Fleet safety policy
Upcoming regulation to focus on driver behaviorBy Deidre Bello, associate editor
While the number of fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles has decreased over the past two decades, the rate of crash reduction has slowed. Meanwhile, increases in the number of vehicle miles traveled by large trucks and the number of registered commercial motor carriers has caused crash risk exposure to go up. In response to these trends, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected to release a number of notices of proposed rulemaking in 2010. One major initiative is “Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010.” The initiative, introduced in 2004 and currently in the pilot program phase in a handful of states, aims to achieve a greater reduction in large truck and bus crashes, injuries, and fatalities, while maximizing the resources of the agency and its state partners. FMCSA expects to launch CSA 2010 in July.
Experts in the fleet safety industry have outlined what CSA 2010 will mean for fleet safety professionals, in addition to other legislative issues and concerns they are tracking that could have the most impact in 2010 on driver training and management, motor carriers, and CMV drivers. Safety experts who spoke with Safety+Health magazine say improving safety performance will mean reinvigorating safety culture while preparing for upcoming transportation legislation, the majority of which focuses on driver behavior.
The driver behavior focus
Approximately 5,500 people die and an additional 135,000 are injured as a result of crashes involving large commercial trucks and buses every year. The motor carrier industry already undergoes a very labor intensive onsite compliance review to prevent crash risks and protect the motoring public. However, authors of the CSA 2010 program say FMCSA’s 2006 Large Truck Crash Causation Study indicated driver behavior is a major contributing factor in causing crashes, and more attention should be paid to CMV drivers.
FMCSA reports that serious rule violations for drivers include driving while disqualified, driving without a valid commercial driver’s license, making a false entry on a medical certificate and committing numerous hours-of-service violations. The agency is calling CSA 2010 a paradigm shift that aims to identify drivers and motor carriers that pose safety risks based on their crash experience and violations of safety regulations, and to intervene to reduce those risks as soon as they become apparent.
Scott Claffey, assistant vice president of Safety Services at Bloomington, IN-based Great West Casualty Co., said some in the industry are considering CSA 2010 a game-changer. “If motor carriers and professional drivers don’t educate themselves right now on the impact CSA 2010 will have on them – from the motor carrier’s side and the ability to operate, to the driver’s side and the ability to make a living – there’s going to be some very surprised people next year,” said Claffey, who also is chairman of the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving Courses International Advisory Committee.
Under CSA 2010, a new operational model for measuring motor carriers and driver performance would be used to determine safety fitness. The new “Safety Measurement System” would replace the current SafeStat system, which relies on four measurement categories and which agency officials call “very labor-intensive.” SMS is organized by seven behavioral area safety improvement categories: unsafe driving, fatigued driving (hours of service), driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo related and crash indicator. Drivers and carriers would receive a rating that would be updated every 30 days.
The SMS program establishes an intervention process that allows for more enforcement authority, and is designed to improve unsafe behavior early on and reach more carriers. It will evaluate a driver’s previous 36 months (and a carrier’s previous 24 months) of roadside inspection and crash data, including 2009 data.
One misconception drivers might have is that CSA 2010 will focus solely on driver enforcement; however, the initiative still will hold carriers accountable, said Tom Bray, editor of Transportation Management, a publication of Neenah, WI-based J.J. Keller & Associates Inc., which makes risk and regulatory management solutions. Safety professionals can start preparing now for CSA 2010 by becoming familiar with how the rating system scores violations and crashes, and by doing more training that targets preventable violations, Bray said. The safety professional can do a lot to influence scores, he added. For example, safety professionals can help drivers to first focus on reducing violations that score high on the SMS, and then help them reduce the violations that carry a low score, he said.
In addition, because FMCSA plans to time-weight past violations and crashes (place more weight on recent violations and crashes), drivers and carriers have the next six months to train drivers and improve scoring before the program launch. At the end of the day, Claffey said, safety professionals should talk to their drivers because drivers will have the most impact on the motor carrier score.
FMCSA officials say the CSA 2010 intervention process will allow safety investigators to “move beyond fact-finding and verification of violations to a deeper exploration of why the violations occurred and how they can be corrected.” Stakeholders who participated in public listening sessions have voiced concerns with methodology for the safety fitness determination, the quality of safety data, roadside inspection uniformity and the CSA 2010 intervention process.
Safety data used for the program would be taken from roadside inspection and crash data, which FMCSA officials say would need to be of high quality and collected by states so they meet high standards for uniformity, completeness, accuracy and timeliness. FMCSA began pilot tests of the CSA 2010 operational model in Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and New Jersey in 2008, and more recently in Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota and Montana. Warning letters identifying a deficient BASIC and outlining possible consequences of continued safety problems are to be sent out in July. The warning letter is the first step in the intervention process.
Part of the CSA 2010 program launched this month under a new Driver Pre-Employment Screening Program, which allows employers to electronically access driver inspection and crash records as part of the hiring process (as long as a driver gives written consent for release of the records).
“Safety-conscious carriers are going to find this to be a very valuable tool,” Bray said. Another initiative in accordance with CSA 2010 relates to proposed safety fitness procedures. The agency is drafting a notice of proposed rulemaking that would revise 49 CFR Part 385. At press time, publication of the NPRM was expected in November 2009.
Weeding out the bad
Stephen Campbell, executive director of the nonprofit Washington-based Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said one of CVSA’s top priorities is to ensure new transportation policy is funded at appropriate levels and allows flexibility to improve safety enforcement and improve CDL requirements. Another issue CVSA will track is FMCSA’s progress on establishing a National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners, Campbell said. The national registry would prevent bad drivers from sliding through the cracks and taking advantage of privacy protections, he said.
“There are some ‘loophole drivers’ that might not have good records who are jumping through to get around the drug and alcohol testing – they move from doctor to doctor,” Campbell said.
Another FMCSA ruling safety professionals should watch for would create a national database for CMV driver test results for controlled substances and alcohol. It would require employers and service agents to report both positive test results and refusals to test into the database. Prospective employers would need the applicant’s written consent to access the database to obtain information on that driver applicant. The database and new Department of Transportation direct observation testing regulations would prevent drivers who take random drug tests and later quit their job from being hired at another motor carrier, or would prevent drivers from adulterating samples, Campbell said.
Rewarding safe drivers
The current economy has created a shortage of freight and left fewer job opportunities for drivers, but there is no shortage of good drivers who are reliable and dependable, some experts said.
Scott E. Barker, vice president of Safety, Recruiting and Driver Services at Swift Transportation in Phoenix, said during a recession it is easier to find high-quality applicants.
“The industry must hold itself to a standard higher than federal regulations, and it has,” Barker said. “The bottom line is to make sure we hire the safest driver possible, and provide the best possible training we can provide them.” Swift celebrates those drivers who look at and recognize when they are doing something safely, while drivers who are faltering must be held accountable and change behavior through a methodological and positive process, he said.
Claffey noted that people choose their behavior based on an organization’s reward system, so management needs to avoid making it convenient for drivers to cut corners. Safety trainers who are successful use positive messages to illustrate good reasons to drive safely, such as financial and emotional benefits, sleeping better, better health or fewer stressors that endanger their lives, he said.
In 2007, FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee released a report on 20 nonregulatory safety practices recommended by a work group. Four of those recommendations focused on improving driver safety and advised motor carriers to:
- Conduct a comprehensive screening during the hiring and qualification of drivers, and consider including aptitude or behavioral assessments or profiles where feasible
- Carefully screen potential drivers who, in the past three years, have any of the top 10 violations from the American Trucking Research Institution’s study, “Predicting Truck Crash Involvement: Developing a Commercial Driver Behavior-Based Model and Recommended Countermeasures”
- Identify and address multiple crash drivers
- Consider wellness management programs
Monitoring driver behavior with technology
Another issue that will continue to attract attention is the hours-of-service ruling, which has been challenged three times in federal court. As the ruling stands, CMV drivers can drive up to 11 hours within a 14-hour non-extendable window from the start of the workday, following at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. The rule also allows CMV drivers to restart calculations of the weekly on-duty limits after the driver has at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
In October, FMCSA and DOT agreed to review and reconsider the 2008 Final Rule on Hours of Service for Drivers, according to a settlement agreement filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. FMCSA will submit an NPRM to the Office of Management and Budget for approval within nine months of the date of settlement.
A related issue safety professionals will need to watch is progress on FMCSA’s final rule on electronic on-board recorders for HOS compliance, and efforts to judge whether drivers are fatigued behind the wheel. A draft of the final rule was submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation in April. According to an October DOT report on significant rulemaking, a copy of the EOBR rulemaking was resubmitted to OMB in October and, if approved, could be published in the Federal Register in late January 2010. The rulemaking would amend FMCSA regulations to incorporate new performance standards for EOBRs installed in CMVs manufactured two years after the effective date of a final rule.
The ruling focuses on motor carriers that have demonstrated a history of serious noncompliance with HOS, and would subject those carries to mandatory installation of the recorders meeting the new performance standard.
Anne Ferro, new FMCSA administrator and former president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, has said she will move forward with the EOBR ruling, work to improve the HOS ruling, toughen standards for driver entry, and implement effective identification and sanctioning of high-risk carriers.
Barker said that technology such as EOBRs has been used for years to give safety professionals the opportunity to see if a driver needs help to change behavior, in addition to holding them accountable.
At Swift Transportation, the focus is on helping drivers get to their most important stop, which is getting home safely, Barker said. For an effective safety program to be successful, management should be engaged in the program from the very top order of the organization and down, he said.
“The effective safety program can’t exist in a vacuum,” he said. It begins with an organization that can support that. Management sets the vision at the very beginning by writing it into the organizational values and by talking about it and demonstrating their commitment to safety. Safety not only is one of Swift’s core values, but also one of its organizational priorities, Barker said.