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Substantial changes to CSA coming as early as next week

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Carriers operating in the US will see changes to how their safety performance is scored under CSA, when changes to the safety measurement system go into effect as early as next week.

No official date has been announced for the launch of SMS 3.0 – the latest rendition of CSA’s scoring system – but data mining company Vigillo predicted during a Webinar Monday that the changes are likely to take effect next week. The changes are significant and in some cases retroactive, and could immediately change a carrier’s CSA scores, Vigillo officials warned.

CSA (Compliance Safety Accountability) was launched in December 2010 as a way of measuring and monitoring the safety and compliance of carriers operating in the US. Since its launch, subtle changes have been made in response to feedback from the trucking industry and other stakeholders. The upcoming changes included in SMS 3.0 are among the most drastic. The three principle changes include: expanding the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC to include cargo violations; replacing the former Cargo-Related BASIC with a new HazMat BASIC; and the reweighting, renaming and elimination of certain violations.

As part of the overhaul, more than 100 violations will be transferred from the Cargo-Related BASIC into Vehicle Maintenance, which was already the category containing the greatest number of possible infractions. In the Cargo-Related BASIC’s place is the new HazMat BASIC, which is heavily focused on compliance-related issues, such as proper documentation and placarding.

Drew Anderson, director of sales with Vigillo, said the changes stemmed from the concerns of flatdeck and open deck carriers that felt they faced increased scrutiny when compared to van operators, solely due to the visibility of the freight they haul.

“This change has been two years in the making,” Anderson said. “There was a huge bias against flatbed and open deck carriers under the old methodology. They were subjected to more maintenance inspections as opposed to dry van and tanker trucks. Industry stakeholders went to the FMSCA and lobbied for this change.”

While the changes were made in response to industry demands, Anderson pointed out they present a new conundrum.

“Be careful what you ask for, it just may happen,” he quipped. “Indeed what we see is the bias shown against flatbed and open deck carriers is eliminated. As the Cargo BASIC fades into the sunset, all open deck and flatbed carriers with a Cargo BASIC alert, that alert goes away because the BASIC goes away.”
What’s left of the former Cargo BASIC now falls under the newly-created HazMat BASIC. Because of this category’s emphasis on placarding and paperwork, Anderson said it can be argued that the focus of CSA is shifting more from safety towards compliance.

“What we see here is that the remaining HazMat BASIC really doesn’t have a direct impact on safety, it’s much more compliance related,” Anderson said.

Adding to this phenomenon, the Cargo BASICs that were moved over to the Vehicle Maintenance category have in many cases been reweighted and made less punitive. As a result, the cargo-related violations have been effectively buried within the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.

Vigillo ran an analysis of 2,000 customers to see how their current CSA scores would be affected by the changes contained within SMS 3.0. The top cargo-related violation doesn’t appear until number 41 on the list of violations within the revamped category.

“This illustrates that the old non-HazMat cargo violations do sort of get lost within the new Vehicle Maintenance BASIC,” Anderson said. The 41st most prevalent infraction, incidentally, is “leaking, blowing or loose cargo,” which has been downgraded from a 10-point violation to a seven-point violation.

The result of all this is that seemingly serious violations have been diluted, in a sense, and buried within their new category.

The second major change, according to Sloan Morris, director of client services with Vigillo, is that the former Cargo-Related BASIC will be identified as the HazMat BASIC. These scores will be kept from the public’s view for the next year. You don’t necessarily have to be a hazardous materials hauler to be measured under the HazMat BASIC. Even hauling a few placarded loads will subject carriers to scrutiny under this BASIC, so carrier will want to ensure they are complying with all requirements as they pertain to placarding and paperwork. Because of the thinning of the former Cargo BASIC, the new HazMat BASIC now becomes the thinnest of BASICs in terms of violations, and as such, the most sensitive to violations.

One large carrier evaluated by Vigillo, running 1,900 power units and travelling 183 million vehicle miles, will immediately receive an alert in the HazMat category when the changes are made, Anderson pointed out. This despite the fact that carrier incurred only 10 violations under the new HazMat BASIC over the past two years, and for infractions that don’t directly affect safety.

“The moral of this story is, watch your HazMat, even if you’re not a HazMat carrier,” Anderson warned. “It’s not going to take much at all for you to go over the threshold.”

In fact, of the top 10 violations found under the HazMat BASIC, only one is directly related to safety.

The third major change coming into effect when SMS 3.0 goes live is that violations will be reweighted retroactively, meaning carriers may see changes to their CSA scores. Those changes will continue to be adjusted even after SMS 3.0 is rolled out, Morris warned. Anderson noted the same changes will affect carriers within your own peer group, so don’t feel you’re being picked on.

Examples of impending changes include: eliminating the violation for speeding 1-5 mph over the limit; specifying whether or not driving with a suspended licence occurred while the licence was suspended for safety-related reasons; and changing the wording of the fatigued driving violation to hours-of-service compliance, to reflect the reality that not all HoS violators are fatigued.

If all this seems too much to digest, you can still sign up for two additional Webinars on the subject, to be held Nov. 28 at 11:30 EST and Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. EST, by visiting

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