FMSCA Launches New Compliance Safety Accountability Program (CSA)

December 27, 2010

Once upon a time CSA stood for Confederate States of America, but the Union won and the federal government uses the acronym for its Compliance Safety Accountability Program. A new CSA version was launched a couple of weeks before Christmas in time for carriers to use their holiday home time to brush up on the latest initiative.

The showpiece of the new CSA program is the SMA, or Safety Measurement System. SMS analyzes inspections, law enforcement reports and crash data to assess a carrier's road performance. From these multiple data sources, the SMS will extract the carrier's safety record, especially focusing on safety violations. Using this information, the FMSCA enforcement units will be able to respond proactively to violators, or to provide advice on remedial action for carriers who are borderline cases, before the situation deteriorates. In addition, the information will also be made available to carriers so they can track their own performance and take steps to avoid FMSCA intervention in the first instance.

There are seven new safety improvement categories or BASICs. BASICs target a carrier's road performance and provide a potential crash risk assessment ranging from HOS compliance through to alcohol and substance abuse and crash records.

The seven BASICs replace the old, four measure system which was very broadly interpreted and applied. The objective is to provide much more targeted information which is current and relevant to a carrier's specific risk. Not only the FMSCA, but state law enforcement will be able to zero in on individual carriers or companies to ensure safety laws are complied with. Under CSA, a series of enforcement actions have been designed which range from a series of warning letters, individual roadside inspections and broader compliance reviews at base. In future, FMSCA will be focusing on specific safety issues and specific carriers, depending on the level of perceived risk and the safety record of individual carriers.

What does this mean for tractor trailer operators?

First, compliance is not so much about "following rules" but applying common sense to how you run your business. For almost every carrier, compliance is going to be good business sense, so think of compliance as being a state of mind.

Second, tractor trailer operators are going to need to monitor FMSCA announcements more closely to find out what is making them tick. HOS is clearly a major issue for road safety, as far as FMSCA is concerned. That being the case, it makes sense to focus compliance efforts on ensuring that drivers understand the rules and that your documentation is properly maintained and up-to-date. When the focus switches to cell phone usage, then you should be looking at that as a safety issue and documenting what steps you've taken to comply.

Third, trying to buck the CSA program is not a good idea in any event. FMSCA has a range of extremely strong penalties and sanctions for rule breakers, especially those breaking rules across a broad spectrum of BASICs rules.

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