STC recently participated in the CVSA Level VIII Inspection Forum. It was a well-organized event attended by government regulators (including FMCSA and Transport Canada), enforcement, and industry leaders. Its primary purpose was to facilitate dialogue on how roadside driver/vehicle inspections could be done electronically while vehicles are in motion on the roadway. The increasing deployment of advanced technologies, the hunger for data, and improvements to safety and efficiency were key motivators for this conversation. But how could implementing this program benefit both industry and enforcement? Would it improve safety?
Interestingly, this forum was held during the comment period for FMCSA’s proposed changes to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program. This was not lost on STC, as CSA thirsts for data to be effective and relevant. Establishing a means to conduct Level VIII electronic inspections could theoretically create millions of additional roadside “interactions” between drivers/vehicles and the government, and potentially without any intervention by law enforcement, thereby creating data that could feed the CSA beast. This data could be used in a beneficial way in CSA’s SMS to “credit” carriers receiving good “inspections.”
In parallel, two significant proposed changes to CSA offered up by FMCSA:
- To collapse the violation list from 959 to 116 “groups”;
- Adjust the severity weightings for violations from a scale of 1-10 to a scale of 1-2.
There are several theories as to why they may have taken this approach, but at the end of the day, the message sent is not all regulatory violations are necessarily relevant or impactful on safety.
There are different tools to incentivize safe operations, and it’s time to take a closer look at what regulations really matter to safety and to get rid of the ones that don’t. After all, they are Federal Motor Carrier “Safety” Regulations. It also makes sense to look at where to apply them to ensure they have the greatest impact on safety.
STC would argue that log form and manner violations likely are not something roadside enforcement should be spending time on. Instead, they should be addressing out-of-service conditions and other imminent safety hazards that affect the here and now. On this point, we give kudos to CVSA on its recent change to the OOS Criteria with respect to how enforcement deals with false logs at roadside. Form and manner violations, and others of a similar ilk, are more appropriate to address during Compliance Investigations as they could be indicative of a breakdown in safety management controls by the motor carrier, not of an imminent safety hazard.
With increased data comes both challenges and opportunities. We need to look at the future through a different lens and leverage the data for good – both for enforcement and industry.