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Feds making moves to tweak HOS, CSA to determine safety “cultures” of motor carriers

The federal government is making several moves to answer that ever-vexing question that regulators have been trying to answer for decades about the universe of more than 700,000 motor carriers, “How safe are you?”

By ·
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By ·

The federal government is making several moves to answer that ever-vexing question that regulators have been trying to answer for decades about the universe of more than 700,000 motor carriers, “How safe are you?”

In a victory for motor carriers who have complained both about the new Hours of Service rules as well as the Compliance, Safety and Accountability issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration is making tweaks to both safety initiatives.

As HOS rules have moved from paper log books to electronic driver logs (EDLs), the federal government regulators are seeking industry input on several fronts:

The four specific HOS areas under consideration for revision are:

  1. expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
  2. extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
  3. revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving; and
  4. reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment, the so-called “split-sleeper” rule

Changes are also coming to CSA, which was launched in 2010 as “Compliance, Safety and Accountability.”  There no longer will be percentile scores that rates motor carriers as to where they ranked among similar carriers in seven “BASIC” scores. There still will be scores, but they will not be in percentile rankings.

Roadside safety inspections will remain, however. The same violation codes will still be used but greater use of data science will be more utilized to determine a carrier’s safety ratings.

A company called SambaSafety, powered by Vigillo, a leading provider of driver risk management solutions in North America, has announced development of a new CSA Scorecard.

The company began testing the Item Response Theory (IRT) methodology for the CSA Fast Act Score Model two years before its planned release by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The new SambaSafety CSA Scorecard has been in development for the past year and will soon be available to customers.

“When CSA was first being tested in 2008, Vigillo was the industry leader in analyzing what fueled CSA Scores and made the first CSA Scorecards available to the entire industry, nearly two years before the FMCSA program went live in December 2010,” said Steve Bryan, executive vice president and GM of SambaSafety Transportation.

There is a new CSA “Fast Act” score model, which its backers say is a statistical time-tested model for other industries using something called “Item Response Theory.” IRT deconstructs data to apply that type of thinking to roadside inspections as to safety.

“It’s an answer to psychometric questions such as “How happy are you?” Bryan said. “IRT answers questions that are hard to quantify.”

Under the old CSA, carriers complained about multifold defects in the system, abuse of the system by plaintiffs’ attorneys, even drivers and customers. Carriers complained about unfairly high CSA scores, which affected shippers’ decisions on which carriers to utilize. In 2015, after much complaining by the trucking lobby, Congress heard that message loud and clear. CSA scores came off line in 2016 with the FAST Act. A National Academies of Science report in June 2017 recommended a new model for CSA.

The Vigillo team helped build the software and run the new scores as a preview of all CSA scores for. New methodology will be replaced in September 2019. Vigillo recently held a press conference online to explain methodology behind the new CSA scoring system.

Existing CSA scoring is driven by 3.5 million roadside inspections which find 7 million violations a year, ranging from bald tires to broken light (915 different violations types). Those scores were weighted by severity types and computed into CSA seven BASIC scores. The seven scores for crash indicators are unsafe driving, HOS compliance, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, and HAZMAT compliance.

“We believe that FMCSA’s approach utilizing the IRT methodology is moving in the right direction,” Bryan continued. “Our analysis shows that the IRT model is an effective means of identifying a poor safety culture at motor carriers and will represent a significant improvement in the overall effectiveness of the CSA program. 

“However, IRT is very complex and data intensive, and almost completely changes the building blocks of CSA,” Bryan added. “There no longer any violation weights, CSA Points, BASIC measures or Safety Event Groups. The new, single CSA BASIC Score is a very different way of representing the safety culture of a motor carrier. By helping our customers manage that process in advance of the full release, we are enabling them to look at the same data they will be seeing with the new scoring model.”

Based on FMCSA’s response to a report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) titled, "Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement" the proposed CSA FAST Act Score Model addresses recommendations made by the NAS for improvements to the agency's Safety Measurement System (SMS).

“We’re going to stop managing to the individual violations and instead concentrate on the grouping’s data,” Bryan said. The idea is reduce “lopsidedness” in violations that might occur because states vary in their enforcement in motor carrier violations.  

“CSA will now compute a single score for every motor carrier based on their safety culture. This is new, and we find a lot to agree with in this new methodology. I think we can report out of the gate that we really like a lot of direction this is taking us. It’s trying to answer the question, ‘How safe are you?’ That is really important.”


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