Federal program manager for FMCSA's Texas Division answers questions in the wake of biggest change agency has made
Jun 1, 2011 12:00 PM, By Rick Weber
JEFF Langloss is in a position to fully understand the importance and also the ramifications of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA's) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. His appearance at the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Safety & Security Council Annual Seminar April 5-7 in Austin, Texas, was designed to clear up misconceptions.
Twenty-five years ago, he was an over-the-road truck driver for Werner Enterprises, later hauling bulk cryogenics in tank trailers. When he realized it wasn't his life's desire, he started teaching truck-driving, hazardous materials regulations and procedures, and first-response classes at a community college. He was hired as a safety investigator for the federal government 14 years ago, becoming federal program manager for the FMCSA's Texas Division in 2007.
“I'm here to tell you I like both sides,” he said, “and I do believe we're after the same thing — and that is getting the public what they need in their stores safely without killing people. We're really all on the same side.”
But he understands the consternation some people are feeling about CSA. The sheer magnitude of CSA can be overwhelming.
“CSA, in my opinion, is probably the biggest change this agency has made in its existence to the way we monitor carriers,” he said.
He said CSA identifies unsafe carrier and driver behaviors that lead to crashes, as opposed to out-of-service violations in the old system, and it uses all safety-based roadside inspection violations.
Langloss said it reaches more carriers earlier and more frequently, improving the efficiency of investigations by focusing on specific unsafe behaviors, identifying root causes, and defining and requiring corrective actions.
“In CSA, the focus is on identifying and then changing unsafe behavior with the Safety Measurement System (SMS) serving as the foundation,” he said.
The SMS measures on-road safety performance of carriers in BASICs. The SMS enables FMCSA and its state partners to identify high-risk carriers and drivers and determine their safety issues more specifically. All safety-based violations found at roadside are taken into account and each violation is assigned a weight based on its relationship to crash risk. The SMS organizes violations by unsafe behaviors (BASICs) that can cause crashes.
“We've never determined driver safety in the past,” he said. “One of the biggest complaints we've heard is, ‘But the data isn't 100% accurate.’ I'm not going to argue that point. I don't think anybody can say any of their data is 100% accurate. But I can say, ‘Wasn't the old system based on data too? And it worked well for years.’ Every system we've had was based on roadside data. It's just the difference between using only out-of-service violations and using them all.”
All information with some exceptions (Crash BASIC) is open to the public. Carriers have access to all of their own data.
With the seven BASICs, the methodology is designed to weigh on-road safety data based on its relationship to crash risk and focuses on behaviors that lead to crash risk. The data is time-weighted over a 24-month time period to reflect current on-road safety performance. If a carrier's performance improves over time, the safety performance score improves. Many hazardous materials regulation violations (171, 172, 173, 177, 178, 180) can be found in BASICs such as driver fitness, but the most concentrated BASIC for these violations are cargo-related, and that is where they are concentrated.
The SMS applies risk-based weightings to violations in order to identify high crash-risk carriers demonstrating patterns of unsafe behavior roadside; matches poor safety performance with appropriate level of intervention; uses all safety-based roadside data, allowing more carriers with unsafe behavior to be identified for intervention; and includes two new safety measurement systems — one for carriers (CSMS) and one for individual truck drivers (DSMS).
Included in the BASIC measurements are serious violation findings from investigations. Serious violations generally consist of: noncompliance that's so severe that immediate corrective action is necessary (directly related to carrier's management and/or operational controls); and serious violations found from prior investigations are factored into BASIC measurements. Each BASIC is considered to be in an alert status and is displayed on a carrier's record for 12 months. Deficient percentile levels trigger carrier compliance reviews, warning letters, and roadside inspections.
The Carrier Measurement System provides internal tools, including enhanced information on individual drivers, to investigators to more effectively and efficiently conduct carrier investigations. Tools allow for targeted sampling using enhanced driver information and can lead to follow-ups on serious violations.
“Under CSA, individual drivers will not be assigned safety ratings or safety fitness determinations,” Langloss said. “The agency has given consideration to individual driver ratings, but this would happen sometime in the future, not as a part of the current CSA implementation. In order for the agency to begin rating drivers, FMCSA will need new authorities granted through legislative action.”
How is carrier SMS different from SafeStat? He provided an example based on real data from a carrier whose information was blacked out.
In SafeStat, the carrier is flying under the radar with no Safety Evaluation Area (SEA) values above 75. The carrier does not have a safety rating, as there has not been a compliance review. However, the carrier has very different results when measured using current on-road safety performance data provided by the SMS: The carrier has a serious safety alert related to driver fitness, and its rating is worse than 95% of the carriers evaluated in this BASIC in this peer group.
“From a carrier's perspective, as well as the public's perspective, identifying this safety problem early and putting actions in place to fix it before a crash occurs, increases safety for everyone,” he said, “and in the long run saves the carrier money, the government time, and most important, saves lives. Such specific safety alerts may not warrant a full compliance review (CR), but may indicate the need for a focused review which in turn can save carriers time while allowing the agency to effectively correct the specific safety problem.
“The SMS website allows us to drill down to see further details related to this high driver fitness BASIC. It is clear that various drivers are having the same medical certificate issues and these reports are coming in on multiple drivers from multiple states; the problem is not limited to one problem driver and indicates a process breakdown that the carrier is now in a position to fix.
“Only information on inspection reports gets to FMCSA. An inspection has to take place. For example, if a driver receives a speeding ticket but no inspection is performed, that will not show up in the measurement system.”
He said the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) was mandated by Congress and is not a part of CSA. “Driver Profiles” from FMCSA's Driver Information Resource (DIR) are available to carriers through PSP. Driver Profiles will only be released with driver authorization.
He said FMCSA has been working with states on complete reporting of large truck and bus crash and inspection data. Over the past several years, FMCSA developed a comprehensive data quality program and implemented several programs to evaluate and monitor data that are reported, improve data, and correct errors in the data.
The DataQs system is an electronic means for filing concerns about federal and state data. Through this system, data concerns are automatically forwarded to the appropriate office for resolution. The system also allows filers to monitor the status of each filing.
A larger number of carriers nationwide are now getting CSA warning letters.
“This is likely to be some carriers' first contact with FMCSA enforcement,” he said. “It is a strong warning that the carrier is now on FMCSA's radar and must improve its safety practices and results to get off of the radar. If a carrier continues with poor performance, it will be identified for an investigation.
“Offsite investigations are used when a carrier passes the threshold of certain BASICs but an onsite intervention is not yet dictated. This intervention allows carriers and Sis to work together over the phone and computer to conduct the investigation and provide results. If a carrier doesn't improve with this intervention, it will be identified for a focused or comprehensive onsite investigation.
“Onsite focused investigations occur at a carrier's place of business and are focused on specific problems. Onsite comprehensive investigations are most similar to CRs. Cooperative Safety Plans are voluntary and may be used in conjunction with a Notice of Violation (NOV). They are never used in lieu of a Notice of Claim (NOC). If an NOC is required, it is given. NOVs are not an intervention and are the only follow-up action that compels a carrier to do a corrective plan. NOCs and Operation Out-of-Service Orders (OOSs) are the same as previous NOCs and OOSs.”
Per statutory language, a safety rating can only be issued to a carrier following a compliance review; and a compliance review is defined as an onsite investigation of a carrier. Therefore, a rating can only be issued during an investigation that occurs at the carrier's place of business.
“Because the onsite focused review only looks at a few areas of a carrier's regulatory compliance, only a conditional or unsatisfactory rating may be applied based on findings,” he said. “The agency cannot provide a satisfactory rating since it will not have reviewed all areas. A carrier may submit an administrative request for upgrade and provide evidence of corrective action.”
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