The FMCSA’s Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program is being overhauled. When completed, the CSA will include a more comprehensive method for evaluating safety standards across trucking fleets. Since the new focus will be placed on creating a “safety culture,” the FMCSA will be implementing “item response theory” or IRT to quantify the safety of an entire company.

What Is Item Response Theory?

Item response theory is a way to quantify what has been seen as controversial or vague categories under the Safety Measurement System. In short, it will do away with peer analysis comparisons across fleets, such as severity weights and “crash risk.” Low scores across various aspects of a carrier’s operations equate to low safety. So how can trucking companies build a strong safety culture?

Safety Culture Starts with Leadership

Most motor carriers have a safety manager who works directly with the people in vehicle maintenance and even the drivers themselves. However, if there is no emphasis for safety at the top of the company, everyone else notices, and performance slips. Do managers take safety to heart and rank it above productivity? During crunch periods, the first response should be if the company can perform and meet deadlines safely before going full steam ahead. This is the type of safety culture the FMCSA will be looking for in the near future.

Consistency Is Key

Item response theory is designed to bring inconsistencies to light. If a carrier receives a low score, can it be analyzed to reveal an issue with one vehicle or driver, or a carrier-wide problem? Reminders, training, and corrective action yield consistency and help to build up a strong safety culture and high evaluation scores. The really tough part about IRT is that it isn’t based on words or feelings, but hard numbers. This new form of quantification may actually slow down productivity after it officially launches.

Grace Period and Celebrations

While there isn’t much information on how the FMCSA will fully grade safety culture among carriers, there will probably be a grace period for trucking companies to get things in order. It is also important for carriers to reward employees for high scores from IRT quantification. Issues can always be corrected, and they should be taken seriously. But good scores are also victories that should be celebrated.

Express Freight Finance will keep you updated as we get more details on the overhaul of the CSA program.