Pre-trip & Your CSA Report/By MaryGrace Johansen Director of Safety & Loss Control, VTBA

   As a professional driver you are held to a higher standard than the average driver, which implies that the professional driver is more in tune with safety. That higher standard includes requirements for maintaining a safe vehicle, conducting pre-& post-trip inspections to ensure that the vehicle is safe to operate. A pre-trip is something which the average driver is not required to do… other than to have his or her vehicle inspected once a year…and, of course, driving safely.
   We are living in a fast-paced world where we are expected to do more but with less time. As a result we are constantly in a rush. So, the average driver typically does not do more than what is absolutely necessary when they get in their car or pickup truck. They get in, turn on the ignition and drive off. Maybe they put on their seatbelt. At self-service gas stations they get out, pump their gas, get back in and drive off. But, when do they stop to check the washer fluid, the oil, or the tire pressure? For some, it is when they encounter a problem; for others, these are checked when they take their vehicle to be serviced once or twice each year. Is this enough?
   More is expected from the professional driver. Keep in mind that your driver is your company representative and your trucks are a big rolling billboard of who you are and what you do. Their safe operation is out there for the whole world to see.
   Regardless of the time constraints, the professional driver must make the time to do what the average driver does not do: conduct a pre-& post- trip inspection. A professional driver must address any issues they find by reporting defects so they can be repaired before the vehicle can go out again. The driver who is thinking he won’t be stopped for an inspection is putting his company’s CSA score at risk.
   When FMCSA developed the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program in 2010 it was intended to identify unsafe behaviors that could potentially lead to vehicle crashes, the ensuing bodily injuries, and fatalities. Unsafe driving all too frequently results in a citation, or worse, a collision. A citation will remain on that CSA report for two years. Good inspections will also show up on the CSA report, which will lower the score and help in the long term.
The CSA program is a shared responsibility between the driver and management. So… if you know you need better scores, read your CSA report on a regular basis (i.e., monthly) to determine what needs improvement. In the long run you’ll actually save money…and time.
   But, consider those annoying mechanical violations. Some of these are so easy to fix it is a wonder why they aren’t picked up during a pre-trip. For example, one of the most common citations for defects is lights. Consider how often we check to see if our lights are working before getting into our cars. For commercial drivers, non-operable lights are among the top vehicle violations. If they aren’t being picked up, are drivers doing their pre-trips????
   How often does the average driver check the tires on their personal vehicle? Checking tire condition is a basic part of a professional driver’s pre-trip routine or should be.
   By conducting proper pre- & post-trip inspections and reporting any defects that need to be repaired, drivers can avoid some of the most common violations and downtime at an inspection site or a breakdown on some lonely highway.
   Developing a comprehensive maintenance program whereby any reported defects are repaired before a vehicle is driven again is essential. Use your CSA report as a tool to gauge the safety culture within your company, but also how your drivers are behaving while they are on the road.
   Despite all the requirements, there is a percentage of drivers who not only don’t perform proper pre-trips but who also don’t know HOW to perform a pre-trip. We take for granted that the vehicle is safe to drive as is, or is so well-maintained that it isn’t worth the effort to do a proper pre-trip. So, what’s a supervisor to do?
   One thing a supervisor can do is watch drivers do their pre-trips and the post-trips. How often does a supervisor get out of the office to go watch drivers do what they’re supposed to be doing? If your CSA score is loaded with minor violations that can be easily fixed, maybe supervision should be tightened.
   Improving your CSA score involves changing your culture. Make a point of discussing the value of safety on a regular basis. Training is essential for drivers to understand what is expected of them and the impact violations may have on them and the company.