Help Your Trucking Clients Improve Their Safety Scores

In December 2015, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) to address issues with the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed in 2010.

Do you know what the new legislation means for your trucking clients?

CSA History

In 1996, the FMCSA replaced the Interstate Commerce Commission as the new government agency to oversee more than 550,000 motor carriers that make up the motor carrier industry. The FMCSA shifted the focus of oversight from granting authority to conduct trucking commerce to addressing safety concerns on behalf of the general public.

In early 2000, the FMCSA began developing a program to determine which motor carriers needed overall safety improvement. It went on to address the possibility of a trucking operation that was unable to improve, investigating how the Department of Transportation (DOT) could go about removing unsafe trucking operations from the nation’s highways. The resulting CSA program rolled out on a nationwide basis in December 2010. 

The original goal of the CSA program was to improve motor carriers’ safety records. If the scores—updated and publicized monthly—exceeded the CSA’s established threshold, the trucking company received a warning letter informing them that if they didn’t improve, their trucking operations would be shut down.

As a result, the inspection results of the on-road DOT became an important part of a formula detailing a motor carrier’s average severity scores in each of the established behavioral analysis and safety improvement categories, also known as the five BASICs. In other words, the on-road behavior of a driver and their truck became subject to scrutiny to determine the degree of severity from a list of 600 violations. The scores then entered various categories for measurement and comparison in order to assist in reducing traffic accidents.

Since its inception in 2010, the CSA has been one of the three top concerns of motor carriers, according to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute. Why? In an industry that moves 70% of the freight tonnage in the U.S. and pays more than $33 billion in federal taxes each year, shippers started using the new CSA scores to determine which trucking companies were the safest to hire.

Soon thereafter, trucking insurance underwriters joined the shippers. They too came to rely on the information to determine which motor carriers they would insure and the terms of coverage they would provide. This was particularly true on applications for smaller motor carriers—and since 90% of motor carriers registered with the DOT have fewer than 20 power units, the impact was widespread.

FAST Fix

The CSA system was never intended to be a measurement of safety rating or a crash predictor. Instead, it was intended to improve general motor carrier safety and monitor them for intervention before they sustained a major accident. However, in five years of CSA scores, motor carriers that received the warning letter inevitably found it more difficult to obtain insurance—and were sometimes unable to secure coverage at all, forced to turn to the residual market instead.

Ultimately, Congress determined that making the information available for public consumption did more harm to motor carriers than good. The FAST Act required FMCSA to remove all CSA scores from its website, as well as information about how individual motor carrier scores compare to others in the trucking industry.

But the FAST Act does allow FMCSA to publish other information concerning motor carriers and their on-road enforcement action and crashes. And most important, insurance providers may still have access to CSA scores.

A limited number of companies have developed software programs and proprietary formulas that replicate the methodology used to predict CSA scores. The reports are available to insurance agents for a reasonable cost—and they can give you another way to deliver added value to your trucking clients by helping you improve their safety scores.

The online service is available to any agent, broker or underwriter interested in purchasing the information and only requires the DOT number. It’s an opportunity for you to help your insured become a better insured, avoid the FMCSA intervention process and lessen the chances of a crash.

For more information, visit the Motor Carrier Insurance Education Foundation (MCIEF), which specializes in helping agents, brokers and insurance carriers build valuable relationships with their trucking clients through education and training. Want to stay ahead of your competition? Sign up to attend free trucking webinars every second Thursday of the month.

Tommy Ruke co-founded the MCIEF in 2013 to provide face-to-face presentations, web-based education and other resources for insurance professionals who work with motor carriers.