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FMCSA Compliance Does Not Equal Safety


Some trucking companies use the words safety and compliance interchangeably, as the line between them seems to have been blurred by federal regulators placing a great deal of focus on CSA numbers. Indeed, both are important, but they are definitely not the same. 

Compliance is important.

Compliance refers to following the letter and spirit of the laws and regulations as set forth by the FMCSA. As most people know, FMCSA compliance involves drug testing, driver logs, crashes, maintenance and driver files. Your CSA numbers, inspections and audits are the tools used by the FMCSA to identify offenders and ensure compliance in all of those regulatory areas. 

While compliance is very important, I would argue that in essence it is your "table stakes" in the game of trucking risk. Table stakes are the limit that you can bet in a game of poker, and you can't go back for more. In trucking risk, compliance is kind of the same. You can throw in the minimal amount of effort that you need to comply, but does that mean your drivers are truly safe? 

The regulatory areas monitored by CSA can definitely point to warning signs of risk, but they don't necessarily eliminate the possibility of accidents and injuries. Just because a driver is compliant on hours of service doesn't mean that he is not driving tired, distracted or impaired. 

Now what? 

Safety is essential. 

In my opinion, safety is the art of actively preventing crashes and injuries through a mix of risk identification and prevention. A true safety department has an established plan to reduce and eliminate unsafe acts and conditions from the workplace. Having a strong safety program is one of the key components to becoming a best-in-class trucker who consistently outperforms the industry in loss dollars paid. 

Believe it or not, these top truckers might not list safety as one of their top day-to-day priorities; rather, it is a core value. These companies understand that priorities can change throughout a day, a week or a year. Safety simply shouldn't ever be compromised based on circumstance. Instead, as a core value it will not change regardless of circumstance or day of the week or situation. The organization's culture allows employees to consistently make safe decisions and know that they will be celebrated for it. 

The moral of the story: should a trucking CEO focus on safety or compliance? I suggest that it is necessary to be best-in-class at both. Safety and compliance should work together to support a culture of strong values in which both are front and center. Use CSA metrics to help uncover your leading indicators of risk, and incorporate what you learn into your safety programs. If safety and compliance work hand-in-hand, you can get a leg up. 


We think that every driver's safety performance should be scored with key performance metrics that help companies understand who their top performers are.  Want to know which safety criteria we measure with our DART system?  Request a demo below.

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