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CSA - Controlled Substances and Alcohol BASIC is as simple as it sounds

This BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program is possibly the simplest and easiest one to understand. It has everything to do with violations of regulations involving the use of drugs and alcohol when on the road, and violations of the drug and alcohol regulations found during auditing. Basically, what is being tracked, measured, and evaluated is carrier and driver compliance with the "controlled substance and alcohol" regulations.

What goes into the Controlled Substances and Alcohol BASIC?

The Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC uses violations related to the use of controlled substances and alcohol noted on roadside inspection reports to calculate driver and carrier performance. This has nothing to do with the driver receiving a "citation" or "ticket." Citations are a totally different matter and involve someone paying a fine for the violation or losing his/her license. To sum this up, if a violation of a drug or alcohol related regulation is noted on a roadside inspection report, the violation will be entered into the driver’s and carrier’s Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC in the CSA 2010 data system.

Examples of violations that will be placed in the Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC include operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, possession of drugs or alcohol in a CMV, consumption of alcohol within four hours of coming on duty.

Tracking and measuring controlled substances and alcohol violations

Whenever a violation related to drugs or alcohol is placed into the system, the violation is "valued" in the driver and carrier Safety Measurement Systems (SMS) using severity and time weighting. The severity weighting is based on the violation’s relationship to crash causation. Operating a commercial vehicle after being placed out of service for an alcohol violation is valued at 10, which is the maximum, while the driver using alcohol within four hours of duty is 5. There are no violations in this BASIC with a severity of 1, the minimum.

The high severity violations in this BASIC include operating a commercial vehicle after being ordered out of service for an alcohol-related violation, operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and operating a commercial vehicle within four hours of coming on duty. Basically, there are no "minor" violations in this BASIC.

Time weighting involves placing more value on violations that have happened recently. All violations remain in the carrier's data for 24 months (36 months for drivers), but a violation's "value" reduces over time due to the time weighting system. Events that occurred in the last six months are given a time weight of 3, events that took place between 6 and 12 months ago are given a time weight of 2, and anything that happened over a year ago is given a time weight of 1 (driver time weighting is slightly different).

To determine the "value" of a violation, the total severity weighting for the violation (the predetermined severity weight of the violation plus two if the driver was placed out of service) is multiplied by the time weighting to determine the "value" of the violation in the SMS.

Scoring carriers

If a carrier has more than one driver inspection that notes a violation of the drug and alcohol regulations, then the total of all violation values is divided by total time and severity weighted relevant inspections (i.e., driver level inspections).

This "normalizing" process generates a BASIC Measure (violation value per inspection) that allows all carriers to be compared to each other.

Once a carrier's BASIC Measure has been determined, the carrier is then compared to other carriers in its "Safety Event Group" (i.e., peer group). The Safety Event Groups are based on the number of relevant inspections with a violation in this BASIC (not all relevant inspections). The carrier with the lowest BASIC Measure in the Safety Event Group is ranked at 0, while the carrier with the highest BASIC Measure is ranked at 100. All other carriers in the Safety Event Group fit in between based on their BASIC Measure. This percentile ranking is the carrier's actual "BASIC Score."

If a carrier's BASIC Score is above a predetermined threshold, an intervention will be triggered. Interventions range from a warning letter to a full Compliance Review. The basic principle is the worse the carrier's score, the more severe the intervention.

Scoring drivers

Drivers' Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC Measures are determined by a similar process, except there is no "normalizing." All violation values in the Driver Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC are totaled to create the BASIC Measures for drivers.

If the driver has a violation in this BASIC, the driver's BASIC Measure is then percentile ranked against all other drivers that have a violation in this BASIC (there are no "Safety Event Groups" for drivers in this BASIC). Drivers are assigned percentile rankings from 0 (representing the driver with the lowest BASIC Measure) to 100 (representing the driver with the highest BASIC Measure). This Percentile Ranking is the driver's BASIC Score.

Two points about the driver's BASIC Measures and Scores: First, these are going to be confidential; no one will be able to view them but FMCSA officials and investigators, and second, the driver interventions are not directly based on the driver's score. Drivers found with high scores during other enforcement activity (such as during an audit) will be subject to interventions.

How do I keep this BASIC Score low?

The simple answer is to make sure your drivers do not operate company vehicles while under the influence of drugs (both illegal and prescription) or alcohol.

This will require several actions on the part of a carrier, all geared toward establishing a culture that driving a company vehicle while in violation of these rules is not allowed, endorsed, or encouraged. This begins with having a clear and concise drug and alcohol policy, and doing the required testing (if you operate CDL vehicles). Remember: Allowing tests to "slide by" can be interpreted as "not caring" and can quickly undermine the culture you want to develop. Also, any employees that are in a position to see the drivers in their environment (shop supervisors, dock foreman, etc.) should be trained as "supervisors" under the reasonable suspicion supervisor training requirements.

Drivers should have no doubt that there are swift and severe consequences that will be used if they are found in violation of any of the drug and alcohol regulations or company policies.

Carriers should also consider having policies that exceed the regulations. A common one is banning drugs (prescription drugs that have been cleared by the driver's and company doctor being the exception) and alcohol from company vehicles. Another common policy is requiring a driver to be "alcohol free" 12 or 24 hours prior to coming on duty (the regulation only requires 4 hours, but if the driver was drinking heavily 4 hours may not be enough).

The bottom line in this BASIC area (drugs and alcohol) is that the message to the drivers should be loud and clear: Violations are simply not allowed.

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