The Changing Face of Trucking

August 19, 2014

“Well I asked an old truck driver about life out on the road
If he does a lotta singing when he’s bringing in his load
If there’s a pretty waitress crying for him every hundred miles
If he gets a lotta loving if he has a lot of smiles
And i asked him if those trucking songs tell about a life like his
He said if you want to know the truth about it here’s the way it is

All I do is drive, drive, drive try to stay alive
And keep my mind on my load keep my eye upon the road…”

Johnny Cash

There are a lot of old songs and stories about the life of a truck driver.  These stories vividly describe freedom, loneliness on the road, hard work and outsmarting the law while just getting by.  There is a certain lure to a job that lets you see the country while not having a boss breathe down your neck.  However, most of them describe a life that has been undergoing rapid change.  Trucking today is about as similar to the legends as an old rotary dial payphone to an I-Phone.  Technology has brought satellite tracking, cameras in the cab, and methods of communication that allow a company to more closely monitor and manage that life on the road.  Government regulations, including CSA 2010, Electronic On Board Recorders, Hours of Service, no idle regulations and host of others ensure that the FMCSA, as well as the trucking company, will be riding team with the driver.

CSA 2010 is a significant change in safety regulation which will affect everyone in the trucking industry… and it will have real impact on compliance.  To truly understand CSA 2010, one needs to think in terms of ISO (International Standards of Organization).  Statistical data (crashes and roadside inspections) is collected and maintained in the FMCSA computer.  Exceptions to mistakes in the data are encouraged through the website.   It is available for auditors and carriers to see. The FMCSA uses the data to determine where additional training is needed for law enforcement personnel and to track carrier’s performance.  Carriers are rated according to their peer group under a point system.  Root cause analysis determines where a particular company’s compliance problems lay.  Audits are then targeted to the deficiencies in seven areas and “red flagged drivers.”

At first a carrier is notified by letter of the problem and required to file a corrective action report with the FMCSA addressing the carrier’s plan to fix the problem.  The FMCSA then determines if the plan is adequate, approves the plan and then continues to collect data.  Data is reviewed to determine if the problem has been fixed.  If the problem is resolved, scores are monitored to future deficiencies.  If the problem is not resolved, an on-site visit occurs where the specific problem is reviewed more extensively.  When the auditor arrives, he is armed with data on your problem drivers as well as your history.  If the carrier has taken the appropriate actions with its drivers and documented those efforts, the next review looks to see why the drivers have not complied.  This can result in fines being assessed against drivers.  If they change jobs to try to stay under the radar, their history follows them and prospective employers can see that data before making a hiring decision.  Drivers now have a real incentive to comply with the law.  Smart carriers will follow their own data monthly and look for emerging problem areas and fix them before intervention is necessary.

Many carriers I have talked to about CSA 2010 express fear.  This is a natural reaction to change.  They nitpick about the scoring system, the unfairness of having crash data collected on non-preventable accidents and their peer groups.  This misses the point.  For statistical analysis to work, it is not necessary that each particular item be 100% accurate.  What you are looking for are trends and exception reports.  Looking at each individual score is missing the forest for the trees.  The information and process taken as a whole is not perfect, but it is a far cry better than anything the industry has had before.  The program will change and improve as the FMCSA gets more experience with it.  This is a welcome change from the dreaded audit under Safestat every ten years where the FMCSA looks at everything, regardless of whether there is a problem.  That was a roll of the dice.  Under CSA 2010 you should never be surprised by an audit.  We were audited recently under CSA 2010 and I found it to be a short, helpful experience.  CSA 2010 will force compliance and change the manner in which the industry operates.  For those of us who try to do things “by the book,” the change is welcome and the government is actually helping us by leveling the playing field.  When was the last time the government actually did something helpful for business?

Happy Trucking, Tom


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