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Avoid Taking Chances

Checking out new carriers before they load up
Avoid Taking Chances

Hiring new carriers has become a major challenge for produce shippers and brokers. Putting the pieces together from diverse sources for proper due diligence is no easy task.  But without thorough examination of a new carrier, it can be quite risky—rolling the dice on your company and future.

Although truckers were originally regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission back in the 1930s, liability for carrier actions shifted dramatically with 2004’s Schramm v. Foster.  The landmark case concerned “negligent hiring,” and subsequent rulings have held that brokers do indeed have “vicarious liability” and must exercise “reasonable care” in selecting carriers.    

For a time, the transportation industry looked to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative, launched in late 2010, to provide “yes or no” guidance on the suitability of individual carriers. But in May 2012 CSA acknowledged it could not do this job, stating that its percentile rankings were “not a safety rating” and ceased providing these rulings. Instead, shippers and brokers were advised to use FMCSA information to make their own decisions on carriers.

Many brokers already viewed CSA as flawed.  Not only did it cover just 40 percent of the carriers on the road, but many of the available numbers just didn’t add up—especially given the wide disparities in inspection and enforcement priorities from state to state.  Viewpoints also changed dramatically depending on size; many
independent carriers felt CSA unfairly targeted smaller fleets or single-truck owner-operators.

In an analysis of state inspections by RigDig Business Intelligence, in the two year period from December 2010 to December 2012, Maryland led the nation in per lane-mile truck inspections at 32. California followed with 23 lane-mile inspections, while Idaho had the fewest inspections at just three per lane-mile, with North Dakota and Oklahoma tied at four each. 

In addition to the sizeable gaps in frequency, each state had its own agendafor which violations were most critical, with some concentrating on hours of service infractions and others on faulty truck equipment. 

In a recent poll conducted by Commercial Carrier Journal, fleet executives were asked to rank their top complaints with CSA.  Among their responses were crash fault determinations not taking into account preventability factors (78.9 percent); minor infractions and violations with little or no effect on actual safety counting against safety records (62.7 percent); too many violations with what operators considered “inappropriately high point severities” (60.5 percent); and the incidence of many ‘clean’ inspections not showing up in federal databases (55.2 percent).