Aug 1, 2012 12:00 PM, By Rick Weber
Flatbed bias replaced by Hazmat BASIC, but the change creates new unfair bias against large carriers not specializing in hazmat
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) proposed 3.0 methodology changes to Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) are “ill-conceived” because they create a new unfair bias against large carriers who do not specialize in hazmat, according to Steve Bryan of Vigillo LLC.
“There are a number of very large, very high-mileage van-type operators out there who carry some hazmat,” he said during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Safety & Security Council Seminar held June 5-7 in New Orleans, Louisiana. “But there is so little data, so anything you have at all shoots scores through roof. This has created a new unfair bias against the large, over-the-road, for-hire package haulers who occasionally have a hazmat package. They were some of safest operators before this.”
In “CSA by the Numbers,” Vigillo said that he started researching the issue after FMCSA announced in January that hazmat would be replacing cargo as one of the Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). When FMCSA released its preview in March, he started his analysis to answer some questions.
“What will happen to the industry?” he said. “How will CSA be advanced? How will the cause of safety be advanced? I think this is a really horrible idea and needs to be re-thought. In my opinion, it goes in the wrong direction. We are undoing safety and we are undoing CSA.”
He said that in 2004 during the Bush Administration, FMCSA “started tinkering and tooling up this new thing called CSA” and attached a mission statement with its 2.2 version: “The goal of CSA is to implement more effective and efficient ways for FMCSA, its state partners, and the trucking industry to reduce commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes, fatalities, and injuries.”
The CSA 3.0 goal statement: “With Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), together with state partners and industry, is working to further reduce commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes, fatalities, and injuries on our nation's highways.”
That changed in May when FMCSA published a five-year strategic plan: “Reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving CMV transportation through education, innovation, regulation, enforcement, financial assistance, partnerships, and full accountability.”
The big issue in 3.0 is that non-hazmat cargo violations move to vehicle maintenance.
“Right off the bat, you go, ‘What's maintenance have to do with cargo just from a functional, operational, organizational perspective?’” he said. “It's nonsensical.
“115 new hazmat violations were added, plus three new ones to maintenance. They have existed in the regulations, but weren't a part of CSA. CSA has never been about all violations. There are thousands of potential violations not a part of CSA. They've gone out and said, ‘When we took cargo violations out, we were left with very few hazmat violations. Let's go find some more.’ By a simple stroke of the pen, they have included them. There is very, very, very little data on new hazmat violations, and there is zero — absolutely no — work done on those 115 new violations as to whether they are predictive of future crashes, fatalities, and injuries. Years of work were done in advance of CSA to try to tie in violation to those outcomes. Zero work has been done on these new hazmat violations.
“Eleven violations were removed — six maintenance, five cargo. They were almost never used, so they removed them. The total CSA violation count moves from 695 to 802. That's a 15% increase in the raw number of violations. So we have a statistical system designed to reduce crashes, fatigue, and injuries, and it was just bloated by 15% with new data that none of us have any idea of how it relates.
“Why would the agency be doing this? There must be a driving force. Here's the reason: There has been a very clear unfair bias against the flatbed/open deck segment. The issue is that everybody understands the load is exposed, visible to enforcement, and scary-looking sometimes, and law enforcement tends to write a lot of violations. That's the problem they were trying to fix.”
2.2 versus 3.0
Vigillo identified 24,000 flatbed carriers with 183 different types of cargo, then ran an analysis on their scores versus the rest of the non-flatbed industry.
“They performed significantly better in CSA than the rest of the industry in unsafe, fitness, maintenance, substance, and fatigue, but when you get to cargo, they are significantly poorer,” he said. “How do you fix it? You eliminate it. The cargo BASIC no longer exists, so therefore the flatbed unfair bias disappears. They were very successful at that. We should always be working toward fairness.”
He said that in CSA's 2.2 methodology, the entire nation was far more focused on the maintenance BASIC than any other. There were far more violations written in vehicle maintenance than in fatigued driving, unsafe driving, improper loading/cargo securement, driver fitness, and controlled substances/alcohol.
In the vehicle maintenance BASIC, the average severity weight for maintenance violations today is 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.
“There's nothing too out of whack there,” he said. “But look at what they are. Ten out of 10 are safety-related: tread depth, failure to secure brake hose, stop lamp violations, inoperative required lamps, rotochamber-type brakes out of adjustment, no/defective lighting devices, inoperative turn signals, inspection/repair and maintenance of parts and accessories, oil and/or grease leak, no/unsecure/discharged fire extinguisher.”
In the 2.2 cargo BASIC, the severity weights went up a little bit. Seven of 10 are safety-related: shipping papers, placards, etc.
“The rest of the seven are with things that really aren't tied down well: load securement and shifting cargo,” he said. “Those are things that probably shouldn't happen. You could hurt somebody with these.”
He said that when FMCSA took hundreds of cargo violations and put them into vehicle maintenance, it did not change the top 10 at all. The top cargo violation does not appear in maintenance until #41: leaking/spilling/blowing/falling cargo.
“Now how many of us are going to focus on position number 41? I'm not,” he said. “We just don't worry about what's that far off the radar.
“I thought in March: “What's the
one lever they can pull? The severity weights. They're going to pump up severity weights on all these cargo violations to try to give them presence.”
“Well, 100% of them were reweighted down.
“People ask, ‘Why did they do it?’ I have no idea. Other than just, ‘We're not going to remove the unfair bias from the flatbed segment. We're going to put a bullet in its head and get rid of it forever.’
“You ask yourself, ‘What do we get for that? In the interest of safety, we must have gotten something pretty spiffy in return in order for all of us interested in safety and reducing crashes, fatalities, and injuries.’ Here's the hazmat BASIC we get in return: an average severity weight of 5.1. Exactly one of these 10 is safety-related. This is why this is such a bad idea. It's ill-conceived. It's taken us backwards. The focus in the new hazmat BASIC: If I were going to trade insecure six-ton rolls of steel that fall off and injure and kill people versus placards not reading horizontally, I want the securement back. I want law enforcement focused on that.
“What was this called until the moment before it went live? Comprehensive Safety Analysis. They renamed it because the agency's attorneys got twitchy with the word comprehensive. It's not about compliance. It's about safety. That's what it's designed to do. But this makes it worse.”
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