A Crucial Question for Shippers: How Safe Are Your Carriers?

A Crucial Question for Shippers: How Safe Are Your Carriers?

Safety in trucking is becoming a greater concern today. The number of crashes involving large trucks that cause property damage or deaths has steadily increased since 2010. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has responded to this trend by enacting several measures intended to make the highways safer. Regulators have also introduced harsher penalties for unsafe carriers and drivers that cause accidents.

The changes in safety rules mean that shippers must be more diligent in making sure that the carriers they work with are compliant with government regulations. If a truck driver causes an accident and is also found to be in violation of FMCSA rules, the shipper could share in the liability. If the trucking company is not adequately insured, that could also have a significant financial impact on the shipper.

Now more than ever, shippers must have confidence in the carriers that haul their freight. Fortunately, a transportation specialist or third-party logistics (3PL) company can offer several tools that give shippers that peace of mind.

An Uptick in Accidents

In many ways, trucking today is much safer than it was decades ago. The number of registered large trucks in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1975, yet the number of fatal accidents involving big trucks has declined significantly since that time. Similarly, incidents of property damage from trucks decreased by 7% between 1993 and 2013.

Recently, however, truck crashes in the United States have risen. According to the federal government, the number of fatal accidents involving trucks grew from 3,193 in 2009 to 3,806 in 2013, nearly a 20% increase. Crashes that caused property damage increased 21% between 2010 and 2013.

Safety advocates are nervous that highways could become even more dangerous. Some trucking companies are lobbying Congress to allow trucks to carry longer trailers and ease new hours-of-service rules. Many in the trucking industry also want to forbid the Department of Transportation from raising insurance requirements for trucking companies. These measures could increase risk for shippers moving freight on the nation’s roads.

Newer Safety Measures

One way the FMCSA has tried to combat the increase in accidents is by rolling out a new certification program. The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) system tracks driver violations and provides monthly safety scores on carriers and drivers. Through CSA, regulators can penalize carriers and their drivers for unstable loads, poor driving and other safety risks.

The purpose of CSA is to identify and target carriers with poor safety practices before they cause accidents. The program investigates unsafe driving, fatigued drivers, vehicle maintenance, drug and alcohol use, crash indicators, and driver fitness. The CSA score is based on how well carriers perform in all of these measures. Carriers that do not cooperate with CSA rules or are repeat offenders can be ordered to cease operations.

Transportation Professionals can Help

The CSA scoring system is a good resource for shippers who want to work with the best carriers. However, finding those carriers and keeping track of the CSA data requires a lot of work. A 3PL that has access to a network of CSA-compliant trucking companies can help with the selection of the safe trucks and equipment. Transportation specialists at a 3PL can also regularly perform safety audits and check monthly CSA scores to make sure that carriers continue to follow safety rules. This approach accomplishes two goals for shippers: it gives them a greater selection of CSA-approved carriers, and it reduces the shipper’s liability if something can go wrong. Shippers that follow this robust process can prove that they took every measure to make sure their freight is safe and compliant with federal regulations.

There are still many shippers who choose to work with one or two dedicated carriers. That familiar approach works only if the shipper understands CSA scoring and is able to hold the carriers accountable. By partnering with a 3PL that is familiar with the latest regulations, shippers can take the guess-work out of safety scores. The 3PL can quickly access the correct databases and determine if carriers have satisfactory CSA scores to haul equipment and materials. That knowledge and expertise helps shippers significantly reduce risks and negligent practices in their transportation.

Ryan Transportation is dedicated to safe and efficient shipping and logistics operations. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration