“We are trying to create a national standard that would lead to federal precedent”~Transportation Intermediaries President Robert Voltmann on a new bill the TIA will present to congress later this month.
The new legislation would help brokers, carriers and shippers choose and qualify new carriers in a more streamlined, effective manor. The law will not only simplify the process for brokers by stating that as long as a carrier is licensed, insured and does not have an unsatisfactory safety rating they are qualified, but also address inconsistencies in handling of liability cases. The TIA and other unnamed sponsors of the bill are pushing for this to help regulate the Carrier Safety Administration in the way they develop the carrier safety scores and ratings. It would help put the CSA where it needs to be, helping carriers, brokers, shippers and law enforcement effectively spot, report, and recognize problem carriers.
Currently, the criteria for selecting carriers is up to the individual broker or shipper. While there are steps that every broker should be taking to set up with new carriers, including:verifying MC number, checking FMCSA safety rating, insurance coverage, years in service, size of fleet, lanes, type of authority, and a full background check on the company, it is not always possible to get it all done in the time you have. Most times when setting up with a new company brokers are doing it on the fly. The broker has a hot load, and the only truck available is a new carrier, meaning the broker is doing a quick check, and verifying the bare minimum to get the truck under their load only to find out later that the carrier may not meet all of the brokers qualifications.
The stipulations of the new bill would have the CSA inspecting and reporting on all carriers in a much more accurate and timely manor. It would enable brokers and shippers to be able to truly rely on the safety ratings, and CSA scoring of satisfactory, conditional and unsatisfactory and make them inspect and rate all carriers that currently have an NA rating(meaning that they have not had enough, or any inspections to give them a rating).
“We want the CSA to work, so that the agency can tell us who the unsafe carriers are. Our legislation takes the uncertainty out of the equation. It is not a get out of jail free card” Voltmann said at the TIA meeting in Tucson in April. He also stated that the legislation would not block suits from being filed when drivers are negligent, and that liability in such cases would not be caped.
Carriers, shippers and brokers are all open to liability with the way things currently stand. A broker for example in one state, that books a truck from another state to move a load through three different states, is open for a liability case in any or all of the states involved if their carrier selection process is not up to par. With this federal legislation, the playing field will become much more even, and also help pin point the responsible party in cases such as the example above where a lawyer can seek out a friendlily judge in any of the states involved to place blame on the broker or shipper. If a shipper or broker is doing what the new federal mandate and set of rules says they must, then what judge has the right to say that they were in the wrong?
As things stand right now, brokers and shippers using only CSA scores to select carries are open to lawsuits, and judgements due to this. If a company is relying only on these scores, they are not getting all the information for this carrier, and at the same time if they do not consult the CSA the same is happening. There are current flaws in the CSA system, that is widely agreed, and a large part of this bill is to correct these, and make it the main go to for carrier qualification.
Until this bill is formally presented to congress, and voted on, the decision and process is still completely in the broker or shippers hands. So, use your head and take the time to do the research you and your company feel is needed to fully and satisfactorily qualify carriers. Each company should have a full process that all employees must follow, and you need to make sure your employees are! At the bare minimum this should include checking the FMCSA, MC number, insurance, and something like either TIA Watchdog, or Carrier 411 where you can run a fairly quick and thorough background check on all carriers. There are several places to verify carriers, so make sure you are doing your part!
Until Next week,