A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your CSA Score
If you have ever operated in the trucking industry then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the CSA program. But what exactly is this program? And more importantly, what is a CSA score? In this blog post, we’ll dissect the program details, what the score entails and more. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the CSA program, how your score is calculated, and how you can improve it and keep it “safe”.
What Is the CSA Program?
The Compliance, Safety, and Accountability program, CSA for short, is operated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This program which launched in November 2010, aims to improve commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety and reduce accidents on our roads by holding drivers, including owner-operators, accountable for their role in road safety.
How the program works is the FMCSA takes carriers and groups them based on how many safety events their drivers have on their record. Once grouped they are assigned what the industry calls a CSA score. This score is technically an assigned percentile rank for each carrier but is often referred to as a score instead.The score is operated on a 0-100 scale. Higher numbers on the scale can indicate a poorer level of safety taken by the carrier’s drivers.
The safety data that goes into generating these scores can be found online in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). The system data is updated monthly with new data from roadside inspections and collision data, so your scores can change month to month.
What Goes into a CSA Score?
SMS data is organized into seven sections and are known as Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories or BASICs. These seven elements are what the FMCSA uses to generate the carrier’s CSA score. These scores can also be used by carriers as an indication of which drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents or other offenses so intervention can happen. Below is an outline of the seven BASICs used in calculating a CSA score.
- Unsafe Driving–Operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous or careless manner can impact CSA scores. Some of the common offenses included under unsafe driving practices are speeding, improper lane changes, and seat belt violations.
- Crash Indicator– The crash indicator BASIC category is based on state reported crash data. This category contains the patterns of frequency and the severity of crashes.This category can heavily affect scores depending on the severity of the crashes.
- Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance– According to the FMCSA website , “hours of service refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty including driving time, and specifies number and length of rest periods, to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert.” Incidents like drivers operating a vehicle while ill or fatigued or failing to maintain records of duty status for at least 6 months can have an impact on a carrier’s CSA Score.
- Vehicle Maintenance– Failure making required repairs and maintaining vehicles to satisfactory operating conditions is one way to fall out of compliance and impact your CSA score. Also included in this category is improper load securement and not possessing the proper safety equipment on your rigs.
- Controlled Substance/Alcohol– Drivers found operating a CMV while impaired heavily impacts a carrier’s CSA score. This includes being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs and the misuse of over the counter and prescription drugs.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance– Drivers hauling hazardous materials must be in compliance to avoid impacting a carrier’s CSA score. Unsafe or incorrect handling of hazardous materials includes leaking containers, improper labeling/placarding and missing the required shipping papers.
- Driver Fitness– Drivers operating a CMV can be deemed unfit if they are found operating without a CDL and failing to maintain driver qualification files.
How Do I Check My CSA Score?
You can check your CSA score by going to https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/ and type in your carrier’s DOT number. This will provide you with the CSA scores and some other basic data. For more detailed information and additional safety data you can log in to the SMS FMCSA Portal with your DOT number and PIN.
What Is a Good CSA Score?
A good CSA score is one that’s close to or at zero. The closer your score is to zero, the more likely your operators/drivers will be deemed lower risk of being involved in an accident or in violation. This in turn can benefit your company in several ways. Some benefits can include less DOT audits, lower insurance premiums, and even potentially attract more clients.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that even if your score is low, you can still be involved in an accident if you don’t practice safe driving habits and follow all seven of the BASIC categories.
Maintaining a good CSA score is crucial if you want to avoid FMCSA investigations. Every violation under the BASICs categories can alter your CSA score. Some violations have larger impacts compared to others as mentioned. The FMCSA has preset intervention thresholds for each of the BASIC’s categories and their relationship to crash risk. For example carriers with scores 65% or higher in the categories of Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, and HOS Compliance will be subject to FMCSA investigations. While carriers handling hazardous materials or passenger have lower thresholds. These range between 50-60%. The remaining BASIC categories have an 80% threshold before the FMCSA will Intervene.
How Do I Improve My CSA Score?
If you want to improve your CSA score, there are a few things you can do over time to help: – Drive safely and avoid accidents.
– Obey all traffic laws
– Keep up with vehicle maintenance
– Get plenty of rest before long trips
– Maintain proper logs
Over time past incidents will be cleared from your reports and you will see your scores start to rise again. However, being proactive about these things will go a lot further than reacting to something when it goes wrong. Ways you can be proactive include.
- Hire carefully: when hiring make sure to not rush the process to get drivers on the road. Make sure to take the necessary time to run background checks and complete all pre-employment screening protocols to make sure you have the safest drivers operating for you. This will save you in the long run even if it can cause some delays to getting started.
- Train your drivers: It’s always important to make sure your drivers are trained properly in all aspects of operating a CMV. This training should not only include driving training but also training them in on the road maintenance, keeping accurate logs, load securement, and safety. Also make sure in the event there is an incident that you review the incidents to help them understand what happened and how it can be prevented moving forward.
- Maintain vehicles: Approximately 10-30% of roadside violations are related problems with a truck’s tires and lights. Both of these issues are relatively preventable. Make sure you take the time to handle maintenance and don’t skip pre-trip inspections to save on time.
Being proactive on your vehicle maintenance, pre-employment background checks and drivers training will help ensure you keep your CSA score low and help avoid unnecessary FMCSA audits. The Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) program is vital to maintaining safety on our roadways and as a carrier, it’s important for you to understand how it works and what goes into your own personal score. By knowing what factors influence your score and taking steps to improve it, you can not only unlock several benefits for your own company but also help make our roads safer for everyone.
Questions about your CSA score? Share your questions and comments below!
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