The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can only audit about 2 percent of the nation’s truck fleets due to its finite resources, which, by default, means it focuses on high-risk fleets. The Compliance, Safety & Accountability (CSA) program was developed to allow FMCSA and its state partners to contact more fleets and drivers, to use improved data to identify high-risk fleets and drivers, and apply a wider range of interventions to correct high-risk behavior. While admirable in its intent, CSA has created a huge impact on fleet management, since it applies to all trucks that operate interstate and require a US DOT number. All vehicles that operate interstate with a 10,001-lb. combined GVWR or greater are covered by CSA.
To date, FMCSA has used a small number of its existing staff, combined with contractors, to implement CSA, but obligations for CSA have increased, and the agency is requesting significantly more resources for future implementation efforts. Much of FMCSA’s early obligations used for CSA development were covered by existing budgetary resources. However, CSA budgetary obligations have been growing from $2.3 million in fiscal year 2007 to $14.3 million for fiscal year 2011.
CSA Creates a Sea Change in Fleet Management
For fiscal year 2012, FMCSA requested significantly more budgetary and staffing resources to fully implement CSA. Specifically, FMCSA is now requesting $78 million (a 445% increase) and 98 new full-time positions (a 14% increase) to its existing 696 full-time field staff for fiscal year 2012 to fully implement and integrate CSA into FMCSA’s operations. FMCSA’s fiscal year 2012 budget request also includes $261.8 million for a new CSA grant program to fund activities states and local law enforcement currently perform, such as roadside inspections, interventions, compliance reviews, and targeted enforcement and inspections.
“Currently, more than 3 million roadside inspections are conducted across the U.S. each year, and the data collected from these roadside inspections directly affect driver and company CSA scores,” said Tim Delaney, acquisition and licensing services manager for ARI. “With this push by the FMCSA to fully implement CSA, fleet managers should revisit their safety policies to ensure their fleet is in compliance.”
However, Pam Sederholm, executive director of the American Automotive Leasing Association, predicts that because of the volatile political environment in Washington and the upcoming presidential election, "we most likely won’t see funding increases until after the first of the year, and, possibly, not until March 2013, when the political season is over.”
First, and foremost, CSA is an enforcement system, which tracks, measures, evaluates, and intervenes with covered truck fleets. Although CSA does not create any new driver/vehicle regulations or recordkeeping requirements, it does create a monumental sea change in how truck fleets manage drivers and their fleet operations to remain DOT-compliant. Under CSA, there will be many more intervention options available to enforcement personnel. For instance, CSA measures safety performance and compliance, determines safety fitness, recommends and applies interventions, and tracks and evaluates safety improvements for covered fleets. A company’s safety performance will be measured through data uploaded from fleet compliance activities and accident reports. Under CSA, all safety-related data from roadside inspections will be used to identify problem fleets, which will result in more enforcement. FMCSA personnel and agents can intervene by telephone and ask for more information for a specific area, such as logs or drug testing, in addition to onsite visits. The intent of CSA is to identify deficiencies before they turn into problems.
Fleets Anticipate More Intensive Enforcement
As governmental budgets at both the state and local levels have become more constrained, there has been a parallel increase in the issuance of vehicle-related citations and traffic tickets. “DOT enforcement is definitely increasing, as are roadside inspections,” said Mike Butsch, global fleet manager for Joy Global. In many states, the number of tickets for faulty equipment violations has increased. Another trend is that police officers are giving fewer warnings than in the past and are increasingly citing drivers for minor infractions, primarily equipment violations.
From a fleet perspective, the increased volume of citations will impact a fleet’s DOT rating, which, under CSA, can have more dramatic repercussions beyond the higher frequency of tickets and the increased expense from fines. Once CSA is fully implemented, FMCSA expects enforcement and interventions to increase. Fleet managers and drivers need to prepare themselves for this eventually. In my mind, the most persuasive reason as to why this will occur is that the dramatic increase in the CSA budget and increased staffing portends it.
Let me know what you think.