By Steve Wilhelms, CFS, ACS
Executive Vice President & COO of InfoStream
The commercial trucking industry is flooded with acronyms. You are probably aware of the meaning of all the letters listed above. But do you really know the meaning of the "ISS score" and the impact it can have on your entire operation?
ISS stands for Inspection Selection System. It was created by the FMCSA to assist roadside commercial vehicle enforcement when determining if a truck should be inspected. It's an assessment tool to help investigators screen a truck using their DOT number. The lower the ISS score, the less likely the truck will be pulled over for inspection, unless the enforcement officer observes an at-risk driving behavior or a visible defect on the tractor and/or trailer.
The ISS ratings are divided into three categories:
- Inspect: 75 to 100
- Optional: 50 to 74
- Pass: 1 to 49
Your ISS score is somewhat related to your CSA score. The 2012 FMCSA Publication explained the ISS scoring methodologies and how they are intertwined with CSA BASICs. Here is the link; it's only a 10-page read and good to familiarize yourself with the process before it changes. You might be saying, "What do you mean, changes? I thought CSA was the only thing that was going to change."
ISS is mostly based on BASICs. FMCSA recently stated they do not have the new BASICs locked down, nor do we know what thresholds might mean under the new system; therefore, the ISS will need to change. (Stay tuned for a future blog post on CSA and IRT.)
Let's get back to the discussion at hand. What happens in the real world, every day? Your truck is driving down the roadway and a commercial motor vehicle enforcement officer pulls alongside the cab. He enters your DOT number into their system and the inquiry returns an ISS score of 91. Your driver is most likely getting pulled over for an inspection based purely on the score. The type of inspection – Level I, Level II or Level III – is at the discretion of the officer.
CMV enforcement officers that work the same area become familiar with motor carriers that have high ISS scores. The higher the score, the more scrutiny the driver, tractor and trailer undergo during the inspection. The longer the inspection, the more likely the driver is going to receive some type of violation. And let's be honest: the attitude of the driver also plays a part in this process. The side of the road is not a place to argue about inspections.
The next example is based on weigh stations. A similar process takes place each time a driver pulls through a weigh station. Based on the ISS score, the driver will either get waved through by the officer or they will be told to pull aside to get an inspection. Some trucking companies have purchased weigh station bypass services only to learn several months after the installation that their ISS score has exceeded the state's threshold and their trucks don't automatically get a free pass.
ISS Scores - Operational Efficiency, Safety and Revenue
Your ISS score plays a part in every aspect of your operation. That is why the score and the meaning behind it should be communicated to everyone within your organization.
Operations – If you know your organization is in the "Inspect" category, you should factor that into load planning where states have a history of strict enforcement. Communicate with your drivers to make sure they complete a thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspection. This will reduce the chance of the driver being put out of service if he or she is inspected. An OOS Inspection is costly. It could cause a customer failure, or a higher chance of roadside repairs as opposed to repairs in the shop. If you have to repower the load, you lose capacity – and if this happens frequently, your revenue per loaded mile will take a hit.
Safety & Compliance – There are many instances where the CDL could be downgraded. Problems with the medical card self-certification, unpaid traffic violations, issues with child support and other situations could cause your driver to be placed OOS until the issue is corrected. This could take days. If your ISS score falls within the "Inspect" range, you should use an MVR monitoring service to make you aware of these situations prior to losing that capacity and to help you avoid the possibility that a driver does not return at all.
Driver Recruiting – Your recruiters now have another hurdle to overcome: attracting good drivers when you have a high ISS score. This is especially true with owner-operators. The good ones don't want to lease on to a company with an "Inspect" rating because they know each time they pass a scale, they are subject to additional inspections because of the score. Every time a CMV enforcement officer passes them on the road, the driver will think, "Am I going to get stopped or is he going to find another truck to inspect?" If you are trying to hire good drivers (i.e., business people, individuals who can increase your revenue and make a good wage), they should be asking about your company's ISS score. And if you have a good ISS score, it is something your recruiting staff should advertise and communicate with potential drivers.
Customers – Your ISS scores are not visible to the general public. In most cases you must have a FMCSA portal login to access your ISS score. However, customers have been known to ask for these scores as part of a freight contract, shipper's agreement or even a brokered load. They know that using a carrier with a high score increases the chance of the load being delayed.
Insurance – In today's tough insurance market, underwriters are using every available resource to check the insurability of a motor carrier. While CSA was never intended to be an insurance underwriting tool, many insurance companies have used that as a benchmark or heavily weighted factor in determining insurance rates or even insurability under their specific guidelines. The ISS score is a part of that equation.
Ultimately, the goal is a low ISS score. If you have one, congratulations and keep working hard to keep the numbers low. If your score is high, I suggest concentrating on improving the areas that are more heavily weighted:
- Unsafe driving. This includes speeding, reckless driving, improper lane changes and not wearing seatbelts – which is an easy fix if you hold your drivers accountable.
- Hours of service. Thanks to electronic logging devices, you've probably noticed a decrease in 11/14/70-hour violations, a staggering increase in violations of the requirement to have 8 days' worth of blank paper logs, and/or violations related to failure to have a laminated instruction card. (I'm not sure if those last two items actually play a role in reducing crashes, but that is a conversation for another day.)
- Crash indicator. Recordable crashes can cause your scores to spike.
Start with the above three items and keep working at it. Make the decision to lead, because leadership doesn't happen by accident. To learn more about how InfoStream's safety and compliance professionals can provide your organization with needed guidance, service, and support, visit www.infostreamonline.com or call 833.255.5046.
InfoStream, an EBE company, combines EBE’s industry-leading technology and InfoStream’s industry-leading customer service to create a standard that is unlike any other managed service offering in the marketplace. Our leadership has a combined 100 years of experience in risk, safety, and compliance. With our home office in East Moline and satellite offices nationally, we service clients all over the United States and Canada.