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Considerations for FMCSA Crash Preventability Program

Considerations for FMCSA Crash Preventability Program

On Wednesday, July 31, 2019 the FMCSA Administrator gave notice¸ that the Pilot Crash Preventability Program begun in July 2017 will be made permanent with modifications. Here is what is being modified:

  1. Process will be streamlined
  2. Non-Preventable Crashes Removed from SMS (CSA Scores)
  3. The eight Categories of acceptable crash submissions will be extended to 15 Categories
  4. A 60-day comment period will be opened upon publication of this proposal in the Federal Register

I encourage all stakeholders to read the 19 page proposal and share your thoughts through the public comment process. Motor carriers, insurers, lawyers, trade associations, and others should all take time to understand this program and its proposed changes and speak up. This is important, folks.

To get you thinking, I will try and summarize the Notice. But please, be thorough, do your homework, read the proposal and form your own opinions before the comment period ends.

What follows is my reading, and my own analysis.


FMCSA reports that between Aug. 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019 (22 months), they received 12,249 submissions through the DataQ’s system, which they call Request For Data Review (RDR’s). Of those requests, 5,619 met the criteria of at least one of the eight acceptable categories. That’s 45.9% of RDR’s that were actually scrutinized, rejecting 54.1% that were not reviewed because they did not fall into one of the pre-defined categories. FMCSA does nothing to summarize the rejected RDR’s. That would have been interesting to know what was there.

I have always believed that the pilot program should have been open to all crashes with the burden on the motor carrier to submit compelling evidence of non-preventability. It would have been a better pilot if we had used all crashes to organize categories, rather than pre-selecting based on opinions. So, we should be clear, a MINORITY of submitted RDR’s were reviewed. (NOTE: FMCSA states that 56% met the criteria. This looks like a small math error as 5619/12,249 does not equal 56%.)

Of the RDR’s reviewed, 69.9% were in the category: Commercial Motor vehicle (CMV) was struck from the rear. A distant second place, at 7.9% was: CMV struck while legally parked. You can see the breakdown of all categories on page 6/7 of the Notice.

Streamlining the Process

During the pilot period, all qualified RDR’s were held for 30 days following determination so that any interested party could submit information in opposition to the determination. FMCSA reports that not a single public comment was submitted during the pilot period. They have, therefore, proposed to streamline the permanent program by removing this public comment component.

SMS will reflect Determinations

The Notice states that the Safety Measurement System (SMS) website will be updated when non-preventable crashes are determined. To translate, this means official CSA Scores will now reflect the removal of non-preventable crashes for both Motor Carrier and Driver.

Eight plus eight become 15

The category shifts are the meat of the Notice. There are some interesting proposals in here. Some are positive, some less so, some need further clarity, and some are just downright mysteries. I still wonder why we need to pre-categorize at all.

On page five of the Notice, FMCSA lists the eight acceptable categories from the pilot program. My table below aligns pilot to permanent for ease of comparison. The order does not represent any priority or number of RDR’s in that category. There is nothing alphabetical about the categories and they don’t seem to have astrological significance.

Modifications to Pilot Categories

Thoughts, Concerns, and Questions

  • They determined a partial crossover “going wrong direction” is acceptable, but nothing bad ever happens on partial crossovers, right?
  • “No rear sideswipes” (see New category 8/9) technically makes sense as one cannot rear end and sideswipe at the same time.
  • Why is there a new category for “stopped in traffic”?
  • Suicide intent? How does a MC document suicidal intent?
  • Animal swerves no longer qualify. Still, why is Disabling dropped?
  • Infrastructure/Cargo drops reference to falling trees/rocks. Is this all considered debris?

Then there are the new categories to consider:

More Thoughts, Concerns and Questions

  • 5:00 – 7:00? This seems like artificial precision that rarely exists or is determinable at the scene.#8 and #9 taken together:
    • #8 CMV at 1MPH in traffic can only submit if side impact is between 5:00 and 7:00.
    • #9 The instant the CMV reaches 0MPH, all side impacts count.
  • If OV is making a Legal U-turn and CMV operates illegally – say runs a light – why would OV making a legal U-turn automatically qualify?
  • Medical issue: Submitter not only has the burden of knowing the intent of a suicidal person but must also be able to determine the health issues of OV Driver. As soon as we’re done talking to PETA, we better get the HIPPA folks on the line, we’re going to need to see those medical records.
  • The Driver admits to fatigue or distraction is a presumptuous expectation. “Yes officer, I’ve been on the phone and texting the last hour and it made me sleepy. I’m so sorry,” said no one…ever.
  • Under the influence? Presumably this is an intoxicated person – perhaps in a vehicle, perhaps just stumbling down the road – but manages to cause the crash or steps into traffic? OV and CMV crash; all kinds of chaos ensue; law enforcement is summoned; drivers exchange information, give assistance, and perhaps things get heated. When the cops arrive, what are the chances that intoxicated person is still around?
  • OV wrong direction: So, OV2 is traveling in front of CMV. OV1 crosses head-on into the wrong lane, but not completely. OV2 reacts and swerves to save his young family causing CMV to run off the road. Not qualified because OV1 did not completely enter the wrong way lane. Sir, you should not have swerved!

My overall feedback comes down to three areas of concern:

Why do we need to pre-define categories?

We don’t need pre-invented categories or to show the data on all the rejected crashes and explain why they could not be reviewed, and why the data supports these category definitions. Use the trained reviewers burdened with the submitting motor carrier to show enough evidence using the PAR’s and other data, technology, video, telematics, AV Tech, witnesses, etc. There are as many fact patterns to crashes as there are crashes. Let’s determine which are preventable and which are not.

Assume we go forward with Categories.

A significant amount of clarity is needed in many of these categories. For instance:

  • Are falling trees and rocks still qualified? They’re no longer specifically called out. Can we assume all details of pilot categories carry forward unless specifically removed?
  • 5:00 to 7:00 sideswipes, but only if moving. How did they support this?
  • Proof of suicidal intent? Almost impossible to see how the motor carrier gets this information.
  • Medical issue caused crash? No way Motor Carrier gets access to the health and medical records of other drivers. Better go run this one by HHS and get HIPPA exemptions.
Category conflicts abound

I’ll make one up as a hypothetical to illustrate potential conflict.
OV Driver under the influence partially crosses the center line, which causes a deer to be spooked and leap onto the roadway. This scares OV2 driver who has a medical issue and faints, resulting in OV crash into a bridge abutment causing a big chunk of concrete to fall off into the path of a CMV. The CMV swerves and successfully avoids the concrete chunk by partially crossing the center line…but ends up striking the very same deer whose lifeless body flies into a tree, that which then falls onto the roadway and into the path of a second CMV, who ultimately has the recordable crash.
So, again, why do we need to pre-define categories?

I encourage all interested parties to do their due diligence and read the Notice. Then, make your opinions heard in the now active 60-day window. You can get started giving them your thoughts here.

How To Optimize and Enforce Your Safety Policy

How To Optimize and Enforce Your Safety Policy

Every single day, there are more than 16,000 car accidents in the United States alone. In half of them, someone suffers an injury. As an employer, you may not be able to completely mitigate the risk of car accidents among your employees and fleet drivers, but you can take precautions to make sure that your drivers are as safe as possible.

One such precaution is the creation and enforcement of a safety policy for everyone who drives a vehicle on the clock for your company. You don’t need to have a fleet of commercial drivers for these safety tips to apply to you. Any company whose employees or contractors operate any vehicle, including personally-owned vehicles, for work is liable for their actions and behaviors.

Here are some important tips to help employers build and enforce a good safety policy.


Regardless of which rules you put in place, your safety policy will rely on transparency and communication if it’s going to have an impact. Just as safety is paramount in every piece of a factory’s operations, your company’s commitment to safety and the terms of your driving rules need to be in the front of your employees’ minds every time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Small reminders can also help employees keep safety top of mind . A safety slogan in an email signature, mentions of driver safety in meetings, recognition of great drivers, and company-wide emails or newsletters with an emphasis on safety are all good ways to remind employees that safety is a priority.

Make A Fleet-Wide Policy

If you want your drivers to embrace a culture of safe driving, your policies need to be universal. A comprehensive driving policy should include a no-exceptions seat belt policy, continuous motor vehicle record (MVR) monitoring, a clear explanation of your MVR review policy for both new and ongoing drivers, the training that’s expected and available to your employees, the process by which infractions are reviewed, and whether the policy extends to personal vehicle use.

Furthermore, you need to ensure that the policy is written clearly and accessible to anyone and everyone that it covers, including new hires. You don’t want any room for confusion when it comes to the exact wording of a policy, how it will be enforced, or to whom it applies. Rules and the consequences for breaking them should be clear, simple, and consistent.

It’s also important that rules be consistently enforced. No one gets a pass on violating the safety policy — it doesn’t matter if you’re just driving around the corner, if you’re in a hurry, or if you’re the CEO — rules are rules. Inconsistent enforcement will lead to resentment and a lax attitude on safety.

Institute a Seat Belt Policy

Seatbelts are one of the simplest ways to foster a culture of driver safety, but nearly 30 million Americans still don’t buckle up on a regular basis. Make no exceptions to this rule. Whether it’s for short drives or long hauls, every person in a vehicle has to buckle up before it moves. Emphasize this policy in work vehicles and personal vehicles alike.

A seat belt policy isn’t the end-all, be-all of driver safety, but it serves as an excellent example of personal and corporate responsibility, as well as responsibility for the safety of others. Some companies even go so far as to put cameras on their premises so they can track what percentage of their employees arrive at work wearing a seatbelt. They then publish the results and incentivize compliance for everyone.

Emphasize Safety When Selecting Vehicles

Not every company owns their own vehicles, but if you do, you have the opportunity to choose vehicles that prioritize safety for drivers, passengers, and communities. Safe driving is a two-way street. It’s hypocritical to demand safe driving practices from your employees if you’re not offering them vehicles that can keep them safe and optimize their safe-driving practices.

If you do purchase your own company vehicles, be sure to emphasize their safety features to your employees and customers. Calling attention to the safety of your vehicles will remind your drivers that safety is a priority, encouraging a culture of conducting business as safely as possible.

Offer Recognition For Safety Accomplishments

Last year, a Cleveland bus driver made the news for driving 40 years — and 1.2 million miles — without a preventable accident. The standard set by the Cleveland RTA is that drivers have fewer than 14 preventable accidents per million miles, so his accomplishments were rightly celebrated.

You can do the same at your company, celebrating mileage and time milestones without an accident, moving violation, or unsafe behavior. Recognition can come in many forms — mentions in company newsletters, press releases to local news, commendations from executives, or even gifts — and drivers who see such recognition will know that safety is valued, emphasized, and rewarded.

Know The Value Of Continuous Driver Monitoring

Many companies only pull motor vehicle records for their drivers at the time of hire. For commercial drivers, they might pull records once a year. But a lot can happen in the other 364 days of the year between MVR checks.

If one of your drivers gets into an accident and injures someone, the other party’s lawyer will likely check their driving records. If it turns out that they had a DUI and an accident in the last few months, since the last time you checked their records, it will call into question why you were allowing this employee to drive for you in the first place.

That’s why continuous driver monitoring is so important. Rather than manually pulling (and paying for) a new MVR every month, SambaSafety monitors MVRs for changes. If a change is submitted to a monitored driver’s record, we pull a new one and let you know. If no change occurs, you don’t have to waste time and money checking a new MVR.

Make sure your drivers know that their MVRs are being continuously monitored. Not only will this policy create a culture of responsibility and accountability, but it will emphasize to them that your company will not tolerate unsafe driving practices.

It bears mentioning that an unenforced safety policy is almost worse than no safety policy at all. Not only creating a policy but also enforcing it uniformly without bias, automatically without human error, and in a timely manner is crucial.

You should also have practices in place to review new violations, assess their severity, and determine an appropriate consequence. Remember, enforcing safe driving habits isn’t just about avoiding a lawsuit — it’s about encouraging your employees to be positive members of your community and stewards of safety. A culture of safety is part of most other corporate functions, and driving should be no exception. Take the next step by reviewing Continuous Driver Monitoring: The Legal Landscape.

SambaSafety continues its focus on the FAST Act with a visit from Senator Cory Gardner to our Denver HQ

SambaSafety continues its focus on the FAST Act with a visit from Senator Cory Gardner to our Denver HQ

As part of our ATA-organized visit to select Congressional leaders involved in trucking safety regulation, key members of our Executive Leadership team met with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and his team on April 11 in Washington, DC. Senator Gardner sits on Commerce Committee (oversees transportation) and the Transportation & Safety subcommittee. During the meeting both parties left wanting to continue the conversation and to build a deeper relationship.


On Friday July 12th, it was SambaSafety’s honor to host the Senator and continue our discussions on the critical issue of transportation safety. Senator Gardner met our talented Denver team and discussed our innovations leveraging data to help enhance the safety culture of our customers.


SambaSafety has been dedicated to the safety of drivers and communities for decades. To that end, we’ve been meeting with select congressional leaders who are directly involved in trucking safety regulation. Based on his background, Senator Gardner is uniquely positioned to make an impact on the regulations that will directly affect commercial truckers all over Colorado and nationwide.


Senator Gardner has also regarded transportation and infrastructure as high priorities throughout his tenure, emphasizing investment in infrastructure as crucial to supporting a growing economy. Colorado boasts one of the largest airports in the world, as well as major hubs for several national shipping companies, so Senator Gardner has always known the importance of shipping infrastructure for our state.


The Need for CSA Reform


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to better align the compliance and reporting process with the safety risks that actually cause crashes. An independent review found that while the CSA program is doing its job, it has not been able to keep up with the volume of truckers that it needs to oversee.


As a result, 86 percent of carriers nationwide do not receive a safety score from the FMCSA under the current CSA scoring system.


Upcoming Changes to the CSA System


In a report from the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine, it was noted that the current CSA system used inconsistent assessments, didn’t always account for fault in crashes, used measures that were independent to specific states, and was not predictive of a carrier’s future risk. 


As a result, the panel recommended a new, “more statistically principled approach” based on item response theory (IRT), which has been used in analyzing SAT tests, hospital rankings, and other large-scale statistical analysis.


In July of 2018, the FMCSA released a new plan for the CSA program, based on an IRT model. The details of the plan have not been released to the public, but SambaSafety’s own executive VP and GM of Transportation, Steve Bryan, has been sitting in on every meeting of the NAS panel as it develops its recommendations.


The main takeaway lesson has been that predicting future crashes is nearly impossible. “The existing CSA program is about predicting crash risk,” Bryan said. “None of us believe that ever worked. It does a terrible job. In some of the BASICs, some are not only not positively correlated, they’re negatively correlated, specifically the drug and alcohol BASIC — to where if you followed that logic, you should drink and smoke dope and get behind the wheel of a truck.”


Instead, the research indicates, carriers should focus on a culture of safe driving. Carriers will be analyzed based on patterns of unsafe behavior, rather than the much-maligned severity weight system that ranked carriers based on comparisons to their peers and recency of offenses.


It was an honor to host and continue the conversation with Senator Gardner. Not only was the conversation productive with regard to policy, but also a welcome opportunity to showcase our talent, our products, and our team.

The State of the CSA Score: IRT and Facing the Future – Fully Informed

The State of the CSA Score: IRT and Facing the Future – Fully Informed

In the dozen years that I have been involved in the Trucking Industry, I have met many amazing people and seen advances in safety technology, data, and analytics that are mind-boggling.  I have met hundreds of business owners and executives who operate their businesses with a vision of literally delivering America, but a mission built on Safety.  If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it 100 times – competition stops at safety’s door.

In 2007, I founded Vigillo and now proudly serve as an executive with SambaSafety. While SambaSafety is a supplier to the industry and exists as a for-profit business, we live and breathe the mission of safety.

Change has been constant in my industry tenure and perhaps none as momentous as the pending changes to the foundation of the CSA scoring methodology – used by industry and the FMCSA to gauge a carrier’s commitment to safety.

The specific topic is the work SambaSafety, and previously Vigillo, has done to work through the transition from CSA to the new IRT Model as defined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) in their report of June 2017:


Change as big as the shift from CSA Classic to an IRT model has led to a robust debate among industry participants. Below are excerpts from some concerns we’ve heard and our response.


Question: While it is possible to guess what the new IRT model will look like, how can any early representation produce results that will align with the final model?

We didn’t guess at the design of the model. Just the opposite. NAS provided a 130-page roadmap that describes in detail the IRT model.  With counsel from IRT experts, we followed that roadmap to produce our preview.

Moreover, we have a strong track record helping the industry to anticipate and interpret the CSA scoring methodology. Vigillo released the industry’s first CSA management platform in 2008, two full years before the official launch by FMCSA.

We have helped support changes to the CSA program, culminating in the FAST ACT and the IRT recommendation. In its early years, I provided data to illustrate CSA deficiencies to Congress as CSA criticism grew after its launch. I collaborated with the American Trucking Associations and others in the development of the language that was inserted into the FAST Act which ultimately launched CSA Reform.  At the request of the ATA, I gave the industry comments at the first meeting of the NAS and accompanied the ATA Chairman in the delivery of those comments. Over the next 18 months, I attended every public meeting held by NAS. Before the draft report was published publicly, I was one of the primary reviewers. Ultimately, I led the efforts at SambaSafety to retain the services of IRT experts including one of the NAS Panelists.

Back in 2008, Vigillo gave thousands of motor carriers a preview of what CSA was, how it worked, and how it would impact their safety programs. Advance knowledge of these kinds of significant changes at FMCSA is essential. That’s why we’re doing it again with IRT.


Question: Why worry about IRT now when it’s not near implementation?

The NAS report provided for a two-year timeline following the initial 18-month study.  That would call for implementation in June of 2019. FMCSA has stated publicly that its target is September 2019, not significantly behind.

Our best information says that we’ll see careful rollout and solicitation of industry feedback over the following six months.  Full implementation is expected in Q2 2020. The reforms are moving along pretty much as outlined in the FAST Act.

IRT produces very different results for many carriers.  IRT uses a methodology that is easy to interpret but nearly impossible for a non-statistician to calculate. Many of our customers want a preview of their IRT score to be included in the discussion, right from the start. It’s imperative for them to know how their safety culture will be assessed and it allows them to provide informed feedback to the FMCSA during the solicitation period.

At SambaSafety, we live the mission of safety, and we innovate. We invest in R&D and are continually building new products and services to serve that mission.  We think our job is to get there first. We have a proven track record of doing that time and time again. Our customers benefit from our ability to anticipate change, understand formerly hidden risks, participate in the discussion of the new model and prepare for a two-year look back.

It’s a choice to be proactive and get involved early to anticipate significant industry changes like IRT.  Hundreds of carriers are making that choice.  We think that’s a good thing for safety.


Question: Does IRT really improve upon legacy CSA?

It does, no question about it.

Let’s look at three of the defects of CSA as it exists today:

  1.  Safety Event Groups – Spiking Scores
  2. Disparate State Enforcement – Geography sways Scores
  3. A relatively small number of scored carriers – Less than 20% of carriers have sufficient data for any CSA Score

First, Safety Event Groups, as constructed today, group carriers in an attempt to compare similar carriers.  It has never worked well and has some problematic side effects.  Five of the seven Groups are based on inspection count.  A carrier can move from one group to another by virtue of just one inspection, even a clean inspection, and scores spike dramatically as a carrier moves up the ladder in Safety Event Groups. Related to this, a Carrier’s CSA Measure produces very different CSA Percentile Scores depending on what group they are in.  As a result, Carrier A with a BASIC Score of say 50% is not comparable to Carrier B with 50% in a different Group. 

IRT does away with Safety Event Groups in favor of a Risk Exposure Index.  IRT utilizes this Exposure Index which is created by blending Power Unit Count, Driver Count, VMT and Inspection Count to normalize carriers for comparison purposes. No groups to leap between and all carriers scores are comparable to each other.

Second, Law Enforcement Disparity has always plagued CSA.  CMV Enforcement on the New Jersey Turnpike is a very different animal than enforcement at the Texas border.  Our country is vast, diverse, and immensely challenging from an enforcement perspective. Enforcement knows their unique challenges and focuses on the specifics that they believe enhances safety in their own back yards. CSA does not formally recognize these challenges and punishes carriers who operate in targeted enforcement zones vs. carriers who do business elsewhere.

IRT is not about the frequency of violations.  IRT looks at patterns of violations; it’s not just counting them.  As a result, the wild swings we see in CSA Scores due to disparate enforcement are largely smoothed out. 

Third, CSA today cannot score a carrier with insufficient inspection data.  As a result, only about 100,000 carriers receive any CSA Score at all. IRT has a lower threshold for what constitutes sufficient data for it to evaluate and provides scores for almost 200,000 carriers.

There are other improvements that IRT brings in terms of a more scientific foundation, ability to adapt to changing patterns in the data and it is set up well for additional data to be added in the future.  We can hardly imagine the magnitude of varying types and amounts of data that trucking operations will generate in the future. IRT is uniquely capable of incorporating new types of data to make continuous improvements to our understanding of what constitutes an excellent Safety Culture in the Trucking Industry.


Steve Bryan


2019 Truckload Carriers Association Annual Conference

2019 Truckload Carriers Association Annual Conference

SambaSafety is proud to be here in force as one of your Allied partners.  We’re exhibiting, presenting, and sponsoring at what is one of our favorite events of the year.

Almost everything you know about CSA is changing, and Sambasafety is at the forefront of helping carriers understand those dramatic changes and the new methodology called Item Response Theory (IRT).  IRT produces a new generation of CSA Scores including a new single Safety Culture Score. For TCA Attendees only, stop by and visit us at booth 428, drop off your business card, and we’ll follow up after the show and give you a free, sneak peek at your new scores.  Just write “Sneak Peek” on your business card and drop it with us at the booth.

We love Vegas, but don’t gamble on being caught off guard when the new scores release later this year.  Let us show you how it all works and how the new IRT/CSA will evaluate your safety culture.

The New CSA/IRT Scorecard

The New CSA/IRT Scorecard

The Next Generation of CSA

Introducing the new CSA/IRT Scorecard

The new CSA will measure a motor carrier’s

Safety Culture with a single score

CSA is undergoing major changes and almost everything we know about CSA—severity weights, time weights, BASIC measures and Safety Event Groups—will no longer factor into the new scoring methodology under the FMCSA’s planned 2019 release.

Our new IRT/CSA Scorecard provides you access to your new CSA Safety Culture Score—an entire year ahead of the FMCSA planned release date.

Establish Your Safety Score NOW!

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Be the first to know your CSA Safety Culture Score

The two-year look back is already in effect. We are offering you visibility into your new CSA Safety Culture Score to help you get ahead of how it measures your company’s safety culture—and show you what you can do now to prepare.

CSA Safety Culture Score

The new CSA FAST Act Score Model utilizes Item Response Theory (IRT) methodology and almost completely changes the building blocks of the current CSA scoring model.

It more accurately measures a company’s Safety Culture as your new score is based on inspections, violations and violation groups, and also factors in relevant variables such as drivers, inspections, VMTs, number of power units and more.

BASIC Comparison Scores

Get a side-by-side view of your current  CSA scores next to your new CSA/IRT  scores and start to understand the new  CSA scoring model.

Violation Groups

See your activity by violation group. The new  methodology identifies the same possible 945  CSA violations and assigns them to one of 66  violation groups. These groups are assigned  across the BASICs.

Industry Benchmark

How do you rank in the Exposure Risk Index?  See how you stack up against like motor  carriers in the industry and where you rank  amongst your peers for safety culture.

Violation Group Detail

Get the big picture with violation count, two  year timeline, severity indicator, and violations  falling off. See where you need to focus to  maintain or improve your CSA Safety Culture Score.

Violation Detail

Drill down to the specific list of individual  violations that make up your overall violation  count in any given group.

Driver Detail

The driver detail page will show you violation, date and location by driver.

Protect Your Business Now!

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