If you shoved the new federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program onto the back burner with your fleet, it’s time to move it to the front. Because the heat is on.

Everyone in your fleet organization — especially your maintenance personnel — needs to give what’s cooking in the CSA pot a stir and examine what impact this new safety enforcement framework, activated late last year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), will have on your operation.

“The most important thing to note with CSA is that if your business is using trucks, you are subject to it,” stresses Stephen Keppler, executive director of the Greenbelt, Md.-based Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), an international not-for-profit organization composed of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier safety officials and industry representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Historically, he says, a lot of refuse businesses did not really think of themselves as trucking companies; trucks were just one of many tools to collect trash and recyclables. Under CSA, they no longer have that luxury. Any business operating commercial trucks is going to be captured within this new safety net.

“On top of that, CSA uses real-time data generated from roadside inspections to put together its fleet safety ratings,” says Keppler. That means things like maintenance defects and out-of-adjustment brakes will find their way into in the public eye a lot faster than most fleets realize.

That’s perhaps the biggest CSA kicker of them all: Safety ratings will be made public via the Internet (though with certain limitations) for all to see. That, of course, includes your customers and the companies that provide insurance coverage to the refuse industry — folks that will certainly raise an eyebrow if your safety rating starts to plummet.

“At the end of the day, CSA takes safety enforcement to a whole new level,” says Keppler. And to his mind, the way companies need to deal with CSA is the same way they deal with their finances: make it a frequent priority.

“For example, many companies have auditing teams providing weekly, if not daily, reports on the fiscal performance of your business,” he says. “The same approach is needed in terms of fleet safety. You need to be proactive, monitoring your safety performance on a daily basis, because your customers are seeing this data the same way your investors are tracking your company’s performance via your financial statements.”