A marginal safety rating recently issued by the federal government for one aspect of YRC Freight's operations should not be viewed with great concern by the less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier, but should make it more vigilant about the condition of its fleet, a leading truck-safety expert said today.
Last week, YRC Freight received a grade of 75 in its vehicle maintenance operations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a subagency of the Department of Transportation, under FMCSA's carrier-rating program known as "CSA." The grade indicates that 75 percent of the carriers whose vehicle maintenance operations were analyzed along with YRC Freight's have a better on-road performance, the agency said. Carriers with scores of 75 or higher on any of seven criteria used by the agency to determine a carrier's safety could result in what FMCSA has termed "federal intervention" under the program rules.
Over the past 24 months through April 20, government inspectors conducted 4,878 inspections of YRC vehicles and found 3,835 violations, according to data on FMCSA's web site. None of the violations were labeled as "serious," according to the site. FMCSA inspectors conduct roadside inspections and compliance reviews, the latter taking the form of audits conducted on site in an office setting. All of the violations were found as part of compliance reviews, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Stephen A. Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), a nonprofit group of North American government and industry officials, said YRC Freight's grade, while consequential, doesn't mean "the sky is falling" on the long-haul unit of YRC Worldwide Inc. Because the carrier hauls a certain quantity of hazardous materials, it is subject to a tougher scoring threshold than if it didn't haul "hazmat" at all, Keppler said. He also noted that YRC Freight's vehicle and driver out-of-service rates are lower than the national average.
Most of the infractions are related to the conditions of tires and brake lights, which are the typical violations CVSA sees with most fleets, Keppler said.
Still, company executives should not take the findings lightly, Keppler added. "I'm sure they're not happy about it," he said. "If they haven't been paying attention in the past, they're paying attention now."
In an email to DC Velocity, YRC Freight said it is not concerned about the "slight change" in its maintenance grade, adding that it holds the highest overall safety rating issued by FMCSA and that in another CSA category, "unsafe driving," its grade is far ahead of its peers.
YRC Freight said the change in status represents an "alert" under CSA rules and will not trigger a federal intervention by the agency. The carrier and FMCSA officials will initiate discussions concerning efforts already underway to improve its grade in the "vehicle maintenance" category, YRC Freight said.
The company said it has reduced the intervals between maintenance cycles in an effort to identify equipment problems at an early stage. It has switched to LED lights for better performance and longer life, and devoted 11,000 man-hours in the first quarter to safety training, which includes vehicle inspections, the company said. It also plans to take delivery this year of more than 750 new tractors and more than 1,000 new trailers. As of February 20, YRC Freight had about 8,300 tractors in its fleet.
The company said the financial costs of compliance would be negligible, and that compliance efforts involve changes in process rather than a significant financial investment.