August 23, 2013
How lawyers exploit CSA and PSP data was the topic as Bright Mountain Trucking managers ate lunch at their outside picnic table.
“We’ve become a target and there’s nothing we can do about it,” moaned Bud as he swatted at a bee buzzing his sandwich.
“What is it this time? Kids buying bulletproof backpacks to go to school?” chirped Fritz.
“Hey, that’s not funny and this isn’t either. I’m talking about us, our trucks, our livelihood. We don’t have enough problems. Now the lawyers want to sue us at the drop of a hat and the government is giving them all the ammunition they need to make our life a living hell,” fumed Bud.
“You talking about the new HOS or what?” chimed in Belinda.
"No. It’s CSA. Lawyers are jumping on the bandwagon and using it to make an accident, any accident, into a disaster. They exploit CSA. They can turn a driver with one speeding ticket into a burnt-out psycho who’s the grim reaper of the highway. They can turn us into heartless idiots who’ll put anyone on the road. No training. No hiring standards. No oversight. No nothin’. Just a bunch of selfish bozos after a buck. At least that’s the way they sell it to a jury,” ranted Bud.
“What have you been smokin’?” taunted Cary, munching on some chips. “Everybody knows CSA has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”
Jack, Bright Mountain President, jumped in: “Bud's right. On this one, he’s right. And everyone doesn’t know about CSA inconsistencies. I listened to an ATA seminar last week that explained how lawyers exploit CSA to prove cases against carriers. And just as bad, to get fatter judgments. The Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) can be used in a similar way to show negligent hiring. Plaintiff lawyers go to classes to learn how to use this stuff.”
“There’s a world of information that’s easily available and open to discovery: BASIC scores…numbers of accidents…types of accidents…log violations...speeding violations. You name it: just the kind of data to throw gasoline on a fire. And once you’ve had an accident or even an incident you can just imagine the lawyer’s questions:
Isn’t it a fact that a violation of a BASIC increases the risk of a crash?
Do you admit that violations of a BASIC endanger the public?
Can you tell us why you hired this driver despite past violations?
What safety training did this driver receive?"
“They can try to introduce into evidence how many speeding tickets you’ve had. They can argue that your CSA vehicle maintenance infractions indicate that you don’t care.”
“And there’s nothing that can be done?” asked Belinda.
“Sure it can,," replied Jack. "A lot of these lines of questioning aren't admissible when defense attorneys have the right legal objections. Then there's factual side. Enforcement varies state to state so much that it's weird. Records are spotty. CSA BASICS don't correlate with accidents. All accidents are put on a carrier's record even though many clearly aren't their fault."
"But what’s scary is that more and more of this government-inspired data seems to be getting into the record. That means plaintiff attorneys are getting better at introducing it. That it makes it tougher on carriers.”
“So what can we do?”
Jack answered: “We have a clear and positive plan. Keep doing a good job with hiring. Be consistent with our hiring standards up and document why we do things. Do a good job with training, retraining and our monthly safety meetings. Look for new things that get the point across in new and better ways. Keep an eye on drivers that are having problems. Correct them. In summary, do a good job of controlling what we can control. We need to exploit our good work rather than letting them exploit CSA and PSP.”
"Told ya," summarized Bud as he finished his cola.
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