February 24, 2017 3:50 PM, EST

High CSA Scores Predict High Driver Attrition, Vigillo’s Bryan Says

John Sommers II for TT

A carrier that doesn’t do well on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s tests of Compliance, Safety and Accountability is almost sure also to have high rates of driver attrition, according to Vigillo’s data analysis of its 2,000 customers.

“There appears to be a pretty strong correlation between the safety culture that exists at a motor carrier, which can be measured in CSA, and turnover rates,” Vigillo CEO Steve Bryan said Feb. 24 in a presentation at the Recruitment and Retention conference in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Vigillo divided its customers into 500 with high attrition and 500 with low attrition and eliminated the 1,000 in the middle from the data analysis. Next, the CSA scores of the top 500 and the bottom 500 were added to see if those figures corresponded to the attrition data. 

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“Does attrition impact CSA scores? That’s the fundamental question,” Bryan said.

CSA consists of seven categories: unsafe driving, hours of service violations, driver fitness (which Bryan said should be relabeled something like driver qualifications), vehicle maintenance (which primarily consists of brakes, lights and tires), use of controlled substances by drivers, hazmat violations, and crash indicators.

According to Vigillo’s data, carriers with high attrition also had 181% more hours-of-service violations than carriers with low attrition, 182% more controlled substance violations, 211% more concerning both unsafe driving and vehicle maintenance, 213% more in driver fitness, 224% more crash indicators and a whopping 640% more hazmat violations. However, Bryan said tank trucks weren’t responsible for most of those violations. The number was vastly skewed by trucks without tanks transporting such flammable items as hair spray.

Bryan said that unsafe driving is the most important focus because “speed kills.” 

Vigillo also examined added three related, non-CSA categories: out-of-service violations for both drivers and trucks and crashes recorded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The correlation remained with 189% for drivers and 300% for trucks and 388% for recordable crashes.

Bryan defended the trucking industry’s generally very high attrition rate, saying that 5% of drivers are constantly moving from carrier to carrier.

“You hear about 100% turnover [and people think], you’ve completely changed your staff in a year, but that’s not what’s happening,” Bryan said. “You’re churning [the same] 5% multiple times. They’re not with you long enough. They don’t become part of your culture. That’s also your CSA pain: 5% of the drivers in the industry [cause high] CSA [scores]. [The other] 95% of your drivers are not your problem children.”

Bryan noted that “there’s almost a gravitational pull” between CSA and driver retention in their spots among the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual list of the top 10 issues in the industry. If one is a hot topic, so is the other and vice versa.

The National Academy of Sciences recommendations on CSA reform are required in June by a provision of the FAST Act. Bryan said he expects those to be very positive for the industry, if not for the FMCSA, which was forced to make CSA scores private when President Obama signed the FAST Act in December 2014.

“What I saw was very encouraging,” said Bryan, who testified at one of the three National Academy of Sciences public sessions and attended the two others. “In my opinion, CSA will never come back to light again unless the FMCSA implements the reforms that the Academies will suggest. I think the suggestions will be very strong, very deep and very detailed.  And it’s going to take some time to implement it all.”