Letters to the Editor: SAFER Scores, Fuel Prices, Border Opening

These letters appear in the March 17 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

SAFER Scores

The Opinion column by John Hausladen, “Be Ready to Explain Your SAFER Scores,” is an excellent reminder to fleets about how important the Safety and Fitness Electronic Record System score is — and, how it can be misinterpreted by those uninformed about the industry (3-3, p. 9; click here for column).

However, the column didn’t mention the critical importance of each fleet’s keeping its Department of Transportation MCS-150 form [Motor Carrier Identification Report] up to date. Failing to do so can result in inaccurate information being used to calculate the fleet’s SAFER and SafeStat scores.

Here’s a direct quote from DOT’s Web site: “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) uses SafeStat results to identify and prioritize carriers for on-site compliance reviews, at which time the supporting data, such as number of power units and vehicle miles traveled, are verified and the carrier’s safety status is confirmed.

“Other SafeStat users should take careful note of the following: Most data used by SafeStat are maintained in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), the FMCSA central database of all motor carriers with a U.S. DOT number.

“While the event data (such as roadside inspection and compliance review results and moving violations and crashes) are updated continuously, some normalizing data (e.g., number of power units) may not be up to date, particularly if the motor carrier has not recently had a compliance review or submitted an updated form MCS-150.

“This is especially true for the power unit information used to calculate the Accident Involvement Measure (AIM) and Accident Safety Evaluation Area (Accident SEA) value.

“Inaccurate or out-of-date normalizing data in MCMIS can result in SafeStat results that do not accurately reflect the motor carrier’s safety status. Prudent users will verify the accuracy of the data prior to use, and motor carriers should examine and correct their own data by filing an updated form MCS-150 (U.S. DOT number application option) with FMCSA.”

And one other thing — keep in mind that insurers regularly look at the MCS-150 data for rating and risk management purposes. It is prudent to keep it accurate.

Thanks to John for an important message.

Dave Melton
Transportation Technical Consulting Services
Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety
Hopkinton, Mass.

Fuel Prices

What are we, as carriers, supposed to do about the recent run-up in fuel prices?

How is it possible I see freight every day on load boards getting covered for less than $1 per mile? Don’t the carriers who cover these types of loads realize how much they are hurting themselves and this industry? Have they thought about what they are doing?
Let’s do some quick figuring: Assume $4 per gallon for fuel (it’s not far away). Assume road tractors average 6 miles per gallon. The driver gets 35 cents per mile, then add in his taxes, worker compensation, etc. Add one set of tires and one brake job for the unit in a year. Now, let’s add it up:

Fuel — 67 cents per mile.

Driver — 44 cents per mile.

Tires, brakes — 7 cents per mile.

My calculator shows $1.18 per mile.

That is just your out-of-pocket expenses to move your truck. Forget about liability, cargo, physical damage insurance, depreciation, tolls, taxes, claims, bad debts, repairs, etc., ad infinitum.

Why do hazmat loads get covered for 90 cents per mile? Because too many carriers haven’t taken the time to do these calculations. Or worse yet, they have done them, but because of financial strife, they make bad business decisions anyway.

If you are like me, you are just “hanging in there,” waiting for the bottom feeders to go out of business. Then, maybe, we can make a fair living instead of enriching the oil companies.

Time will tell, but I long for the day when I can quote a broker or shipper $1.80 to $2 per mile and not be treated like I just said something unsavory about their family.

Stephen Cospito
L&S Logistic Services
Orlando, Fla.

Border Opening

My concern is for the safety of the truck driver and his equipment when he is in Mexico.

In November 2007, I was involved in a traffic accident in Mexico. A Mexican truck driver driving for a Mexican trucking company crossed the center line and hit a pickup head-on. Two of my service managers were killed in that pickup. The truck driver fled the scene of the accident. It took four hours to get any emergency help to the scene. It took another eight hours to get the driver cut out of the pickup.

The Mexican trucking company had no insurance. The emergency and safety services are slow and far between at best and do not speak English. Cell phones do not work in Mexico.

Are we telling our U.S. truck drivers this before they cross the border? It is a living nightmare for the families left behind. You don’t even want to know what we went through to get the bodies back.

It is unsafe for our drivers to be there.

Greg Foreman
Region Maintenance Manager
Ruan Transportation
Yucaipa, Calif.