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With the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program in full effect, plenty of drivers are speculating about how violations will affect their driving record — and in turn, their insurance rates. To sort out rumor from fact, I sat down with Rusty Vollmer, CIC, CRM and president of the Transportation Insurance Unit, and Charles Clowers, transportation specialist, both of Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, LLC, Memphis, Tenn.
How extensively is the CSA information on both carriers and individual truckers influencing current insurance underwriting criteria?
Vollmer: It’s important to note the information being used to develop the CSA scores is the same information collected under the old SafeStat System. The data, however, is being sorted in a different manner and drilled down to the driver level, which is really the big change. That said, it seems most insurance carriers are measuring a trucking company’s response to dealing with CSA — are they pro-active and ahead of the curve, making certain that their scores are satisfactory, or are they reactive?
Are insurance companies using CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) data to decide whether a carrier or driver is insurable or what their rates will be?
Clowers: With regard to underwriting the individual trucker, I believe most insurance carriers have formulated their guidelines for what is an acceptable risk and what is not an acceptable risk. Because data for a small trucker can be so easily skewed, the CSA is probably less of a factor than the overall characteristics of the risk.
Does the Pre-employment Screening Program score (PSP) that is collected as CSA data influence the decision about whether to insure a trucker?
Clowers: Insurance carriers do not have access to a PSP score for a driver, so they cannot use that in their determination of insurability of an individual driver. DMV records remain a tool used by the underwriters when analyzing individual drivers, but it is only one of many factors considered.
What is the most important aspect of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program for insurance companies?
Vollmer: The insurance companies are most interested in how the motor carrier is managing their overall CSA scores, as it is a reflection of that company’s management and leadership. The good trucking companies will be proactive — and as a result, will have good scores or a plan to improve deficient areas.
When considering a carrier, what should a trucker be looking for in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) score to be sure that the carrier makes safety a priority?
Clowers: If I was a driver, I’d look mainly at management’s attitude toward CSA as an indicator of what kind of company I’m dealing with. If they have a moderate score but seem to be very proactive and determined to get better, I wouldn’t let the score alone be a determining factor.
When looking at the 5 SMS categories for a carrier, at what point should a driver cross the company off the list as a potential carrier and start looking for another one?
Vollmer: I don’t think you will go wrong working with a motor carrier with a good score. But again, take a look at the attitude of management and then make a decision.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest benefit of the CSA program to truck drivers?
Vollmer: Well, it will either be a great benefit or a great burden. For those drivers who are proactive and determined to be professional, it will make them attractive to motor carriers; but for those reactive drivers, it could be CSA makes them literally have to look for another line of work.
Clowers: CSA is going to make the driver force better in the long run, and the benefit to the professional driver will be that he or she can stand out among the rest.
Any general trucking insurance advice concerning CSA?
Vollmer: Like most new policies and procedures, there is some “gray area” when it comes to insurance and CSA. I think if you ask me these questions again two or three years from now, I may very well have different answers, but as of today I really see underwriters looking at attitude more than the actual scores.
Conclusion: In the current environment of CSA enforcement, insurance companies look at how proactive both the trucker and carrier are in improving safety scores when determining whether a truck driver is insurable.
Under CSA, every driver working for a carrier influences what the carrier’s overall SMS score will be. Teamwork is required between the driver and trucking company, which will demonstrate to an insurer how serious both are in their concern for a safe operation.