Inspections

Leaving Nothing to Random Chance

Drivewyze will soon offer fleets an alternative way to improve ISS scores

If you were in high school or college, and you received a score of 99 on a test or exam, would you be:
A) Surprised?
B) Overjoyed?
C) Nonchalant?
D) Nervous?
E) All of the above.

As a truck fleet manager or driver, getting suddenly hit with a score of 99 on your Inspection Selection System (ISS) score isn’t something to look forward to. As Commercial Carrier Journal’s Aaron Huff explains in an article entitled “Not so fast: safe fleets bypass inspections, most of the time,” from time-to-time the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration assigns a random sample of carriers an artificially high ISS score of 99 in order to move them into a high-inspect category.

ISS scores, which reflect the quality of a carrier’s safety data, determines the carrier’s pull-in rate at weigh stations and inspection sites across the country. A score of 99 almost always guarantees the carrier will be pulled in for an inspection.

This random rescoring is not meant to be punitive. Rather, the agency’s intent is to improve its safety measurement system. FMCSA randomly chooses carriers about which they have little-to-no data. As the measurement system is improved, the ultimate goal is to modify the score so that eventually it more accurately reflects just how safe the carrier’s operation truly is.

Nearly all of the carriers from which FMCSA chooses are small operators with one to a dozen or more trucks. The federal agency does this in order to get commercial vehicle enforcement officers to inspect those carriers’ trucks and gather enough data to populate its database. Each time an enforcement officer conducts an inspection, and finds no violations, safe carriers can see their scores lower, eventually returning them to their previous bypass rates, or offering them a more frequent bypass rate.

Meanwhile, nearly all states maintain a random pull-in rate of between 2 and 5 percent for all carriers regardless of their ISS score. Since pull-in rates are not uniform and can vary from state-to-state, this variability contributes to a perception among some carriers with solid safety records that they don’t get a green light as often as they believe they should. This is a perception shared by Paul Johnson, director of logistics for Blacklidge, an asphalt hauler and Drivewyze customer based in Gulfport, Mississippi. Blacklidge runs a 20-truck dedicated fleet hauling asphalt products to road construction contractors throughout the Southeast.

Johnson told CCJ that with the first bypass program his company used: “we were never getting any citations during random inspections, but I would see our trucks getting pulled in just as many times as those other fleets that would get out-of-service violations and citation after citation.”

After Blacklidge switched to Drivewyze a year ago, Johnson said his company’s experience has changed with a steady increase in the number of bypass opportunities for the company’s drivers.

As Brian Mofford, Drivewyze’s vice president of government experience, points out, barring the more round-about way offered by FMCSA’s random rescoring method, obtaining more clean inspections on the record is the only way for carriers to improve their ISS scores and get higher bypass rates. And Drivewyze is developing an application that will automatically populate forms that law enforcement uses to record Level III inspections. By eliminating the data entry task for officers in Level III inspections, Mofford said officers will be more likely to record them. As a result, the carriers should see an improvement in their ISS scores, assuming there’s no violations found.