It’s been almost two years since the government’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program harnessed the power of big data to make the nation’s highways safer by collecting and sharing vast amounts of data on the trucks and truckers who carry 70% of all goods bought and sold in the U.S. The CSA affected over 200,000 trucking companies, and changed the way data was managed at every one of them, from single-truck independent operations to large enterprises with tens of thousands of drivers.
The CSA is a complex set of regulations that affect shippers as well as carriers. For the first time, shippers have access to a constant flow of big data, much of it structured in a way that didn’t fit into the logistics systems that shippers were using to manage their relationships with carriers before CSA. Although the rules weren’t intended as such, they’ve created a mini-hiring boom in transportation IT, resulting in a shortage of experienced transportation IT professionals in some parts of the country.
The goal of the law was simple: to weed out as many as 5 percent—or 150,000—of the nation’s 3 million or so long-haul truck drivers that the feds believed were involved in a high number of truck accidents and fatalities. The system is based on a complex system of scores that rate over 700,000 DOT-registered interstate trucking entities on seven “Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories,” known as “BASICs.”
The seven BASICs are:
- Fatigued Driving
- Driver Fitness
- Alcohol and Drugs
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Cargo Security (HM Compliance)
- Crash History
Carriers are given “scores” in each category—higher the score, worse the performance. So-called “warning letters” go out to companies with scores above 65 (which mean that only 35 percent of carriers in their class have worse scores). For companies that carry hazardous materials (hazmat carriers), the cutoff score is 60.
When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) unveiled the CSA in 2010, some carriers – especially smaller carriers – expected it to cause significant problems. At the time, Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said that while the association supported the program’s objectives and potential to help safe, responsible carriers distinguish themselves from those who don’t emphasize safety, “We have genuine concerns with the program’s methodology, the means by which scores are developed, and perhaps the erroneous use of the scores in some areas.”
Transportation carriers had a year after the standards were unveiled to get ready, and the system went into effect nationwide in 2011. Since then, both shippers and carriers have seen significant changes in their IT strategies that have helped them manage the flow of data quickly and efficiently so that they can make better, faster decisions.
IT changes we’ve seen at InfoVision clients in the transportation industry include investment in robust data management and reporting tools, better data security, and a range of mobile initiatives. One of the biggest shifts has to refocus investment and reporting to include data gathered from CSA checks with the logistics planning systems that most carriers already had in place. Before CSA, many carriers used IT to monitor and control costs. Now, IT departments are charged with more compliance-related tasks.
The transportation industry has come to terms with CSA, adopting IT processes and procedures that help local, regional, and corporate management take action quickly to manage driver and vehicle compliance. But some issues remain, notably in how FMCSA handles updates to the reports on driver and carrier scores. For example, a driver or carrier’s score is affected when a violation is alleged – and some carriers believe that FMCSA makes it hard to get the violation removed if a court finds the driver or carrier innocent of the charges.
If you’re a shipper or carrier struggling with CSA and the demands that it places on your IT department and network infrastructure, talk to one of the transportation industry experts at InfoVision. When it comes to CSA compliance, you need IT staffing, enterprise applications, or mobile app development expertise that is rooted in your industry – a specialist, not a generalist – to maximize the results you get from your investment.