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The Chickens Have Come Home

By Matthew A. Daecher

Figure 1

Regular readers of BUSRide have probably seen the plethora of industry talk in advance of the implementation of the CSA 2010 Safety Measurement System (SMS). While I’m not one to crow, “I told you so,” now that we are only a few months into the new measurement system, it appears the chickens have already come home to roost.

You may recall in one of my articles last year I warned that the new system was less forgiving — and that the time was near to “sweat the small stuff.” Well, that time came on March 12, 2011.

That was the morning that a coach returning from a casino run in Connecticut rolled on its side and was literally split in two by a highway signpost structure. As with most horrific accidents, this was indeed the perfect storm with the worst possible consequences. To date, fifteen passengers were killed and countless others seriously injured and traumatized.

In my previous article I warned that “the small stuff that gets written up during terminal, destination or en-route inspections will count against a carrier’s score in any given BASIC.”  This incident has clearly emphasized this point.

The March 12 accident, along with another multiple-fatality accident three days later, resulted in the first high-profile interactions between the press and the SMS. And neither the press coverage nor the SMS design painted a favorable picture of the Company involved.

Let me first say that I don’t know the bus operator in any detail (that I know of anyway). I am not knowledgeable of their practices or even detailed violations. But, considering how many companies I do know well, and their SMS statistics, it’s fair to say that what the media has penned and what may be the truth could be two completely different stories. And that is why any operator should be cleaning their chicken coup.

SMS data for the operator involved indicates Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) scores in two of the seven BASICs. The carrier score in one BASIC, Fatigued Driving, indicates that the threshold of the 50th percentile has been exceeded, and thus, the carrier is noted as having “exceeded the intervention threshold” via a warning symbol. The carrier overview, as reported through February 25, 2011, is depicted in figure 1 above.

If you were a reporter covering this story and saw this, you’d think you found the golden egg. Indeed, there were a lot of reporters who thought they had found that egg; story after story talked about the Company’s problems with fatigued driving (and maintenance) – especially considering the post-crash implications that fatigue may have been the cause of the crash. The articles focused on the multiple citations for driver fatigue issued to the carrier and trumpeted their ‘alert’ status.

Here’s the headline from just one – “The company whose tour bus crashed on Interstate-95 at the Westchester-Bronx border killing 14 passengers has been cited for fatigued driving often enough in recent years that it was put on alert by the federal government.”

Realizing a goal of journalism is to get folks to read the article, I think I would have written the articles in exactly the same manner. And, if anyone involved in a serious accident would expect nothing less.

With the new SMS, it’s all right there on the carrier overview. Even if you chose to look deeper, by actually looking into the violations under the Fatigued Driving BASIC, you may interpret it the same way. You see, whether or not the violations in the Fatigued Driving BASIC are actual hours of service violations or simply form and manner log violations, they are all serious violations, which result in fatigued driving to anyone who doesn’t know much about the regulations, the citations, or the business.

The qualifiers describe just about everyone who hires you to provide transportation service, as well as the general public who reads the paper and watches TV, and who may one day think of hiring a bus operator.

The rest of the story?  One 10-hour violation, two logs not current violations, and two form and manner violations. Under the old Safestat system, only the 10-hour rule counted against your score; under the new SMS, they all do. The violations those in the industry have typically looked at as ‘the small stuff’ are now a lot bigger and can negatively affect your image and business. So, until EOBRs become reality and (theoretically) take away a lot of those small log violations, you have your work cut out for you in keeping the roost clean. Oh yeah – don’t forget about the other BASICs too – and ‘small stuff’ in each one!

Matthew A. Daecher is president and CEO of Daecher Consulting Group, Inc., Camp Hills, PA.

Posted by on May 1 2011. Filed under Risk, Safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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