As has been anticipated since late spring, the FMCSA has made a number of changes in what violations are scored and how violations are scored. This is the result of listening to drivers, trucking companies, trade organizations and other industry stakeholders. Specifically, these methodology changes by the FMCSA include 31 new violation codes not in the previous methodology, 300 violations removed, 260 weight severity changes, 88 violation description changes and 335 violation code changes.

Some of these changes will make it better for drivers. Some, frankly, will be tougher. In cargo securement, for example, former 1 point violations now carry 5 points. Speeding violations, however, are now tiered based upon the number of miles over the limit, instead of everything being 5 points. Under the new methodology, it is 1 point for 1-5 miles over, 4 points for 6-10 over, 7 points for 11-14 over, 10 points for 15 or more miles over, and 10 points for any speeding in a construction zone. In addition, 18 of the possible 21 intervention thresholds, depending on carrier type, have been modified. It is important to note that any point violation is x3 for the first six months, x2 for the next six months, and x1 for the remainder of the three years it stays on a drivers record. Motor carriers have these points for two years.

These new items just showed up on my Vigillo program the first of the week and I am in the process of digesting all of the changes. My gut feeling, based upon my road surveys, is that the speeding point changes will be beneficial, since most of our drivers tend to run about 2-3 mph under or over the posted speed limit, generally under. It will also require the officer to write the actual speed on the report, so drivers will no longer get burned for 15 points (5×3) on a speeding warning with no speed indicated. That’s the good part.

The bad part is that any speeding in a construction zone could end up being a deal breaker here. Construction zone accidents are a major problem in this country and excessive speed in posted zones is one of the main contributing factors. The new methodology reflects that. Cargo securement changes also appear to be tougher. The bar for flatbed carriers is pretty high. It just got higher.

Next week, the FMCSA will release individual CSA 2010 carrier scores to motor carriers. This is a significant piece of the CSA 2010 puzzle. Using the private Vigillo program, since December I have been able to see where Mercer drivers ranked in relation to each other. We have not been able to apply that to the overall industry picture, however. Once we can do that, it will be clearer as to how many total points a Mercer driver can accumulate before he or she is no longer a Mercer driver. I am currently in the process of revising Mercer’s Safety Policy to reflect that, in addition to our PSP (pre-employment screening) standards for the Recruiting Department.

We can go on and on about this, but I know that a number of our drivers are feeling totally overwhelmed by the whole process. Basically, to survive in Mercer’s fleet remember four things: 1) Tire and brake condition must be legal, including adjustment, at all times; 2) Log legal, no excuses; 3) Don’t speed, ever; 4) Secure the load properly with more than enough securement and protection. No straps with cuts, no missing the extra strap or chain in front, lever binders wired closed. These are the things, as a fleet, we have problems with more than anything else.

If you get those four things right every day, CSA 2010 will not be a problem for you. The laws they are enforcing have always been there. Total, absolute compliance has not. CSA 2010 is designed to shine the spotlight on non-compliant motor carriers and drivers more than ever before. The game has changed.