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CSA and the changing face of truck tire service

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CSA and the changing face of truck tire service

Between April 2001 and December 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a Large Truck Crash Causation Study to determine reasons for serious accidents involving vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. The results showed the majority of the crashes were caused by the driver, but lack of vehicle maintenance was also a significant factor.

Prior to 2010, FMCSA used the SafeStat system to evaluate the safety performance of commercial carriers. SafeStat looked at four Safety Evaluation Areas (SEAs): Safety Management, Vehicle, Driver and Accident. Since SafeStat only considered moving violations, out-of-service violations, compliance review violations and crashes that were reported by the states, FMCSA determined it was not an accurate tool for identifying carriers that were not complying with safety rules. The agency developed a new system that has totally changed how commercial fleets operate

In December 2010, FMCSA rolled out the Compliance Safety Accountability Program, or CSA. It is a different approach to measuring safety performance because it uses the motor carrier’s data from roadside inspections (including safety-based violations), state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census in seven different Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

(See How CSA Works chart here.)

Unsafe Driving — measures the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) through moving violations such as speeding, reckless driving and improper lane changes.

Hours-of-Service (HOS) Compliance — measures the operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued or not in compliance with HOS regulations.

Driver Fitness — measures the operation of CMVs by drivers who do not have the proper training, experience or medical qualifications.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol — measures the operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired and under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Hazardous Materials Compliance — measures the unsafe handling of hazardous materials.

Crash Indicator — measures the information from state-reported crashes to identify frequency and severity of carriers with histories or patterns of high accident rates.

Vehicle Maintenance — measures the maintenance of CMVs and/or the steps to prevent shifting load.

Data from each of the BASICs are used in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to quantify performance based on the number of adverse safety events and the severity of crashes or violations. Then the events are weighted based on time so the most recent events are given more consideration. After the measurement in each BASIC is determined, the carrier is placed in a peer group with other carriers that have a similar number of inspections. All of the carriers in each peer group then are given a score of 0 to 100. It represents the percent of carriers that are either better or worse with 100 being the worst performance. So a carrier with an SMS score of 30 would have 29% of the carriers in that peer group with better performance and 69% would be worse. Likewise, a carrier with an SMS score of 70 would be in the bottom half of the peer group with 69% better and only 29% worse.

In order to ensure that the SMS score shows a historical view of safety performance, each score reflects a snapshot of the previous 24 months of data that is collected. This means that when the new scores are released, all of the violations that occurred two years ago are no longer considered. This gives the carrier and the driver a realistic chance to improve their scores and ensures that one catastrophic event does not result in a poor SMS score in that particular BASIC forever.

Each BASIC also has an Intervention Threshold that indicates a higher risk for crashes. For general carriers, the Intervention Threshold for the Unsafe Driving, HOS Compliance, and Crash Indicator is 65%. The Intervention Threshold for Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Hazardous Materials compliance and Vehicle Maintenance is 80%. Additionally, if one or more violations in a BASIC result in a fatality, the SMS score in that BASIC or BASICs can be identified as over the Intervention Threshold.

Unlike the SafeStat system that only focused on the fleets, CSA also measures the safety performance of the drivers using the same SMS. This means the drivers now have a vested interest in the scores. In the past, when a driver was cited for an equipment violation, the carrier typically paid the fine. Since it wasn’t a moving violation, the driving record was not impacted. Now that drivers have a CSA score just like the carrier, they are motivated to make sure all of the BASICs are covered before operating the vehicle.

The difference between the carrier SMS scores and the driver scores is that the carrier scores are available to the public while the driver’s scores remain private. In order for the driver scores to be viewed, the individual must agree to release them. This plays a pivotal role when drivers look to change carriers. If they refuse to release their SMS scores, it has an effect on whether they will be hired.

Accessibility of the carrier SMS scores creates total transparency on a number of different levels. Perhaps the most important is the effect it has on vehicle enforcement. With an SMS score for each BASIC, officers have a clear road map on what to look for during a roadside inspection. For example, in Table 1, the SMS scores for Fleet A (a large, well-known carrier) in October of 2011 reflected average performance in most of the BASIC categories. Less than a year later, the scores remained relatively unchanged. Fast-forward to early 2014, and some of the scores improved while others appear to be headed in the wrong direction. And when SMS scores were checked in November of 2014, the pattern remains consistent with past performance.

(See Table 1 and Table 2 here.)

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Fleet B is a mid-sized carrier that was found to be over the Intervention Threshold in October of 2011 in the Driver Fitness, Drug/Alcohol and Vehicle Maintenance BASICs. While none of the actual scores were over the 80% level, they likely contributed to an accident that caused a fatality. Approximately 10 months later, the scores were no longer over the Intervention Threshold probably because the accident was outside the 24-month window. But it’s obvious vehicle enforcement officials started targeting the Drug/Alcohol BASIC because the SMS scores have worsened since the first snapshot was taken three years ago.

Fleet C is a smaller, regional carrier that appears to have some problems with the Vehicle Maintenance SMS. They were over the Intervention Threshold at the October 2011 and August 2012 snapshots and the most recent snapshots in 2014 reflect very little, if any, improvement. And while this particular fleet has improved in the areas of Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance and Drug/Alcohol, the remaining BASICs are average at best.

A closer look at the actual maintenance violations for Fleet C shows that the majority of the issues are centered on lights, brakes and tires. And with only three tire-related violations in the top 13, solving the tire problems for this fleet won’t have much of an impact on the Vehicle Maintenance SMS. Carriers are looking for solutions, so the vendor that can address as many of these maintenance issues as possible has the potential to become a true long-time partner. All of this information is available on the CSA website, http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.

By clicking on the “SMS RESULTS” tab, anyone can access the SMS scores for any fleet with a US DOT# or MC#. A name search will reveal the SMS scores for each of the BASICs while a search for the DOT# or MC# includes more detail, like the actual maintenance violations for Fleet C. For the tire dealer who decides to broaden the horizon and enter the vehicle maintenance and repair business, the CSA website is a road map to the pain point for every customer.

John Snider, MTD Tire Dealer of the Year in 2010, was so convinced that CSA has changed the face of truck tire service that he rebranded his entire company. Snider Fleet Solutions (formerly Snider Tire Inc.) is still in the tire business, but the creation of the MechanEx division is taking it to a completely different level. I sat down with Snider earlier this year at the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) trade show to discuss the changes in his booth. Yes, you read that correctly. Snider Fleet Solutions had a 20x20 island booth to market its services. His company provides “solutions” to all of the maintenance problems fleets are facing as a result of the new set of rules that officials are using to inspect commercial motor vehicles.

I also spent some time with the North Carolina Highway Patrol a few years ago to film a CSA video with Michelin that focused on tires. The officers said SMS scores are a road map that tells them exactly where they should and should not look for violations. They get a few minutes with each vehicle during a roadside inspection, so their time is best served by focusing on the areas where history shows the fleet has a problem. I’ve said many times over the past four years that CSA eliminates the hiding places for commercial carriers and based on what I’ve seen and heard, there is no place to hide.

The million dollar question is whether the truck tire industry is going to seize this opportunity to build even stronger relationships with their customers. CSA has changed the game for commercial carriers, and our industry has a custom road map to the pain points for each individual fleet. The violations impacting SMS maintenance scores for Fleet C could be easily fixed by any tire dealer willing to provide employees with some extra training, tools and supplies.

I’m not talking about the type of total maintenance and repair package that MechanEx offers, or maybe I am. But I’m positive that carriers are looking for solutions to their maintenance problems. The companies willing to step outside of the tire “box” and expand into some aspect of vehicle maintenance will be the ones poised for growth and success.

FMCSA’s goal is to reduce the number of large vehicle crashes, and based on its data, CSA has effectively made the highways safer. This means the new rule book is here to stay, and carriers must adapt or be taken off the road. Tire dealers have complained about margins and national account deals for as long as I can remember. The federal government has given the industry the perfect opportunity to become more than just another vendor for tires and retreads.

We already have the network in place with thousands of technicians who need a little extra training to handle most of the maintenance issues driving up the SMS scores for carriers like Fleet C. I’m willing to bet that the problems faced by Fleet C are similar to the ones faced by every fleet.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Making the jump from tire service to tires and vehicle maintenance will not be easy or cheap. But the future of the commercial truck tire industry is staring us in the face, and fleets are begging for solutions to their maintenance problems. I’m not suggesting that everyone rebrand their company. I am suggesting that every truck tire dealer go to the CSA website and look up the maintenance scores and violation history for all of their customers. If that road map doesn’t point to the need for changes, then keep busting those tires and praying it will be enough to survive.   ■

Kevin Rohlwing is the Tire Industry Association’s senior vice president of training.

See more or Kevin Rohlwing's articles here:

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