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Commercial Vehicle Stats Are Garbage - Part 1

Erik Sherman, January 2022 CVE only inspects vehicles meeting certain criteria. This makes sense on it’s surface as tax payers want to see enforcement agencies making the best use of their funding. The downside is that the stats collected don’t have any predictive value in terms of safety or compliance.

Imagine you need to sort apples with a rotten core into their own pile. Unfortunately for you, there are no visible differences between your apples, meaning you’ll need to cut them open to know which pile they belong in. The problem is that takes time and you’re on the clock. You’re going to have to figure out whats inside, allowing you to sort the largest number of potentially rotten apples with as few errors as possible. For a while you try every trick from shaking and weighing them to seeing whether they bounce when dropped.

Things go fine for a while and whenever people ask you how the apples are looking, you just smile and tell them there’s no bad news.

As they add more apples, you realize you’re touching fewer and fewer of them, meaning you’ll need to improve your detection strategies. Lucky for you, there is a camera you can use to see the problem apples with far greater levels of accuracy then ever before.

There was a time when you could bring your truck across a scale and request an inspection. It was a great training opportunity for the officer as well as a fantastic way to see if your shop is doing the work you think they are. Ultimately if you passed it would work to your advantage whenever someone looks at your carrier profile. For those not in the know, its like a report card that lists every interaction you’ve had with enforcement officers. This includes some of the obvious stuff like inspection records, but it also includes violations and collisions.

Voluntary inspections became frowned upon in the early 2000’s. Carriers could no longer proactively seek inspections because it was viewed by regulators to skew overall inspection results. Around the same time, CVE placed their first thermal imaging vans into service.

Eagerly anticipated; this technology promised to create greater efficiency and effectiveness as officers were no longer pulling vehicles over based on random sampling.

It certainly can’t be ignored that CVE officers were initiating inspections based on obvious defects, such as burnt out lights and visible damage to trucks and trailers. Despite this, there was always a chance that an inspection would result in no defects being found, meaning the officer had wasted time that could have been spent on other vehicles. The implementation of thermal imaging was a game changer that would go on to receive the Transportation Ministers Award for technical innovation in 2008. Camera’s were being installed at scales across the country as officers were suddenly able to see the defects that were previously invisible to them.

This is where the table started to turn. Even the argumentative among us could see what the regulators meant when they said voluntary inspections of equipment artificially improved carrier profiles with more passes than fails. But when CVE began using technology to see poorly set brakes, low tire inflation, and even irregularities in engine temperatures, it was only a matter of time until they started to target those vehicles specifically.

Fast forward to today and take a look at the results. Regulators populate a carrier profile using a largely misunderstood combination of collisions, convictions, and inspections, with inspections having the largest effect on the carriers overall score. This score is called the Risk Factor (R-Factor).

Prospective clients, insurers, and regulators themselves, use this score to determine how high-risk a transportation company is compared to their peers. It affects rates and premiums on a good day and will increase the chances of escalating enforcement on a bad day. This isn’t to say that I disagree with agencies using the R-Factor as a means by which they can sift through the tens of thousands of carriers on the roads today, however it should never be used for predictive purposes.

There is no compelling argument to say that a company with a high R-Factor is less safe than any other carrier on the road.

So should this information be available outside of enforcement circles at all? The answer is in my opinion is both yes and no. Despite the many issues that exist, carriers will always need access to the Carrier Profile to ensure inaccuracies are corrected.

It ensures drivers cannot simply hide infractions in hopes their employer will not find out, and there are some interesting insights one can gain from the frequency of certain violation types. Insurers, clients, and the public are best to avoid using the carrier profile for any purpose other than to ensure the company possess operating authority in their province. This is because the absence of balancing information or context poses a greater risk of harm than benefit. Ultimately, if the data holds no predictive value, then there really isn’t a case for making it available either.

This is the first of a two-part article.

Check out next months issue of the newsletter to learn more about how carrier safety and compliance can be measured effectively.


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Thank you again for taking the time to read, and I hope you have a safe day!

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