NEWS & REPORTS

Because I Said So

May 9, 2014 | Articles

Lord knows I heard this a million times from mom and dad when I was growing up. Being the mischievous child that I was, it was well justified. But one thing I can always remember wanting was a real reason. It wasn’t even that I ultimately disagreed with my parents that I shouldn’t be doing whatever it was they asked me not to, but I wanted to know why. “Because I said so” just didn’t seem to cut it for me.

Now, as a parent of a three year old and four year old boy, I catch myself saying this to them often. They are still very young, so when I say “because I said so”, if often works. And when it doesn’t, they just keep asking why because that’s what a three and four year old do I guess. I like to think that when they are a little older and I instruct them to do something and they question why, hopefully I will be able to give them substantive reasons (but probably not because it is a rite of passage after all to be able to say “because I said so”).

But in the world of trucking, trucking companies, and our drivers, we are all adults and “because I said so” just doesn’t fly. Sure, it’s still used often because that is the nature of the employment relationship at times, but we should strive to offer drivers something more, something substantive to back up the requests we make of them. We should particularly strive to offer drivers something substantive as to why CSA scores matter to the company and to the driver, and why drivers should always be seeking to improve their behaviors to avoid roadside violations. Sure, “because I said so” is a valid reason when the company is the one paying the drivers and experiencing the consequences of CSA violations, but offering something more can have a positive impact on company safety.
Next week I will discuss some of the issues with CSA scores and how to exclude their admission in lawsuits. But for the moment, CSA scores are out there, available, and the FMCSA ain’t budging! So what can we do to improve CSA scores in hopes that their admission is a non-event on the day of reckoning? We can train our drivers to know what is at stake.

So what should your drivers know:
• When CSA was originally implemented, it was feared that there would be a mass layoff of drivers due to the occurrence of roadside violations affecting CSA scores. However, a 2011 survey by ATRI revealed that the impact on driver hiring has been far greater than the impact on driver firing. Less than 5% of the surveyed carriers reported terminating drivers as a result of CSA scores. However, almost 75% of the surveyed carriers reported stricter hiring standards due to the increased scrutiny, such as the use of the Pre-Employment Screening Program. Drivers should be made aware that their performance could ultimately lead to their dismissal from a company, but more importantly, that it may drastically affect their ability to gain employment in the first place if their performance is poor.

• According to Transport Topics, liability insurance is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain and afford due to CSA. For carriers that are doing “ok” on their loss history and one or less CSA alert, they are still seeing increases of 5% on premiums. However, for those not doing “ok” and with two or more CSA alerts, premium increases of 15-20% are incurred. And what this means for companies is it becomes increasingly harder to hire drivers with a loss history because of increased insurance premiums. Insurance underwriters look at how a company is managing risk and the results of the company, which ultimately means they are looking at CSA scores.

• Speaking of dismissal, a 2012 survey by Transport Capital Partners found that 63% of carriers changed how sub-performing driving is monitored in order to comply with CSA enforcement. Most carriers have driver handbooks, and most handbooks have procedures in place for dealing with driver performance issues. It is important for the company to follow their policies and enforce performance discipline strictly and consistently. And it is of greater importance that drivers know that policy will be strictly enforced. An unenforced policy is no policy at all.

• Companies may have on-staff CSA managers, or at least operational personnel, that drivers need to be made aware. Drivers should know that they have access to these individuals to discuss driver performance issues and CSA violations. Likewise, CSA managers and operational personnel should check in with drivers often about any questions or concerns that drivers may have about their current performance, and just life in general. A driver’s personal problems, such as trouble at home, financial problems, etc., are a company’s problem. Personal problems cause distraction, and distraction causes accidents and violations. Operational personnel should address driver issues with them, trying to help them, because these same drivers generate a company’s CSA scores.

• CSA ratings and knowledge about them is not just a company problem. It’s a driver issue as well. And training drivers on the “ins and outs” of CSA and how it effects the company is imperative for maintaining and improving company CSA scores. Currently, there is a lack of driver training by carries on the impact of CSA scores, although more and more training courses are becoming available. What is interesting though is that increased training is not translating into better knowledge by drivers. Training upon hiring is required; but on-going training is imperative to create a safety culture within a company. One of the best ways to act on this is to stay on top of hiring, training and monitoring of driver’s performance and have a structured program in place that involves the drivers and informs them of the importance of CSA and how it works. If everyone within the company understands the importance of CSA scores, from the top down to the bottom, safety will follow. When everyone within the company is on board, particularly those in safety and those in operations, you avoid the conflicting goals that drivers can’t process.

• In the age of CSA, shippers and brokers are looking more and more at CSA scores when selecting a carrier. Drivers should be aware that what happens with them on the road effects the business that comes in to the company. Negative effects steer business away. And when business steers away, company financials suffer and people, i.e. drivers, find themselves without a job. In today’s current trucking economy, profit margins are fine as frog hair, and CSA violations should not be your tipping point between profit and loss.

• Driver education on CSA scores becomes even more important when you consider the planned implementation of a Driver Fitness ratings system being pushed by FMCSA. While the program is a long way off, 9 years according to the FMCSA, it has been sent to Congress and seems to be gaining traction. If implemented, like the current CSA system, individual drivers would be rated and those at the highest risk for safety issues would be targeted for enforcement.

Whatever the method you choose based on your resources, the important point is to inform and train your drivers on CSA so they understand why it matters to you.

M. Garner Berry
Markow Walker, P.A.
599 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 100
Ridgeland, MS 39157
(W) 601-853-1911
(C) 601-316-6510
(F) 601-853-8284
gberry@markowwalker.com

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