A few weeks ago, I submitted a blog on ways to defend when CSA ratings are used against a trucking company. The post here and on Linked in created a volume of opinions. I share a few of those here:
Tom Nitza •CSA information is out there for all the world to see, even plaintiff’s attorneys. CSA information doesn’t prove or disprove anything, but it certainly can be used as part of a legal argument, for either side.
The only way to prevent this would be for FMCSA to make the information available only to motor carriers and enforcement personnel and take it out of the public domain. At this point that doesn’t seem likely.
In reality a motor carrier can’t manage their CSA score, only the data that’s used to generate it. In the broader scope of things, managing the outcome of roadside inspections is part of an overall safety plan. Motor carriers that have a strong program designed to seek out the root causes of problems and eliminate them will fair better in the long run than those who don’t. I think all motor carriers would be well advised to stop worrying about their scores and concentrate on the statistics gathered at roadside inspections. If I was getting on a plane and that airline was complaining that they were inspected more than others I would be concerned that they wanted less inspections — I want a safe airplane. Michael’s right: if your equipment and drivers are in compliance then an inspection has no negative consequence. Only the motor carrier can manage the root cause: violations of the regulations.
Thomas Holloway •As someone mentioned, CSA scores are used by several sources to determine the level of risk of a carrier and are used by shippers as well. But there is another aspect that was barely addressed here which costs companies millions annually.
The lack of a score or a “Rating” from a CR are also used. Shippers fail to understand that if a company does not have a rating, it simply means they have yet to have had a CR conducted on them and if they have good scores and never have a bad accident they may never have one. That being said some companies will go years before being inspected or may never have a rating. Many shippers out there will turn down a company without a rating costing them hard to come by loads and contracts. Since shippers have a lack of understanding of how the system works, in effect the FMCSA has created a Damned if you do–Damned if you don’t system within the industry where you are only rated if a CR is conducted on you when your scores are low requiring a CR to be conducted!
Passenger carriers, and those that transport HM requiring a permit are the only “Mandatory” carriers to receive a CR. Common freight carriers are not inspected until something goes wrong!!
Miki Jackson • This game of statistics is just that. Our CSA scores go flying into the stratosphere and we are just supposed to sit back and let insurance companies gouge us for a ranking. All they see is the ranking not the actual performance.
CSA has several faults that I see.
One thing that helps is how drivers see CSA. One driver told me he took four warnings over a single ticket when asked how he wanted to “do this”. I was floored. Drivers need to know and understand that these warnings affect them and the company the same as any citation.
Matt Planeta •Because it is public, I don’t know that you can prevent the CSA data from being used all together but you can mitigate the affect it has by having and following your own policies & procedures, being proactive in addressing your violations with meaningful action, providing proper training on an on-going basis, and documenting everything that you are doing to improve the safety of your company.
In my opinion, the more you can educate people in a liability claim situation as to what an SMS score really means, what violations are driving that score, and how the score is calculated before a plaintiff attorney can “spin” the numbers into something that they are not, the better off you are. FMCSA itself has a disclaimer at the bottom of the SMS Home page stating “Readers should not draw conclusions about a carrier’s overall safety condition simply based on the data displayed in this system” that can be referenced.
If you have any recent experiences with the CSA, particularly how it may be misused in litigation, please share how you have effectively defended against the abuse. Otherwise, if there is anything we can do for you in North Louisiana or Northeast Texas, don’t hesitate to call day or night.
Perkins & Associates, LLC