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Property Casualty

Vehicle Maintenance CSA Scores: Are Incentives the Answer?

Freddie Johnston
Freddie Johnston
Vice President, Property Casualty

When it comes to Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scores for motor carriers, one of the most troublesome aspects for most is vehicle maintenance. So much so that some carriers have begun paying a bonus to drivers if they have a clean roadside inspection. But, if the inspection doesn’t go so well and there are violations, the bonus is out the window.

The merits of this type of incentive have been debated, and it’s not likely there will ever be a consensus. Some say the pre-trip is an important part of the driver’s job description, and a motor carrier shouldn’t have to pay extra. Others contend that paying a bonus adds an incentive for the driver to do more than “walk around” the truck before taking off. Both are interesting arguments.

The most common roadside inspection violations involve lights, tires, and brakes. Most certainly, a driver can easily check lights and tires visually. I think we can all agree to that. Of course, it could be argued that the light in question was working but malfunctioned during the trip. That can happen, but it doesn’t explain the high number of lighting violations discovered during roadside inspections.

What about brake violations? Here the situation gets a little more complicated. The driver isn’t required — nor are they trained — to do a complete brake inspection. This would involve a thorough inspection under the equipment of brake condition and operation, pushrod travel, as well as all of the associated air hoses.

So what’s the solution to this problem? The answer isn’t simple, and the best advice I can give is that motor carriers should craft policies and procedures that fit their operation. Some things to consider when coming up with the policy:

  • Ongoing training for drivers regarding pre-trip inspection procedures. Yes, they all studied this when they took their CDL exam, but training isn’t a one-time event.
  • Ongoing training for the mechanics who perform maintenance on your equipment. It’s important to provide feedback to them about the types of roadside inspection violations and their frequency. This feedback is necessary regardless of whether you have your own shop or use an outside vendor.
  • Management support. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires an annual inspection of equipment, but that’s the regulatory minimum. If the goal is to reduce maintenance problems and violations, then equipment should be inspected more frequently. Also, if a driver discovers a problem during a pre-trip, what procedures are in place to assist the driver in getting repairs completed before the trip begins? What will the dispatcher’s reaction be if the driver says they’ll be delayed while repairs are being completed?

This isn’t to say that incentives have no role to play in this process, but it’s important to realize that reducing vehicle maintenance violations is a process that touches all parts of the motor carrier’s operation.

If you’ve run across issues with CSA scores and/or vehicle maintenance and aren’t sure where to start on beefing up your policies and procedures or simply just want someone to review the policies and procedures you have in place, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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