The CSA Controversy

10/31/2012

The CSA Controversy

As the old saying goes: everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks their opinion is right. This could not be truer when CSA is the topic of discussion.  Brokers, owner-operators, and shippers all have a different view. This wide range in opinion has made this topic a national headline across the country, and it has even made its way to Congress.

First up, what is CSA? Compliance, Safety, Accountability is the “pro-active initiative to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s enforcement and compliance program to achieve the Agency’s mission to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries,” according to the US Department of Transportation.

How does it impact the transportation industry? The FMCSA created 7 ever-changing categories in which they felt placing guidelines would provide a higher standard for safety.  The seven current categories are:

1. Unsafe driving
Data contained under this topic would include traffic violations and dangerous or careless operation of any commercial vehicle.

2. Fatigued driving
Instances that would be found under this heading would be hours of service violations or accident reports.

3. Driver fitness
This includes Information such as if the driver had the training to drive a commercial vehicle or the proper licensing. Any accidents caused by medical conditions would also be found under this topic.

4. Controlled substances
Here, they take note of violations that involve any controlled substance, like positive drug or alcohol test results. In addition, the lack of testing for substance abuse will also appear here.

5. Vehicle maintenance
Violations for mechanical impairments or accidents caused by mechanical failures will show here.

6. Cargo related
Items related to the security of the freight would be found here, such as shifting and proper handling of hazardous materials.

7. Crash indicator
Records of accidents, including details, would be found under this heading.

The reasons for these differences in opinion lie below the surface of these seven categories. For an owner-operator who receives a “safety evaluation” and receives a poor report, thus placing them in the higher percentile for the category, that higher percentile could leave them unemployed. Yet the shipper who chooses not to use this carrier is pleased that their company reduced risk by not using an “unsafe” carrier.

So while there are many benefits to these CSA guidelines, such as carrier accountability and lower risk, it still makes for the perfect storm of opinion for all parties involved. It’s important to educate yourself about CSA and come to your own conclusions. There are plenty of resources to pull from when trying to paint the full picture. First stop, the FMCSA website: www.fmcsa.dot.gov.