Why the FMCSA is Running on Empty with CSA Data

Hear from Steve Bryan, SambaSafety’s Vice President and General Manager, Transportation, as he provides his thoughts around why the FMCSA is running on empty with CSA data.

Every blog, in my opinion, should start with some reference to Bruce Springsteen. The best I can do on this one is reference Springsteen’s part in the 2004 induction of Jackson Browne to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where Browne performed his 1977 hit “Running on Empty.” Nice speech, Bruce.

Learn more from Steve Bryan, Vice President and General Manager, Transportation, as he explains further why the FMCSA is running on empty with CSA data.

Roadside Inspections are the primary source of data that informs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) on motor carrier safety. It will come as no surprise that the number of Roadside Inspections has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the priority is placed on moving essential goods across the nation.

Why CSA data is important

I thought it might be interesting to start tracking some of the data around the reduction in inspection activity and it is dramatic. Reduced inspection activity alone might just sound like a recess for some carriers, but it brings longer-term implications and more now than ever.

All motor carriers, insurers, freight brokers, shippers and law enforcement may want to consider how the depletion of data makes evaluating safety even more challenging than it already is. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) has always had a storytelling aspect to it. The data helps you tell your safety story and for understandable reasons, the data is running low.

What tracking tells us

The number of active inspectors drives the number of Inspections, violations and CSA points that are available system-wide to generate monthly updates to the CSA Score tally. The week of March 1, 2020 saw 6,266 active enforcement officers performing roadside inspections. That’s about half of all Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) trained officers active each week and the typical number active in normal times.

The week of April 5, 2020 saw only 881 Inspectors, an 86 percent drop from the previous month. We understand why there was such a big drop. In fact, big kudos to law enforcement for their focus on building confidence in the supply chain and helping to keep it running. Nonetheless, the impact on safety data collection is startling.

Those active officers performed 95 percent fewer inspections, resulting in 95 percent fewer violations and a little more than 95 percent fewer CSA points entered in the 24-month CSA scoring pipeline.

NOTE: CSA points in this study are measured as raw point values, no out of service multipliers or time weights.

CHART ONE: Roadside Inspection Activity 2016 – April 5, 2020

The CSA data isn’t replenishing itself

To return to Jackson Browne, we’re starting to run on empty. If you imagine the 24-month-long pipeline of data that is relevant for CSA Carrier Scores, we just saw a month pass where virtually no new data (fuel) entered the pipe. CSA does not have a reservoir of data to draw from, no fuel tank. Instead, the CSA only has fuel in the lines, and 1/24th of that just leaked out as 25-month-old fuel. Somebody call The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

CHART TWO: CSA Points by Week 2016 – April 5, 2020

NOTE: Total 24- month CSA Points started dropping from what had been a pretty consistent level historically in Dec, 2018, long before COVID-19. Can anyone say electronic logging device mandate? Guess that’s a different blog.

Even though 2020 seems to be the year of the trucker, how are we going to get more of that figurative data fuel in the CSA tank to ensure they are remaining safe? After all, now more than ever it is important for all drivers to focus on the risk they can control.

Stay tuned for our next blog, which will speak to the unpredictability of this time, the data SambaSafety can dive into, the impact on CSA Scores (if any) and my two cents on how to stay safe and accountable.