recently undergone on-site FMCSA reviews also indicate the agency is moving toward a greater emphasis on safety-performance issues. One carrier reported, for example, that its audit included an element that verified driver-qualification file information (e.g., application, experience and driver record) through a review of MCMIS data.

During that review, the on-site auditor targeted drivers with poor roadside inspection histories, whether while driving for current or previous employers. The auditor then checked to see whether this data was reflected in the driver qualification file.

After identifying a driver with a deficient out-of-service rate and a significant accident history, the auditor found that the violations and accidents occurred while the driver was working for a fleet that was not listed on the application. This led to an action against the driver for failing to report previous employers.

If implemented as planned, the CSA 2010 safety-rating overhaul will have a positive impact on roadside safety performance. However, fleet managers need to understand the factors that drive the system's operational methodology. I urge you to review the information, which can be found at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.


Jim York is the ass't. vice president of technical services for Zurich Services Corp. Risk Engineering in Schaumburg, IL.