Nonprofit startup targeting owner-operators for safety investments

Small trucking companies looking to up their safety game at more affordable rates now have another option.

The Independent Carrier Safety Association (ICSA), an Arizona-based nonprofit [501(c)(6)] startup, is providing training and education for small carriers, which includes offering reduced rates for investments that improve safety.

“The whole concept of our organization is to get small carriers and independent truckers into a safety mindset and providing them cost-effective tools that they may not be able to afford on their own,” ICSA Executive Director Karen Rasmussen told FreightWaves.

Rasmussen, who retired last year from her position as CEO of trucking technology services company PrePass, said the association has been operating mostly behind the scenes after developing bylaws and filing for incorporation late last year. “Then COVID hit and everything was put on hold,” she said, adding that the group currently has under 50 members.

“But we’re starting to get out and make ourselves known. When you think about the fact that the average fleet is about six trucks, it’s an underserved industry segment but one that accounts for the vast majority of carriers. They’re also difficult to reach – they’re out 24/7 driving or trying to manage a very small fleet, so there’s no time to go to meetings or attend conferences. We’re going to be strictly focused on the safety aspect of the single truck or small-fleet operator.”

Rasmussen, who before her seven-year tenure at PrePass headed the Arizona Trucking Association, emphasized that ICSA is not looking to compete with other owner-operator associations such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

“We’re not set up to be a competitor to OOIDA, which is largely an advocacy organization for independent carriers. I don’t see that we will be taking positions on legislation or regulations. We’re focused on training, education, technology, and if the driver qualifies, the ability to get them insurance.”

According to ICSA’s website, services include:

  • Cost-effective insurance coverage and experienced claims handling.
  • Reduced pricing on forward-facing cameras.
  • Access to a drug-testing consortium.

The cost of these services is a chronic concern for small carriers and independent truck owners. Democratic lawmakers approved legislation this summer that OOIDA said would have exacerbated the insurance issue for small carriers by raising required insurance coverage from $750,000 to $2 million. The legislation ultimately failed to pass, but it likely will be taken up again in the next year.

Rasmussen said the association is in the process of bringing on vendor partners. “We’ve developed a relationship with SmartDrive,” a trucking technology company offering in-cab video cameras that was recently purchased by Omnitracs.

“Forward-facing cameras allow drivers to prove they were not at fault in an accident, but most owner-operators find it difficult to justify that kind of expense,” she said. “But by aggregating carriers we’ll be able to provide that technology to them at a much lower price.”

In addition to offering DOT-mandated drug testing, Rasmussen said ICSA will be providing through a consortium hair follicle testing – considered more accurate than urinalysis but which some consider an expense only larger trucking companies can justify. “Any improvement in safety for the smaller carriers benefits the whole industry.”

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