The Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) initiative, rolled out in 2011, is the most recent way the federal government regulates the heavy truck and bus industries to ensure safe operation of commercial vehicles on our highways.
Companies directly affected are trucking companies, hazardous material haulers, some private carriers, heavy truck fleets and bus companies. But shippers, freight brokers and any companies that hire motor carriers to handle business transportation needs should review and monitor the safety scores of the companies they use.
“Courts have found liability in hiring a motor carrier with known safety issues and violations. This has placed an even greater need for motor carriers and other transportation companies to ensure they have good CSA scores,” says Kevin Forbes, sales executive at ECBM.
Smart Business spoke with Forbes about the CSA program and its impact on insurance.
How does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA work?
The goal is to reduce the number of crashes and crash-related deaths involving large trucks; statistics show the federal government’s involvement in safety compliance has helped. With local partners like state police and Department of Transportation (DOT) officials performing inspections and collecting data, the government uses the CSA system to rate motor carriers and bus companies against their peers and create standards of safety compliance. Motor carriers that don’t follow safety regulations can be put out of business.
How has the safety measurement system (SMS) changed?
The SMS is the database that stores and sorts the safety information collected by the various enforcement agencies. The old model was limited in its scope and effectiveness. The new system breaks the safety areas into seven categories called BASIC, or Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, which are:
- Unsafe driving.
- Hours of service, the amount of time drivers are allowed to drive.
- Driver fitness.
- Controlled substance/alcohol.
- Vehicle maintenance.
- Hazard substance compliance.
- Crash indicator.
Information collected during roadside inspections and DOT compliance audits is used to promote safety by rating carriers in these areas. By monitoring these, the system seeks to identify problem motor carriers that need compliance review, as well as notify motor carriers of issues they might be having so they can focus on those areas.
How has CSA affected insurance?
The initiative stores information on all of the different roadside inspections for each company, which is available online to anyone at ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms. With this information and more at the underwriter’s fingertips, motor carriers and bus companies have had to focus on keeping BASIC category scores down to ensure competitive insurance pricing.
This trend will likely continue as the CSA program provides regulators and insurance carriers with long-term data trends. Insurance companies are using the data to develop predictive modeling programs that identify loss-indicating trends of transportation companies. In renewal negotiations there is sometimes a greater focus on CSA scores than that company’s specific loss history.
How can businesses decrease their risk?
For transportation companies, a proactive approach to understanding the regulations should provide for lower insurance costs, quality shipper/customer relationships and more money to the bottom line.
The CSA regulation places a greater onus on the drivers, so proper communication and education of the driver workforce is necessary. Strong hiring practices are crucial. Investing in newer equipment and technologies also can help reduce scores. Vehicles can be equipped with safety features such as lane departure warnings, rollover warning devices, computer/video monitoring devices for driver behavior and more.
Companies must monitor their scores and see what areas they need to focus on. Your broker can help you in this constantly changing process.
Kevin Forbes is a sales executive at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100, ext. 1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about risk management, see ECBM's blog.
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