CSA or Compliance, Safety, and Accountability is a program that the government came up with to ensure reliability and safety. The CSA score is used to decide whether you need a visit from the DOT or not.
As most fleets know, lower CSA scores are better. Drivers and fleet managers often try their best to keep their CSA score to the minimum, as it paves way to more clients and better business opportunities. Also, maintaining a lower CSA score is critical in reducing liability and ensuring clients and law enforcement that your fleet is committed to safety. Download our FREE whitepaper with actionable and step-by-step guidance on how to create a solid fleet safety program.
Of the seven BASICs categories that contribute to CSA scores, some are easier for fleet managers to detect and control than others. HOS compliance and vehicle maintenance, however, can be monitored closely by carriers and drivers alike to ensure inspections stay violation-free and CSA scores stay low.
In this blog post, we share 6 simple secrets to improve your CSA score.
1. Take advantage of ELDs
The information that electronic logging provides can help improve CSA scores in many ways. For one, drivers and dispatchers can keep a close eye on hours of service and receive clear indication when a driver’s limit is approaching. Indeed, the top violations roadside inspectors check for are operating an out-of-service vehicle and driving after being declared out-of-service. With an app like KeepTruckin’ (Android, iPhone), all parties involved can see the precise moment a driver is more likely to receive a violation if they keep going.
Egregious form and manner violations can also impact CSA scores. “Form & Manner” and “Outdated Logs” violations make up approximately 25% of roadside violations. These violations, which are among the most common law enforcement see during roadside inspections, can be eliminated if drivers log electronically. Carriers don’t have to rely on drivers’ manually logging their hours correctly, and drivers are relieved of recording hours themselves as well as pressure from managers to do so dishonestly.
A Form/Manner violation carries only 1 point. However, an outdated log violation carries 5 points. So, given the role these outdated logs and forms & manner violations play in a carrier’s CSA score, ELDs are invaluable in ensuring CSA scores don’t take a hit because of easily avoidable violations.
2. Focus on pre-trip inspection
Vehicle maintenance violations make a big dent in CSA scores, and new criteria for keeping a truck in service can be difficult to keep up with. Thorough pre-trip inspections with particular emphasis on vehicle maintenance issues drivers tend to overlook are the most critical factor in preventing these violations. Industry experts recommend looking especially closely for air leaks in brakes, broken lights, and debris in tires.
Statistics reveal that broken lights are one of the most common roadside violations. In 2014, broken lights constituted approximately 28% of all roadside violations. Also, they carry a whopping penalty of 6 points.
On the other hand, approximately 11% violations are for tires. However, most importantly, tire-related violations carry a severe penalty of 8 CSA points. So, make sure that you properly inspect tires and keep them in an excellent shape in a bid to improve your CSA score.
3. Watch your brakes
CSA scores can take a hit during Operation Safe Driver Week or Brake Safety Week, campaigns where law enforcement ramps up roadside inspections and citations. For how important it is, brake safety in particular is an often overlooked aspect of pre-trip inspections.
According to Catherine MacMillan, an editor of SmartTrucking, dealing with brake adjustment and air leaks “is a more difficult and dirty job, that many drivers tend to avoid.” To ensure these critical tasks are taken care of, fleet managers can survey their drivers about what aspects of pre-trip inspections are more difficult to complete, and provide instruction and/or resources to improve.
The key here is to understand that brake-related violations are very common and can seriously damage your CSA score. In 2014, approximately 1 million brake-related violations were recorded, each carrying 4 CSA points.
4. Challenging citations
Carriers have two whole years to challenge a violation that results in a diminished CSA score.
Violations that are dismissed or result in a not guilty ruling will be removed from a carrier or driver’s CSA score and Pre-enrollment Screening Program report. But claiming a charge should be dismissed isn’t the only option: Carriers are also entitled to challenge the severity of citation relative to the severity of the infraction, which can mean a smaller charge and a smaller dent to CSA scores.
5. Improve your hiring process
Companies who use PSP reports in their hiring process reduce their rate of out-of-service citations by 17 percent, according to FMCSA data. They also reduce crash rates by 8 percent.
Additionally, the ability to speak English and communicate effectively with law enforcement is also becoming very important. The drivers you hire should possess the following abilities when it comes to communication:
- Ability to properly fill out paperwork
- Ability to speak with DOT officers
- Ability to answer officer questions effectively in English
You may not think of it as important, but these types of violations have been on the rise for the past few years. Currently, they constitute approximately 9% of all violations and carry 4 CSA points.
It can be easily avoided with proper training and the right hiring criteria.
6. Medical violations & CSA score
Approximately 12.5% of all violations are medical related, mostly because drivers do not carry a valid medical certificate. Such violations carry a relatively smaller penalty of 1 to 2 CSA points.
However, driving while physically ill is a more serious violation that can set you back by a whopping 10-point penalty.
Fleet managers should actively track the expiration of their drivers’ medical cards and make sure that the medical cards are updated.
Bonus tip: Use modern tech to increase driver safety and improve CSA scores
Modern tech, such as fleet management software and dash cams, can play a big role in improving fleet safety and CSA scores.
With relevant video footage, you will be able to exonerate drivers when they aren’t at fault, promote a culture of safety, and protect your trucking business from the uncertainties of the road. All of this may lead to a better CSA score.
See what Chad Boblett, an accomplished owner-operator, says about the KeepTruckin Smart Dashcam and how it helps him.
The best way to improve your CSA Score it to avoid as many of these violations as possible. Driver training can go a long way in avoiding violations and improving scores.
To learn more download our free guide “Secrets to Improve CSA Score” to further improve your understanding.