Mining the CSA Database

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) initially sold CSA 2010 as a tool for carriers to drive continuous improvement in driver safety, and it specifically said that this data was not intended for brokers, shippers, law firms, or insurance underwriters. But now that the data is publicly available, it is going to be used by everyone, not just carriers. (I can’t find any evidence of a lawsuit being filed yet based on this data, but I think it is inevitable).

As I researched the transportation management systems (TMS) market, I wondered if TMS software vendors were using this data in their solutions. I imagined they could access FMSCA’s public database, do some screen scrapping, import the data into a business intelligence engine, and then present near real time analytics to companies that own and operate fleets, as well as brokers and shippers that want to do business with safe carriers.

It turns out this is not only possible, it is also being done.

McLeod Software, a provider of fleet management solutions, has a product called Loadmaster Enterprise used by for-hire truckload carriers. This product is now linked to the CSA 2010 Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS) portal. Mark Cubine of McLeod pointed out that carrier competitiveness for the next few years will be based, to a large extent, on having a composite view of driver performance. Loadmaster can make driver safety scores instantly available to a carrier with real time alerting. It also includes task management functionality that directs drivers to turn in road inspection forms before this data appears on the portal so that the carrier has advance warning.

Mark put me in touch with Steve Bryan, the President of Vigillo, a fascinating little company (eleven employees) that has built its entire business on CSA 2010. Vigillo was founded in 2007 by executives with backgrounds in risk management, and they applied their expertise to the looming CSA regulations. Vigillo offers a cloud-based solution to carriers, and with their authorization, collects data from the CSA database and prepares a series of over 100 different scorecards and reports. Initially, the reports focused on recompiling SafeStat scores and showing how that would translate into CSA scores. Now that CSA scores are being published, the focus is on providing carriers with reports to help them improve their scores. Vigillo’s most popular report, for example, ranks drivers from worst to best in terms of safety record, with the worst drivers appearing in the “red zone.” The company charges 50 cents per driver per month for these reports.

Vigillo plans to release a product this spring to help  shippers and brokers identify and work with safe carriers. Vigillo’s perspective is that brokers and shippers don’t want all the details; they just want to know if a particular carrier is safe to work with or not. They may want to review a list of 10,000 trucking companies to see who they should continue to tender to. To accomplish this, the broker or shipper will upload 10,000 DOT numbers into the Vigillo solution. Vigillo will then generate a report of carriers listed in green (good to go) or red (think twice before working with these carriers). This will be based on the public categories and checkbox data (for example, insurance in place). Customers will also be able to customize these scores by setting their green/red line higher or lower.

Finally, I talked to a team of folks from TransCore, the operator of the largest load board in North America. TransCore has a product called CarrierWatch that also accesses CSA data and makes it available to clients on a subscription basis. While it doesn’t provide a customizable “work with/don’t work with this carrier” style index, the company has integrated CarrierWatch with some leading TMS solutions, including TMW, McLeod Software, and MercuryGate. TransCore expects its software partners to eventually provide this kind of functionality based on the CarrierWatch data.

Where the CarrierWatch solution beats the other FMCSA content available is in the area of insurance. The FMCSA data basically tells a broker or shipper that a carrier has insurance, but not how much. CarrierWatch content is based on TransCore’s personnel going into the FMCSA lists, finding a carrier’s insurance company and policy number, getting permission from the carrier to contact the insurance company, and then collecting and providing data on how much and what types of insurance the carrier has. Good carriers tend to comply because brokers are required to do a certain amount of due diligence on the carriers they hire. This data can also help carriers get business if they have a reputation for minimizing the risks associated with tenders.

My view on all this is that it does not matter how the FMSCA initially sold CSA 2010 to carriers. The data is now public and it is valuable. It should be mined and used intelligently.

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