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CSA 2010 remains a major concern for trucking capacity and liabilty, says Transplace panel

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 25, 2011

Even with some signs of economic improvement apparent, capacity in the trucking market remains tight and is likely to remain that way for a while. This is especially true when looking at the possible impact on capacity that may be caused by CSA 2010 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The degree to which capacity may be affected by CSA 2010, not to mention possible liability concerns, were front and center at a panel moderated by LM at the Transplace Shipper Symposium in Frisco, Texas earlier this month.

CSA, a procedure which dictates how the federal government rates trucking companies and drivers, was rolled out late last year and has received more than a bit of scrutiny from shippers and carriers.

CSA uses all crash records and all roadside inspection data and assigns weights to time and severity of violations. It then calculates a safety performance based on seven basic standards that replace the previous system, Safestat. It also includes specific driver information. A low score will trigger an intervention process that will eventually feed into the FMCSA’s evaluation. The seven basic standards are: unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, drugs/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo related, and crash indicator.

“Shippers are in the crosshairs over this, as the FMCSA and not shippers are responsible for certifying carriers,” said Hank Seaton, partner at Seaton & Husk, L.P. in Vienna, Va. “That is not the impression the shipper community has gotten from CSA 2010. Shippers should expect the federal government to continue its 35-year duty or certifying carriers as safe for your use. The reason for that is when you assume the duty you assume potential liability.”

Seaton added that CSA is highly flawed in its current format, explaining that its current methodology is fatal to the economy, as it destroys the ability of shippers and freight brokers to obtain backhauls in the spot market, increases fuel consumption, increase deadhead mileage. And from month to month, he said it limits shippers’ ability to determine which carrier will be over a CSA threshold, lessening the dependability of using carriers.

Seaton stated that if the existing system is not broken, why fix it, especially when considering that highway deaths involving commercial motor vehicles are at a 35-year low, which he said makes a transition to CSA all the more unnecessary.

“We are going to this new system, because Congress told the FMCSA ‘we need you to be able to reach out and touch the 483,000 carriers you control,” said Seaton. “It only measures 97,000 of the 483,000 carriers. Where are the other 398,000 carriers? Many of them are small but not measured. The system does not meet the congressional requirement…because it measures so few carriers. The reason for concern is that of the 97,000 carriers measured, that includes virtually all of the for-hire carriers that operate more than ten trucks.”

Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson agreed with Seaton, saying it is the role of the federal government in determining which carriers are fit for service—and not the job of shippers or 3PLs.

Whatever process the federal government wants to use in determining which carriers are unfit is not an issue, said Sanderson, but he said that shippers and 3PLs should not be put in the position of sifting through carrier data and coming up with their own credentialing system which can lead to questions and lawsuits.

“The reason we look at injury-related accidents is that the information-gathering system is still very flawed,” said Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation. “But serious accidents are the one thing always makes it into the records and serves as the best comparison when looking at carriers. There is no rhyme or reason between injury-related accidents and CSA scores, with carriers coming in way below or way above [acceptable CSA rating levels].”

And Knight said that when the public sees published federal government information, it is generally viewed as having some authenticity, but he explained he has seen nothing more flawed than the current CSA data. He said Knight just wants to know the rules, and make sure they are fair in order to ensure they can do the best job possible in competing within those rules.

“In this case, there are no rules,” he said. “And as a result many people jump to flawed conclusions.

Offering a shipper perspective, Craig Boroughf, director of indirect sourcing and transportation at USG, explained that it is not a shipper’s job to have an opinion on CSA 2010. Instead, he explained, the job of a shipper is to understand its impact on how it impacts operations.

“We have been following CSA going back to the fourth quarter of 2009 to get an understanding of the ramifications of it on our carriers and to be prepared for it. It may be flawed and have issues. SafeStat [the previous government rating system] had many of the same flaws. The key for us is to understand what our obligations are to our company. You need to understand what safety guidance is and means and what the implications are on our carriers. Can we use it to make a relative comparison of quality and service amongst our carrier group? That is one thing we think CSA should allow us to do—make relative comparisons against our carrier population by using the information that is available.”

Boroughf said USG has already had carriers refuse to divulge CSA 2010 scores to the company when specifically asked. He added that an honest and candid dialogue between shipper and carrier, regarding those scores, is needed. And carriers that withhold that information can put shippers in a non-win situation. 

What’s more, Boroughf said not having that information implies the worst possible score and will activate whatever decision-making process is available to a shipper against the worst possible score, as opposed to partnering with a shipper to understand the relative value of the score and what actions carriers are taking to address their scores over the long-term.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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