CSA Scores Explained – Carrier Safety and Broker Compliance | Episode 244

Freight 360

May 17, 2024

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the freight brokering landscape, focusing on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mission and the critical role brokers play in vetting carriers. We’ll dive into the intricacies of DOT week and discuss the importance of the Safety Measurement System (SMS) and Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scores in assessing carrier reliability. Through personal stories and feedback, discover the art of rapport-building in sales conversations and how it fosters successful industry relationships. We’ll also touch on vehicle maintenance, offer valuable insights, and strategies for managing carrier compliance. This episode is a must-listen!

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Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Speaker 1: 0:19

All righty, welcome back. It's another episode of the Freight360 podcast. It's DOT week and we're going to be talking about carrier safety scores, csa scores, safety ratings, all that good stuff. We'll get to that in just a little bit, but first, as always, if you're brand new, make sure to check out all of our other content. We've got hundreds of hours of freight broker education for free on our website, freight360.net. While you're there, you can also check out our freight broker basics course. We did it in conjunction with DAT and that's a full length educational option for you If you're looking to start a brokerage or just grow your book of business, grow that carrier network, build out your team all the tips and tricks you're going to need to help you down that journey in your freight brokering career and share us with your friends.

Speaker 1: 1:14

We do very Basically. Our marketing is all word of mouth. We get in front of other people through our network and you guys share us, so we appreciate that the more you engage with us, it helps us get in front of more people just like you, so we appreciate that. That's all we ask in return is share us with somebody. Leave a comment on YouTube, leave that five star review. Those one. Stars don't help, but we don't really get a whole lot of them, so I think we might have gotten one ever, and it's probably someone that's, you know, I don't know. They just don't like freight, so that's fine. But, yeah, do all that good stuff and you know it's, we're here to help you guys out and teach the best that we can. So, ben, what's going on in South Florida this fine day?

Speaker 2: 1:55

It's just getting hotter moving into summer. I'm looking forward to when it starts to rain again, which usually happens like the beginning of May, and it hasn't really rained much yet, which is odd since I've lived here. Anyway, like almost always, like literally almost like the first day of May, it starts raining for like every afternoon, like the 230 thunderstorm in Florida where, like every forecast shows chance of rain, it doesn't really rain much, but it's super humid.

Speaker 1: 2:21

That's funny because we're at the time of year in Buffalo where we're sick of the rain. Like April, showers bring many flowers and the rain has really crept into May for us. But it's sunny in mid-70s today, so I'll take it. It's beautiful out. It's long cutting season, I know. Before we hopped on air today, producer steven was talking about how he hates cutting along, because once you start, um, you either have to, you know you keep doing it all year. You get the neighbor that that's always wanting to keep up with you and have the better lawn. So we're in that time of year here in the northeast so, uh bet you don't really have to cutting your grass.

Speaker 2: 3:01

Did you see the northern lights? Though I did, you guys dude.

Speaker 1: 3:05

So it was really cool. Um, friday night, I want to say it was and saturday for some people too, but friday was really cool. What was weird is like I walked outside I'm like I can like very faintly see some lines in the sky and then you pull out your iphone and your iphone just picks it up like crazy because it just dims down all the light and you can see like the true colors. It was really cool. I made a fake post. I just like photoshopped like an awesome, like view from iceland and threw it in behind my trees and I was like this is my backyard. Everyone's like fake news. Um, but yeah, no, it was pretty cool. I saw him as a kid, like 20, 30 years ago or something, so it was cool to see it again, that's awesome.

Speaker 1: 3:44

Steven, unmute yourself. Did you get to see him in Cincinnati?

Speaker 3: 3:48

No, I didn't. I was in Indianapolis and it was cast over, so I didn't get to see it. Fair enough. I saw the pictures from my neighborhood that people were posting and I was like, really we could just stay home tonight so I could see this.

Speaker 1: 4:03

There you go. Well, fair enough, northern Lights. It's like a once in a lifetime for a lot of people, unless you live super far north, but a pretty cool. Pretty cool sight to see Sports.

Speaker 1: 4:16

Oh, first of all, the comment on YouTube we get some haters that hate that we talk about sports. Somebody like left a nice comment saying like hey, thank you, like they understand why we start off our episodes that way, and they even said it helps me. Like I think they said something like pretend I know sports when I talk to prospects, or something like that, they get some kind of little bit of news on it. But hey, the reason that we start off this podcast kind of lighthearted and we kind of ease into it, that's the way that a lot of sales conversations start off and it's really just a testament to how people communicate and build rapport amongst one another instead of just getting right down to business.

Speaker 1: 4:56

Everyone's got their own methodology of how they go about sales calls but, ben, you and I I mean we're we're big on building rapport and trust and getting to know the person on the other end of the communication, whether it's a phone call or in person or whatever the case might be. Um, but yeah, sports talk, you know, that's that's why we do it. You know, sometimes it's new, sometimes it's sports, sometimes it's both.

Speaker 3: 5:18

I don't know if you saw the other comment, but there was someone who made another comment saying you know, the sports isn't really helpful to me learning the content. Somebody commented underneath it and said dude, you can just fast forward.

Speaker 1: 5:34

There is literally timestamps in all of our videos. So feel free and hit those. Hit the timestamp chapter button or whatever and get to the content you want to see. We get it. I do the same thing if I'm watching a podcast. You know what I mean. It is what it is. So sports I don't know if you guys saw it the Bills just this week signed off of he was with the Chiefs the last two years in Green Bay before that, but Marquez Valdez Scanlon nice little wide receiver pickup. The Bills are starting to shape out their offense for the 2024 season. Looking forward to that and I did see also, aaron Rodgers and the Jets will be starting off Monday Night Football, week 1. Pretty sure that was where Aaron Rodgers got hurt last week or last year in Week 1, like the fourth play. A little bit of a bad omen for the Jets fans out there to have Rodgers out there at Monday Night Football to relive that potential horror. So let's hope it doesn't happen Anything else in the sports world, anything in golf or anything cool.

Speaker 2: 6:38

Not really. I watched the Brady roast. That was about as much as I got updates on sports, but I thought you like it. I thought it was pretty good. To be honest, I thought they did a good job. I thought the comics did well. I mean overall. I thought I mean three hours and I was engaged through the end of it. So I mean hell for anything that long. To keep my interest, I would say, is a win.

Speaker 1: 7:05

Yeah, what do you think? Oh, for sure, For sure, yeah, there were some good ones there. What's funny is the one line that Brady had in reference to the Bills was like you know, I'm looking to get some ownership I think it was in Oakland or in the Raiders. I'm looking to get some ownership in the Raiders, since I already have, since I already own the Bills and the Colts. And he was referencing like as far as like game records like this, you know, winning games goes, yeah, he owns the Bills, like he was. He led the AFC East for like two decades. Um, but yeah, he said like how can you even call yourself a mafia? You don't even have a ring to kiss something like that. But anyway, he made it the joke about like owning the bills, as in, like he just owned the division for two decades. I was at my golf league this week and the bartender when I was ordering food to go, she's like I didn't know Tom Brady owned a portion of the bills and I was like, oh my God, I'm like it was a joke, it was a roast. He was making a joke that he legit just owns the record against the bills. He doesn't actually have ownership in the bills. So sometimes people take jokes too literal. But yeah, it was a good roast man, that's a funny one. It's a funny one for sure. News this is sort of news sort of just. I thought this was funny.

Speaker 1: 8:27

I saw I've been getting ads on my social media lately. I don't know if you've seen this at all, Ben. There's someone out there offering a. It's targeting people that work in freight brokerage and the ad was like we guarantee to get you 20 shippers in 90 days or your money back. And it was worth mentioning this because there's a lot of scam out there, right. We always say if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Speaker 1: 8:57

And if you read the fine print of this offering, they were saying if you work in the auto hauling industry or in moving freight, so I'm pretty sure what they were saying is you pay us, we send you leads for auto hauling. But it's kind of clickbait, right, Because the auto hauling industry it works that way you basically pay for your leads. So they're basically saying hey, pay us, we'll get you 20 leads, not guaranteed that they're going to pay you or that you're going to actually make money or it'll go well, but we'll get you 20 leads in three months or you get your money back. No one in their right mind would offer legitimately 20 good freight brokerage customers that are active in 90 days or less, because it's just not realistic, or less. Because it's just not realistic.

Speaker 1: 9:45

I mean we talk about the amount of work it takes to develop a book of business and to build rapport and get trust and build a relationship with prospects. That you know I hate seeing. I hate seeing like the. It's like I feel like I didn't take a shower after I see an ad like that because someone's ripping off somebody for who knows, probably a thousand bucks or something silly like that for a hopeless pipe dream. It's sad.

Speaker 2: 10:05

Yeah, it really is super underhanded. But people coming in the industry that don't know any difference. I'm sure they're making some sales and I'm sure people buying them and I mean it just kind of is a part of almost every industry where they're just bottom feeders selling GARP. I mean, I can't tell you how many emails I get a week that are similar to this and one of the businesses that, like I've been like whether it's real estate shipping, like constantly, like selling me leads trying to promise me like, oh, we're just sending Amazon fulfillment, yeah, it's all just anyway. Yep, well, it's all just anyway. Yep, well, it's no all of it. Yeah, goes to prospecting right. Like this is what shippers get all day long from lots of brokers, whether they're legitimate or not. It's a lot of noise you got to cut through, like that's why emailing companies does not get you a relationship and rarely, if ever, gets you anything for the effort you put into it. Exactly When's the last time you built a relationship with somebody because they sent you an email?

Speaker 1: 11:10

Can you think of any instance where you actually the majority of times that I see an email from someone that I don't recognize and it looks spammy, the first thing I do is look for an unsubscribe button. The second thing I do if that's not there is I reply and I just type the word unsubscribe Like I don't play with them, I don't like lead them on, I don't want a nasty response, I just don't want to be on your list. It's that simple. It's no offense. I get what they're trying to do. It's just it's taking up room in my inbox that otherwise could be focused on things that actually are productive. Every now and then I get an email that I'm like this is good, I need to respond to this and I need to learn about whatever this says, but it's very, very few and it's far between.

Speaker 2: 11:49

I read them all mostly because I'm like they're just free examples of what people are trying to use to sell things. So I'm like, oh, they're just coming at me. So I'm like. I mostly read it because I'm like, oh, this is what other people are trying to use. I look for what here's what not to do.

Speaker 2: 12:04

Yeah, what they do poorly. But, to your point, the thing I think they all kind of do, and what makes them very easy to you know, determine is like they're so general that they apply to like everyone, and you're like, oh, like this clearly isn't written specifically to me, like this is a spam, right, right, right.

Speaker 1: 12:21

Exactly, exactly.

Speaker 1: 12:27

Other news it's DOT week. You kind of start off with that. You ever driven down the highway like in your car during a DOT week, by chance? Yes, it is fascinating to see so, like if you've never worked on the trucking side and you're just in brokerage. First of all, definitely ask your drivers what it's like, but I mean we'll talk a little bit more about it here in a bit. But I drove. I drove down the highway during DOT week and you see all those pull offs on the side of the road when it's like, hey, when flashing, all trucks must stop. It's like, hey, when flashing, all trucks must stop.

Speaker 1: 13:03

And there was like five or six state troopers there and they're doing, you know, walk around, inspection, all this stuff that you know that happens, that then leads to safety scores and the things that you'll find when you're doing your carrier vetting. This is when a lot of it happens, like they call it dot blitz week, because the dot is making a proactive attempt at trying to capture as many inspections as possible. They do it every single year and it's always right around this time in the spring and what you'll find is, um, some carriers. They just say I'm taking this week off. I'm not because they're trying to hide anything. They just don't want to deal with getting stopped because you can only handle so many inspections at once. Right, you got so many cops that are there, they can do the walkarounds. They're kicking tires, they're checking paperwork, documentation, all that stuff.

Speaker 1: 13:56

So some drivers take off, and what does that lead to? Well, your capacity gets constrained temporarily, the same way you would see it after a storm or like hurricane or holiday things like that, and rates go up. Like rates are up this week. It's temporary, but those are the things that we talk about, that are cyclical and are are. We knew DOT week was coming for months. Right, this was nothing that was unheard of and you could talk to your customers and say, hey, fyi, this middle of May time of year when DOT week hits, expect capacity to be a bit tighter and it's going to probably result in either having to wait to move some of your freight or, if you do want to move, this week we're probably going to be dealing with some increased rates, just temporarily, while this inspection blitz goes on, and then things will go back to normal once capacity is back at its normal volumes.

Speaker 2: 14:51

So he made it kind of reminds me of and I don't know if this is a good analogy or even appropriate, but it reminds me of like a long, long time ago I remember like my dad's friends that were even older than him, right? So you're talking like long since past generations, but they used to talk about New Year's Eve. Very similar meaning like none of them would go out on New Year's Eve because lots of people drink and drive, there's lots of people getting pulled over and they're like look, not saying we're going to drink and drive, but for sure, like just avoid the hassle, avoid the issue.

Speaker 1: 15:26

Everyone kind of stayed in those nights because of, well one, the checkpoints, and two, like you want to be on the roads with other people that are drinking and driving, and just yeah no, you're absolutely right, you can yep, and it's the same thing with carriers, right, it's like you have the ones that they know they're going to get dinged so they just don't drive week, but you get the ones that just don't want to deal with the headache of it and all the check. You know the, the pull offs and whatnot.

Speaker 2: 15:47

So yeah, and again, not to really go too deep in it, but it's like if you're going to take a week vacation every year, it's planned. You know when it's going to happen. Most of the time, if I'm going to headachet week and hassle that, you have that week. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 16:03

Oh, for sure, For sure. So well, let's talk safety. So there are. I want to point everyone to some references that we'll relate to and reference in today's discussion. But the FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it is a subdivision or sub-department or agency of the DOT, the Department of Transportation, which is a cabinet position for the United States government right. So the FMCSA owns all of the licensing, the safety programs and all of that for trucking companies, motor carriers, freight brokers all fall within that purview as well. What do you got, ben?

Speaker 2: 16:44

So what I kind of wanted to set the stage with, if you will, was like, why does anybody care? Why does safety matter? Why is it important? Why is it important to a broker Right? And I think, cause this is a question I get a lot when I've go to take somebody through some of these things or to show them how to vet them, I'm like, well, what does it matter if that happened in the past? If they're going to move my load, like like, how does that come into determining anything I do as a broker Right?

Speaker 2: 17:10

And I think it's important for us to at least give the context right, like these safety ratings give you indications, or report cards, if you will, as to the different categories, whether it's, you know, driver fitness or whether it's vehicle maintenance and things. It gives you some information as to one the likelihood that the driver may get into an incident. If they've gone into lots of incidents, just like you as a personal driver or me, our insurance goes up because the likelihood I'll get into another accident is higher right If I've never had a speeding violation, a moving violation, any violation.

Speaker 2: 17:45

It's a lower likelihood that I wouldn't cause maybe an accident. It doesn't mean it wouldn't happen. It doesn't mean that things can't happen to anybody for any reason. But that's really why I kind of look at them and where and what I'm looking to understand. Because I can tell you I've looked back at these two for instances that have happened like historically and almost every carrier where we had a claim where there was like a driver instance when we look back like they had other ones right, same thing.

Speaker 2: 18:14

And again they tend to be for common reasons, like carriers that you know are kind of more at the bottom of the market and they've got a hustle to make enough money, like they might be driving a little faster, they might be trying to get out of a lot quicker, whatever it is right.

Speaker 2: 18:29

Even if you're driving just a regular vehicle, when you're in a rush you're in an increased risk to make mistakes doing anything like whatever it is right. So it gives you some clue as to the type and quality of also even the maintenance of the truck right. If they've got a huge out of service percentage on vehicle maintenance, like there's a pretty high likelihood that, like my truck, might break down on my load and it might be delayed to delivery. And that factors into sometimes what you're going to pay, or what you'd be willing to pay for a truck that has very low out of service for maintenance and one that has very high because, again, they're just not getting ahead of some of the maintenance issues, which means anything could go at any point, how a fuel pump or just even some little obscure thing that causes a delay in your shipment If it's a very important load like that could be make or break for your shipper.

Speaker 1: 19:20

Yeah, the word you use I want to echo here is quality, and we're going to we'll. We'll dig into the different categories here. Yeah, the word you use I want to echo here is quality, and we're going to we'll dig into the different categories here. I want to point out that the S and FMCSA is safety Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. So about 25 years ago, when it was created I'm just going to read verbatim the primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. So, over a thousand employees in all 50 states and DC. The goal is making roadways safer for the public and the commercial motor vehicle industry. So this all comes down to safety and, as freight brokers, it's not our truck, it's not our inspection, it's not our safety rating or CSA score and we'll talk about the CSA program in a bit but it is our job to take a look at I'll use the word you used the scorecard right for this motor carrier to determine the quality, as you said, of this carrier.

Speaker 1: 20:21

Because here's what's wild. Right Is, if the federal government says this trucking company can legally operate, you would think that yeah, I should be able to use whoever I want, and the reality is you legally can, but just because you legally can doesn't mean that you should. If a carrier has a trend of terrible inspections but they haven't been put out of service, they're likely going to have a higher, you know likelihood of having an issue on one of your customers loads. But you can still use them right. And we're talking about, you know, the things that they're rated on are correlated to their likelihood of a crash or a fatality or some sort of accident along those lines. So it always blew my mind that you hear about these nuclear verdicts and these massive lawsuits that pulled massive brokerages in for multi-millions of dollars because they try to hold the brokerage accountable for hiring a bad carrier. But the federal government says, yeah, you guys can haul, you can operate, you can have your authority, even though your safety scores suck. So if I'm CH Robinson and I hire a trucking company that the government says can operate legally but they get in an accident, now you're going to blame me and say I didn't do my job when you told them they could operate. It's twisted and it's goofy but the reality is it's a federal agency, it's a federal program and if you do your work just off of the basis of the government regulations, you're going to lack a lot of subjective analysis and decision making that the good top brokers are making and taking into consideration when they're booking trucks.

Speaker 1: 22:02

So that's our little intro here on the safety programs and whatnot. So if you've never heard, I want to give you a couple acronyms here. So SMS is the safety measurement system, if you've ever heard of that, if you ever go to the FMCSA's website, you'll see a little blue hyperlink at the top right on a lot of profiles that says SMS results and that's where you can see the CSA scores. And CSA stands for compliance, safety and accountability. So, yeah, I want to really explain when it comes to the CSA program.

Speaker 1: 22:39

When you're so, when you're in your TMS or you're in highway or you're in whatever carrier vetting platform you use, whether it's the government system or a third party like highway you'll often see five categories in which a carrier is rated for their safety.

Speaker 1: 22:55

Ok, there are seven total, but there are five that are publicly available when you're vetting a carrier. All right, so we'll go through the five that are publicly available are unsafe driving, hours of service compliance, vehicle maintenance, controlled substance and alcohol and driver fitness. Okay, that's five. The other two that exist but are not always publicly available. That's your crash indicator and your hazardous materials compliance. All right. So, but those other five, those are the ones that you'll see results on, ben, I'm curious. So, with your experience at different brokerages and working with different clients, have you experience at different brokerages and working with different clients? Have you have you ever seen like a generalization on what people say hey, this is how we're going to vet carriers, we're going to look at, you know, this one specifically, or the all five of them, or is everyone just kind of all over the place with what? How they weigh the importance of each category?

Speaker 2: 25:04

Yeah, so typically, and again it's been a long time.

Speaker 1: 25:07

I think everyone's different, but I'm curious what you've seen.

Speaker 2: 25:10

It's usually vehicle and driver typically go towards those two things. And again, like I use predominantly I use a lot of things. I'm using RMIS, care 411 and highway, but I'm typically going directly to the out of service rates for driver, looking at vehicle, looking at their out of service percentages against the national averages, and typically what was really cool when I got to work at a very large brokerage was there's lots of these, but not only and this kind of predates a lot of the software that's out now. But what was really cool back then when I was learning this was we had like our opinions of what happened next to these things.

Speaker 2: 25:54

So you can see the FMCSAs for instance, driver, vehicle, the ones that I'm typically going to look at right, unless hazmat comes into play and then you would see the notes of every broker in every situation that ever happened, right, and it was really no surprise that the ones that had very high out of service percentages had constant flags internally because like loads weren't delivered on time. So like you just got into the habit of connecting the problem with the report and you're like, okay, like this is just a higher likelihood that the guy might break down, right. That's kind of the way I even see it, and with the driver, similars like you just had a higher likelihood that there was going to be a claim, because if a driver is getting pulled over for lots of moving violations, I mean they're driving in a way that is considered unsafe and that makes it more likely that there's going to be a claim or an incident, right? So those are the two that I tend, and have always tended, to look at and put the most weight towards for those reasons.

Speaker 1: 26:54

Yeah, it's funny because when my company, pierceville Y, when our brokerage we've used Highway for years but when we decided to use their Highway Connect the onboarding platform through Highway that does onboarding for carriers and ongoing monitoring, we went through hey, what's our rule set going to look like? What do we want? How do we want to judge carriers for a pass or fail when it comes to their safety scores, violations, things like that? And my first question was well, what's common? Like what do most brokerages do? And their response was everyone's different.

Speaker 1: 27:32

Like it's your risk tolerance, it's the experience of your brokers to look at certain things, it's how meticulous you are with certain categories one versus the other. And a good rule of thumb is, you know, because we talked about these nuclear verdicts where a broker's been pulled into a lawsuit for selecting a bad carrier and, you know, sometimes held liable the rule of thumb that I've used for quite some time is if I can defend my decision in front of a judge and I have something that's some basis to stand on, then I feel good about that. But if I'm going to make a decision and I have to, you know, argue that decision to a judge and it's got a lot of holes to poke, like, yeah, they didn't look so good here, here and here and I knew that and I still use them anyway. It's not a very good argument. That's not to say that a broker is going to be held liable all the time, but that's kind of my gut. Check on a lot of different things I want to add.

Speaker 2: 28:28

I want to add one thing to that too.

Speaker 2: 28:30

Right, it makes a lot of sense that there is not consistency, because the type of freight you move has a lot to do with which weight matters.

Speaker 2: 28:40

If I'm moving a commodity that is very durable and very cheap to move, like I need to use carriers that have higher vehicle out of service because they're usually going to be cheaper to run the load. So if I'm running scrap metal or if I'm running some lumber or some things that are very commoditized, that aren't really time sensitive, that hell, outside of tipping the tractor over, even if there's an incident it's not likely to have a damage claim to it. You see lots of carriers that move that freight for lower rates because they've got higher out-of-service percentages. And again, on the other end of that spectrum, if I move a commodity that is very expensive and very fragile, like architectural glass or something like that, there is no way in the world I'm going to accept anything even close to the average for driver or vehicle maintenance. Right, because the risk is too high. And that's the thing you really got to understand is that, like, not all loads are created equal, not all have the same risk, and you need to act accordingly, and there are exceptions to almost everything.

Speaker 1: 29:48

Yeah, no, you're absolutely right. So I want to give kind of a high level of how, out of those five categories we highlighted there, the way that when an inspection happens, right, it could be roadside, it could be in the event of a driver gets pulled over for something. It could be you know, a variety of different ways. There's two factors that determine the total weight of a violation. There's the they call it severity and they call it the time weight. Okay, and they, they just simply multiply them together.

Speaker 1: 30:22

So the more recent a violation happens, it carries a heavier weight and as time goes on that time weight goes away. Same thing with severity. Right, If it's something little like a taillight, that's going to carry a lesser severity weight. But if it's something serious, like I don't know, like inoperable breaks, I'm going like pretty extreme here, Like it's going to carry a more severe weight. So when you've got, and then in addition to that, certain violations can then put a driver out of service. So if you ever see that OOS on your carrier vetting system, it'll tell you if that violation put them out of service until they corrected it. So either way, keep that in mind that the more recent it is and the more severe it is. It's going to give them a total heavier violation weight for whatever that inspection was.

Speaker 2: 31:17

So, interestingly, I'm literally vetting a carrier as we're doing this and I went directly to there to see this one because there was one. So this carrier I'm not going to obviously say the MC, but I can see that there is an unsafe driving violation. I can see that it happened on May 16th. I can see that the type was speeding to. It says description state local laws speeding 6 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. So I mean I would say that's probably a low weight. And then to the next it shows was there an out of service violation? No, and to your point, it shows me the weight. It is two, that's the time weight. And then it says total severity weight four. Violation value eight. So it literally tells you not only what happened, what the weights are and the severity weight at least in highway does.

Speaker 1: 32:07

Yeah, a great point on so speedings. We should use that as an example. Right, the more they're speeding, the more severity. Right, and the more recent it is, the heavier the weight. So if something was almost two years ago, I bet that time weight would have went down to one instead of two.

Speaker 2: 32:21

Um, just like you drive in a car? Right, if you're you're doing 95 in a 25, you're going to get a huge violation and you might have to go to court and they might send you to driving school or revoke your driver's license. Right, If you were driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit? Again different scenario. And again, as time passes, where you don't have more of them, they tend to fall off your record or the weight goes down. Over time.

Speaker 1: 32:44

They tend to fall off your record or the weight goes down over time. Yep, exactly so. Severity weight one through 10, time weight one, two or three. So a violation could hold a total weight of anywhere from one to 30. Keep that in mind as we talk through these different categories. If a carrier is failing your safety test or your rule set, you can let them know. I mean, most of them are educated on this. But let's say somebody is newer and they're like well, so I can never work with you. Well, no, the reality is, as time goes on, those historical violations will hold less weight against them in anybody's system, if you're going to be looking at it that way.

Speaker 1: 33:25

So, let's talk through. I'm going to pull up out of the five we mentioned and I'm using some cheat sheets from the FMCSA's CSA program. If you just go to their website, you should be able to download these. So the first one I'll pull up here is unsafe driving. So some examples of unsafe driving violations you have texting, speeding, like you mentioned before, ben, use of a handheld cell phone so that could just be holding the phone up to their ear and talking. Reckless driving, improper lane changes and inattention, so they're not paying attention, all right. So these are your unsafe driving examples, right there, all preventable by the user themselves. This is not like the vehicle had an issue. This is, like you said, driver, right, I'm looking at the driver themselves, right? So sometimes if you have a carrier that has a bad safety rating because of a specific individual that was let go for poor performance, sometimes you can rectify that or justify that by getting a safety letter that states hey, we had these inspection results, we've let this driver go. Here's proof of their termination and here's what we've done to improve training and whatever to make our safety program, you know, more ironclad. Okay, so that's unsafe driving.

Speaker 1: 34:53

Hours of service. This is your ELD, right, and there's some like really goofy ones in here, like paperwork stuff that that's kind of goofy. But this is dealing with, you know, abiding by the hours of service rules, the ELD rules. So if they go over their hours or they go over their weekly allotted hours, if they have improper or out of date paper logs, things of that nature. I found one actually that I came across in my system recently and the violation was driver's record of duty status is not current. That held a severity of five, and then there was one of record of duty status violation general or form and manner. So it's kind of like there's some like really weird, like administrative stuff in the hours of service.

Speaker 1: 35:45

So it's kind of like if you get pulled over by a cop and you're speeding, if you're kind of an a-hole to that cop, he might do what's known as like you know, throwing the whole book at you type deal right, where, like, he's going to write you up for literally anything that he possibly, he or she possibly can, because he can, and you're giving them every reason to want to do so at that point. Versus like yeah, you, yeah, you were going six miles an hour over and, um, he, you were polite and you talk, you know you were, you handled it good and maybe let you off with a warning. Or maybe you got your um, you got a ticket but he didn't get you for failing to use a blinker or coming to a complete stop at a stop at a stop sign or whatever else you know might be. I literally had a cop one time that pulled me over, for I think it was like I didn't use a blinker and I was. I had. Like I legit like didn't understand what I was getting pulled over for and he wrote me up for not using a blinker, not stopping fully at a stop sign and for having something hanging off of my rear view mirror Like I had like a uh, yeah, like air freshener. And he's like, yeah, you can't have that unless you're parked. And I was like, are you kidding me? But like you know, I was a young, stupid idiot at the time and he threw the book at me for something silly. So, yeah, hours of service has some nitty gritty things in there.

Speaker 1: 37:12

Let's move on to vehicle maintenance. All right, this is a loaded one, and this is the other category you mentioned is vehicle. This is one that I'm a big stickler on personally because, again, fully preventable. And if you're an owner operator, this is the driver who's responsible for their own equipment. If this is a fleet and they are having vehicle maintenance issues, this is a poor vehicle maintenance program that this, this carrier has.

Speaker 1: 37:41

These are things like taillights out not having enough tread, brake line issues, headlights inoperable I mean the list goes on.

Speaker 1: 37:52

You could have issues with, like, your mirrors, but these are the things that that like very, very directly correlate to accidents.

Speaker 1: 38:02

Ok, if your tread is light, or your brake lines have issues, or your brake pads are thin, or your taillights have issues, yeah, you're more likely to get into an accident because someone else doesn't know what you're trying to do, because your lights don't work, your blinkers don't work, you can't stop fast enough because your brake lines have issues, or your brake pads have issues, um, or your your jake brakes are, you know, poorly maintained, um, the list goes on and on with vehicle maintenance. But this stuff is all very, very preventable. Um, if you do proper preventative maintenance, which good carriers do, and carriers that are tight on money or just don't care about this, they're going to run into a lot of issues in this instance. So, ben, this is like directly correlating to you know what you said. Like these are what I look for, because it's going to lead to my customer shipping getting there delayed because they broke down with a flat tire or their engine. You know they're not maintaining their vehicle, whatever.

Speaker 2: 39:03

Their engine yeah.

Speaker 1: 39:04

Whatever yeah.

Speaker 2: 39:05

There were. I remember the first time I really understood how important this was, not to just brokerages but to shippers, right? So one of my first customers was a brokerage attached to a large trucking company, like three, 400 trucks, but they worked with like all of the large name shippers in their industry. So the flatbed carrier they worked with, like Alcoa, gerdau, nucor, all the big steel and aluminum companies in the US and here's where it really hit me right was when I was able to see what they were getting paid by the shippers. Able to see what they were getting paid by the shippers, right, it was far above what you would consider like the median rate or even above median rate. So, like you know, if the average rate on that lane just call it was like $3,000, they're getting $3,800 or $4,200. And I remember, because I was really curious when I was able to see this right, because it's the first time from the brokerage side, like I was able to see the direct relationship with a very good carrier with very good maintenance and what they paid for it, and when I asked a few questions, like it made a lot of sense. I'm like I said, you know the first question was just like wow, how do you guys get paid this much to basically move freight that I could move for far less money? Right, and the answer was exactly what we're talking about.

Speaker 2: 40:27

Those companies had very strict timelines, deliveries. If they weren't met, they got penalized by their receivers. If they weren't there on time, they shipped to steel mills, they shipped to places that needed it, like that day, the next day, for their production runs, and they're like look, we would much rather pay more to a company that we know basically always has new equipment. They rarely have ever had trucks that were more than a few years old. They cycled them out, brought new ones in.

Speaker 2: 40:56

So I mean, when you think about it, if you're going to hire a company to move something for you and it's very time sensitive and very important because you can lose a lot of money if it's not there when it's supposed to be You're willing to pay a company that maintains a large fleet with very high standards, because your risk of everything going wrong goes down. Same with the driver's side, right, but specifically, even to just the vehicle maintenance, right, and I remember going to their facility. Every truck looked brand new, right, like no matter where you are in the lots, hundreds of trucks, every one of them. You couldn't tell the difference between whether they bought it yesterday or a month ago, and I'm just like it was surprising right To see it. But then, when you saw the correlation with what and how the business worked, like, oh, this makes a lot of sense, like they're willing to pay for that because they get the value for it, right.

Speaker 1: 41:44

For sure. So I just pulled up a carrier that failed our safety threshold for vehicle maintenance and this carrier is in the 99.8% percentile, which means they're in the bottom 0.2 percent of carriers based on their fleet size. They have 47 total vehicle maintenance violations. So a terrible carrier. But here are some examples Missing mud flaps, inoperable lamps, missing lights, tire, tire ply material exposed, not equipped with anti-lock brake system, missing wipers, tread depth on their tires, inoperable turn signal um, another mud flap violation. Hood not securely fastened, oil leak, brake hose, uh chafing exhaust ditch discharge pointing forward or directly below the driver or sleeper compartment not equipped with analog brake, malfunction circuit brakes, more lights, more wipers, power steering, on and on and on. I don't even know how that truck's moving or how that fleet is moving down the road. I didn't see how many trucks they got they have. Let's see here two, two trucks. I don't even know how they're still driving.

Speaker 1: 43:11

But vehicle maintenance right, very preventable, all right, let's move on to the next category, which is controlled substance or alcohol. So your obvious ones here are alcohol, illegal drugs, over-the-counter prescription meds, anything that's going to impair the driver's abilities, endanger safety, etc. So keep in mind this does not just mean drinking and driving. You can get a violation for this. If a driver has a, an empty six pack and their sleeper cab, for example, right Like you cannot have that kind of stuff inside your truck, all right. So controlled substance we had. And so here's something, and producer Steven brought this up off. Air is something, and producer steven brought this up off air.

Speaker 1: 45:21

But if there's a violation given and it's should be exonerated or thrown away because it's proven to be not true, um, if you don't fight that, it can lead to bad things. But here's a real example had a driver get in an accident and, um, driver was totally sober but they were written, written up for impaired driving because they were shooken up and the roadside officer wrote them up for driving while impaired or whatever the case might be. They were sober, there was no issue, had to fight forever to get that thrown off the record, but that sat there on their safety history when someone's vetting them as a broker until it was proven to be not true and thrown away. So controlled substance can be a huge no-no. I've seen carriers that they had a history of this but we were able to get around it because they fired the driver. Same thing with the reckless driving incidents, but got rid of the driver, reworked their safety program and uh, you know, did something to improve themselves. So, but that's a big one. You ever heard any good, any good stories on substance?

Speaker 2: 46:32

no, but, but just a personal one. And this is the like. I got pulled over just like three blocks from my house and the road was under construction and like literally like half of the intersection was blocked off, like you literally couldn't drive it. So it was basically a turn right. You couldn't go straight and nobody could come from either direction. And when I pulled up to it, like the light just stayed red and I could see the cop like literally sitting there watching the intersection and I waited from again, from like my point of view, what seemed like a long enough time that it like wouldn't have been red anymore. And I was like, oh, like this must just be like because of the intersection and the construction, like maybe it's just on red Right. So I like came to a complete stop, waited, like I don't know, like two minutes before, like I turned and they pulled me over and said like oh, look, you went through a red light. I'm like, yeah, well, I also just made it right on red, like that should be okay.

Speaker 2: 47:31

And like, to your point, like the cop was not happy with the fact that like I even disagreed and then like started arguing. I'm like I just wanted to know, like I didn't do this on purpose, like I'm just trying to drive safe, like I wasn't even in a hurry. I'm just like I thought that's why you were literally sitting there. Like I saw you, I said I thought you were there just to make sure that, like traffic kept moving because of the weird situation and she got so mad she threatened to give me a violation for substance abuse.

Speaker 2: 48:01

This is like 12 in the afternoon, it's like the middle of the day, and I remember I was like well, like for what she's like, I don't know, but you're going to have to deal with it and fight with this if I give this to you and I'm like whoa, whoa, whoa. I was like you can just give me the ticket, like it'll be okay, and then like, and then I left and took the ticket and I hired an attorney and fought it. But it did remind me of the scenario that you said, where it was just like I'm like, are you kidding me? Like what? I've never even heard of somebody that happening to. But yeah, sure, people are people, no matter what job you have, people have bad days and things can happen.

Speaker 1: 48:34

Yeah, no, you're absolutely right, For sure that's a wild one. Um, last one is driver fitness. Okay, and people think fitness like, oh, they gotta be in shape. Now, that's not what this is. This comes down to a lot of administrative stuff. So we're talking about um records files like the driver's license not being expired, having the medical exams up to date, um state driving records, annual review of driving records, things of that nature. And it makes it very clear in the FMCSA note the driver fitness basic score does not consider body mass index, weight or neck size. It is kind of a weird category name, I think it's. You know, it throws a lot of people off, you can call it driver compliance.

Speaker 1: 49:21

And yeah, it's called like, uh, administrative, you know, driver administrative compliance, yeah, uh, but they call it driver fitness. So, yeah, that's things like your um, your driver's license and whatnot. So, um, but anyway, those are your five um, five categories. Now, before I kind of give my opinion and how to look at this stuff, I want to explain where the intervention levels come from. So if you're using a proprietary TMS or a system like Highway, it will tell you which categories a carrier is being dinged or whatever you want to call it. Like they're meeting, they're exceeding the threshold in this category. What does that mean? The FMCSA determines an intervention threshold for a motor carrier and they determine if you're a passenger carrier or a hazmat carrier or just a general carrier, like we use the majority of the time. It's going to have different intervention levels, but they're going to look at you and your size fleet and compare you amongst your peers. Okay, so it's not like a single owner operator is judged against a 10,000 unit fleet the exact same way. It doesn't work that way, but here's the way that it works. So for general cargo, for unsafe driving and for hours of service compliance, they consider these the most correlated to crashes and safety issues. So if you exceed the 35th percentile, meaning if you're in about the bottom third of your peer group, you will hit the intervention threshold level for this specific category. Again, it doesn't mean that they can't operate, it's just going to flag them or ding them in that category. So if you're on highway or RMIS or whatever proprietary TMS that's plugged in FMCSA, if they're in that bottom group, yes, it's going to say they're getting flagged for unsafe driving or for hours of service. The other three vehicle maintenance, controlled substance and driver fitness those are an 80% intervention threshold. So if they're the bottom 20% of the pack, they're going to be dinged in those categories. So what I do, rule of thumb, is take a look at your company, what your values are, where you've seen, you know where your experience level of your brokers is, and decide where fail three of the five, you're going to get a fail for us unless we can have a compelling argument as to why you've corrected your track record and we should use you.

Speaker 1: 52:09

Some might say, hey, if you have a vehicle maintenance issue, we're going to flag you every time and require some sort of override, depending on how old it was or what the actual violations were, things like that. But there's no right or wrong answer here, as long as you have some protocol in place that says here's where we stand, here's what we want to see, here's how we're vetting carriers At the end of the day, do something right. These aren't here for no reason. These results and these scores age. Do something right. These aren't here for no reason. These results and these scores. They're there because, well, number one, they're publicly required to be visible, so you should use them. But, number two, they give you some sort of input to your decision-making process as a freight brokerage to determine the kinds of carriers that you want to do business with versus carriers that, no, we don't want to work with them. We would rather wait until they maybe six months down the road, when some of those severity scores go down and they're not flagged anymore. They've shown a trend upward in their progress and performance. But find whatever works best for you and don't be afraid to have a subjective conversation with a carrier.

Speaker 1: 53:16

If a carrier fails your system for onboarding, you tell them why, like, hey, you know we, you know we really prefer to use carriers that have a good track record of of um scoring in X category, and you guys have shown a trend recently. That's also, you guys have to tighten up your vehicle maintenance. It's it's been an issue. We have some very sensitive freight that's got to get there on time. We can't be um risking to have someone's brake line go out or have a flat tire, and you guys have had a history of that. So that's why we just can't use you on this load right now.

Speaker 1: 53:48

That's the big takeaway here. There's no right or wrong, like I said. But I do think, ben, that I think a lot of smaller to medium brokerages they don't train their new reps on this stuff in detail. You know a lot of systems are in place to say pass or fail, and the rep doesn't know really beyond that, why or what does it all mean and where does this come from and how are they ranked among their peers and what can they do to improve their scores. So that's why we wanted to have a discussion on today, just to give you guys a little bit of basic knowledge and education on what this stuff means and how you can use it. So what?

Speaker 2: 54:22

else we got. I think the other way that, like I kind of think about this like very simply is, it gets kind of lost, I think, with people conceptually sometimes like well, they're putting something in a truck, it's getting picked up, it's getting delivered, beyond that, what matters, right, and it's like I think the way I kind of think about this too, like conceptually, is like if this was an Uber driver, right, and you are going to pick somebody to pick up your family and your child, right, and you've got two choices, three choices. One, vehicle maintenance is fine, so like the vehicle's probably okay, right, but there's tons of violations, meaning like you can see this individual person's driving record and they've got moving violations, running stop signs, reckless driving and all these things Like would you be willing to put your family in that vehicle? That's a great point.

Speaker 2: 55:14

Now, if it was maybe just you and maybe you just needed a ride two miles away, maybe you take that risk for convenience or because it's cheaper. And, on the other hand, right Like, if there's three Ubers that all had poor maintenance and poor driver and one had very good maintenance and very good driving, you would expect to pay a little more for the one that maintains their vehicle better. Cause, when you get in, and it would be likely nicer, it's less likely to break down, it's probably clean and you know you're not likely fearing for your safety, right, and I think when you put yourself literally in the situation and think about it like, it kind of connects in a different way and kind of makes sense as to why these are very different. Right, and our main function as a freight broker is we are hiring trucking companies on behalf of our customer and if you're going to hire anybody, you typically do background checks and you look at how they are as a person and whether or not they've done things that make it more likely that they screw the thing up. Right Like, if you're hiring trucking companies, you want to know the quality that you're paying for so that you can also articulate this back to your customer right Like we talk about this in prospecting like.

Speaker 2: 56:28

The other thing that is very often overlooked with this and vetting carriers is even asking the simple question to your shippers like do you have a preference? Like, is this shipment anything out of the ordinary Do you guys have a preference for? Like the age of the truck, the driver fitness right, like, and again, some may not understand that exactly, but even if you just say it from like a qualitative perspective, the way I usually ask, I'm like hey, do you really have a preference here? Like I can get you like very reliable, much better maintained vehicles and I can get you on the lower end. How much does that matter to you? Because I'm going to get what I pay for.

Speaker 2: 57:08

If you want, you want to give me the lowest rate in the market to try to move this. You're not getting a vehicle that is well-maintained and you might not get a driver that's got the best record. That just comes with free market. Like, if I'm going to pay less, I'm going to get less. If I'm going to pay more, I've got a better chance of getting somebody better. Now the rub or the like how you execute, that is, if your shipper says I want a better truck and I'm willing to pay for it, for this load because it's important, for whatever reason. This is how you determine, because everybody pretends like they're the best carrier when they argue the rate. But this is the objective right, the numbers that show you. Are they what they're asking for and are you paying for what you're getting right? It's how you're determining that.

Speaker 1: 57:58

Exactly right. And the last thing I'll add here is the CSA program and these categories. It's a very drilled down, granular analysis of like down to the specific violation for a carrier. These do have a correlation with your DOT safety ratings, right? So if you see a carrier and you see satisfactory versus conditional, these do play a part into a DOT safety rating overall. I don't have the exact science behind it, but either way, the FMCSA and the DOT have done a very detailed job at determining what things are an indicator of higher risk for crash and for fatalities and things of that nature. And that's why they've set those thresholds for intervention levels. And the worst performance a carrier has in these inspections, the higher likelihood they'll be put out of service and the higher likelihood they'll end up with a conditional safety rating and they'll have to go through an intervention process to get that conditional rating you know put back into a satisfactory level. So definitely do your homework. Take a look at all of the different things that are out there on the FMCSA's website, because there's a lot of stuff we didn't have time to cover here.

Speaker 1: 59:13

One last thing, and I've got to give a shout out to Stephen, our producer. I've got to give a shout out to Stephen, our producer. So we talked about this with Ken Adamo, how you know, I think it was like 95 percent of carriers are unrated or something along those lines, and this was a discussion point we had in DC at the conference last year is that if carriers aren't rated, we don't really know if they're satisfactory or conditional or unsat for that matter. Unsat, you can't. You know they can't operate at all. That's like the entire carrier's authority being put out of service versus just a single driver for a single incident.

Speaker 1: 59:52

But you want to look at this stuff. Are they satisfactory, are they conditional, are they unrated? And if they're unrated, you definitely want to look at these CSA scores and see, do they have any inspection history at all? And if they don't, you're kind of shooting in the dark here and you've got to make a really good judgment call on. You know no safety, no inspection history, no safety rating.

Speaker 1: 1:00:15

Are they potentially a double broker, is it fraud? Or are they a brand new authority? And maybe you can get a reference from a previous company that they drove for. So we don't have nearly enough time to dig all the way into all those scenarios, but this stuff is important and I highly encourage you to take a vested interest in understanding it so you can talk to your drivers in an educated fashion about it. And if you're in leadership, you're a manager, team leader, whatever. Make sure this is a part of your training for any of your new reps or anyone that's going to be new to the carrier compliance or carrier onboarding process for your brokerage. So good discussion, and I see you've got your dog with you here.

Speaker 2: 1:00:54

Yeah, see, I'm going to put one last metaphor, analogy right at the end. Is it like if you were selling any product, right, and you were a broker of produce? This would be like just not paying attention to the quality of the produce you're selling, like, ah, some of it's good, some of it's bad, some of it's in the middle. Like just sort it out when you get it and figure it out from there, right, like that would be unacceptable. It's the same thing. Just because like it gets moved does not mean that the quality and what you paid for are apples to apples for sure.

Speaker 1: 1:01:25

Exactly. But good discussion. Let us know what you guys think in the comments, or send us a message or an email info at Freight360.net, or hit us up through social. Let us know what do you guys have in place at your brokerage for your compliance and your safety requirements for drivers? How do you handle conditional carriers or unrated carriers? We're curious. We just want to know what everyone else is doing out there. Final thoughts, ben.

Speaker 2: 1:01:52

Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're right.

Speaker 1: 1:01:56

And until next time go Bills.

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