Doug Cook, vice president of safety for Chattanooga- based truckload carrier Covenant Transport, gives CSA “about a 5” on the 1 to 10 scale. “True,” he says, “there are good and bad points to the program. On the one hand, it has caused the trucking industry to better review the in-cab performance of drivers. It has helped identify where the strengths and weaknesses are in the management of that in-cab behavior, and it has led fleets to look at better tools to accomplish this, such as onboard recorders for electronic hours-of-service logkeeping.
He reports that about a year ago, Covenant began replacing paper logbooks with electronic onboard recorders. “The change was a challenge at first, but once drivers got used to them, they could see the advantage of not having to deal with paper logs anymore. These recorders take the human-error factor out of the driver-fatigue BASIC and so drivers avoid incurring minor violations that can add up.”
Cook says having to deal with all of CSA’s BASICs has led Covenant “to look at our management style and what we are managing. We’re looking at everything more closely and raising our awareness and that of our drivers to put them more in touch with the new reality of CSA.
“And it is good to see their interest in being held accountable for their actions vs. how things worked in the past,” he continues. “That drivers are now responsible, too, for the carrier’s ranking helped us sell the whole program. They know we are all going down the same path and we must all do better.
“It is important that FMCSA review the criteria for its point-based system and make sure it truly reflects that the ‘punishment fits the crime.’ Overall,” Cook adds, “with CSA we will eventually see safer highways. That’s the very positive piece of the picture to keep in mind.”
Speaking for the Truckload Carriers Assn., David Heller, director of safety and policy, says its membership would give CSA at best a 6.5. “CSA is a good thing,” he asserts. “Because of it, fleets have better access to safety data than ever, and they are using that data to improve their standing with FMCSA and their safety performance. In short, fleet managers are finding new ways to get things properly in line.”
On the other hand, Heller says the membership wants to see the issue of crash accountability—preventable vs. nonpreventable accidents—addressed post haste. “Fleets are being penalized for crashes that are not their fault,” he explains. “FMCSA has taken a step back on this and will be re-examining preventability and causability of crashes.”
However, he cautions fleet owners and managers not to hold their breath in the expectation of any quick fixes to CSA’s issues outlined here. “You cannot put a timeline to changes by FMCSA. It is simply not a fast-paced environment there when looking to correct problems.
“CSA,” Heller adds, “will get better. But fleets can’t wait for the issues to be ironed out. They have to live with the program, flaws and all, right now, day in and day out.”
Read more: Fine-tuning CSA