Before CSA went into effect, there were plenty of dire predictions about the number of drivers the new safety rating system would wash out of the workforce. According to a recent survey of motor carriers conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute(ATRI), however, CSA has impacted driver hiring far more than it has increased firing frequency. The survey turned up other surprises about the impact of CSA on carriers as well.

First of all, when it comes to sacking poor performers, 89.7% of the 695 sampled carriers reported terminating 5% or fewer of their drivers as a result of CSA, so the massive purging of the driver pool has not occurred - at least not yet.

Under CSA, however, a carrier’s ability to hire new drivers does appear to be more challenging, the report notes. Nearly three-quarters of carriers acknowledged that CSA has made it more difficult to hire new drivers, due to the increased scrutiny that is now required.

“Since CSA began, more than half of the motor carriers surveyed indicated that they have elevated or otherwise altered their hiring standards,” the report states. “For instance, nearly 70% of carriers have begun using the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) as part of their hiring process. PSP is the congressionally created program that allows prospective employers to access data on driver applicants’ crash and violation history for a $10 fee per driver, although drivers must give permission.

“Overall, 33.8% of carriers reported that the amount of money being expended on recruiting new drivers has increased as a result of CSA. In addition tothe costs associated with PSP, 17.3% of carriers began offering new hiring bonuses to attract top tier driver candidates and 16.5% raised starting pay.”

In addition to impacting hiring practices, CSA has also driven some carriers to deploy more technology to facilitate CSA compliance, but not to the extent that seemed likely before CSA went into effect. “For the most part, CSA has not been influential in carrier decisions to utilize onboard technologies in their fleets,” the survey found. “In fact, nearly all carriers reported that they had chosen to implement or not implement their respective technologies prior to CSA and have not changed course as a result of the program. The only three exceptions to that general rule included electric onboard recorders (EOBRs); speed limiters; and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), which 19.3%, 14.8% and 6.8% of carriers began deploying due to CSA, respectively.”

Not all carriers are having the same level of success under CSA. According to the survey, truckload carriers, specialized and flatbed carriers self-reported the highest number of CSA problems, whereas private carriers tended to report superior CSA safety profiles, followed by less-than-truckload and bulk/hazmat carriers. Small and medium-sized carriers also self-reported fewer BASICs above threshold than did large carriers.

Overall, however, the majority of carriers reported that their operations “have not changed significantly since the nationwide rollout of CSA, although this study reveals that carriers with multiple self-reported BASICs above threshold seem to be at an increased risk for negative consequences.”

In fact, according to the survey results, as compared to the SafeStat system that CSA replaced, “the likelihood of having zero problems went down, the likelihood of one or two problem areas increased and the likelihood of more than two problem areas only expanded to incorporate the greater number of safety categories. As one carrier stated, ‘Our scores were good before and continue to be good.’”

ATRI posted its CSA carrier survey online and made it publicly available from July 12 to Aug. 26, 2011. During this time, 695 motor carriers voluntarily completed the online survey. Most were small to medium-sized fleets.

As part of the fleet characteristic assessment, carriers were asked to describe their truck driver workforce. The majority of carriers (82.6%) employed company drivers; 15.8% contracted owner-operators who possessed their own operating authority; and 44.3% employed independent contractors who were leased to the carrier.

The survey also tested carriers to gauge how well they understand CSA and the good news is that carriers do, in general, have a very good grasp of CSA.Drivers, who were surveyed earlier concerning CSA, did not do as well.