- The CSA program offers a comprehensive picture of a motor carrier’s safety record.
- Final CSA scores are not accessible to the public, but Performance Data is. Adverse data can hamper business growth.
- A CSA score can become a tool for retention and profitability.
The CSA program — short for Compliance, Safety, Accountability — was designed to improve safety conditions for carriers and the general public alike. Through diligent record-keeping of safety metrics provided by the FMCSA, a motor carrier’s CSA score represents their overall safety performance.
CSA scores do matter. But you don’t have to view them as a burden to your fleet. Your CSA score can be your biggest advocate if approached with the right mindset.
Understanding how to find your CSA score, how it is compiled, and how to change it are major steps toward thriving in the industry. Though opinions vary on its efficacy, ignoring CSA scores is a risk no motor carrier can afford to take. Let’s look at the how and the why behind the CSA program.
The BASICs behind the CSA program
In November 2010, the CSA program officially launched. Its goal was to enforce the compliance program set forth by the FMCSA and promote safety from the highest industry position.
From its inception, the CSA program had its detractors. For example, some questioned the CSA program’s effectiveness since up until recently, there was no means for distinguishing collisions caused by other drivers from those caused by the commercial vehicle driver.
It was clear to many, though, that a safety scoring program would benefit the industry. The program’s core metrics are the BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) scores.
Seven different safety behavior, from Hours-of-Service Compliance to Controlled Substances/Alcohol violations, are recorded and ranked nationally. Your CSA score is an indication of your BASIC percentiles in comparison to industry averages.
CSA score warning letters and red flags
The CSA, from time to time, will send out warning letters when BASIC scores approach problematic levels. Safety performance data is updated monthly through the FMCSA’s Safety Management System, or SMS for short.
It’s important to note that Warning Letters do not require a direct response, and are not direct violations, but a way for the CSA to encourage safety improvement before something worse occurs.
Though there are exceptions based on truck volume and length of time in business, research shows that the more Alert Status BASIC scores a carrier maintains the more likely they are to be involved in motor collisions.
Violations are removed from the carrier’s record after two years. One proactive safety strategy for carriers is to track which violations are most common, and which are on the rise.
How do I check my CSA score?
You can access your CSA score by registering for a PIN with your USDOT or MC number. It’s important to note that your composite CSA score is not public information. Individual BASIC scores, however, are accessible with a basic DOT number search at csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.
The public nature of certain BASIC stats through the CSA website, as well as avenues like Carrier 411 and SaferSYS, make safety a paramount issue for every carrier.
CSA scores are a window into business health
Often times, CSA scores can be the swing factor for potential clients looking to do business. Although CSA scores are not a complete picture of a motor carrier’s business activity or practices, they offer a snapshot into how each carrier approaches behind-the-wheel operations.
CSA scores are ranked on a 0 to 100 scale, with higher numbers being worse. Companies with higher CSA scores could be flagged for compliance review or issued Out of Service orders if corrective measures are not taken. Lack of attention to CSA scores can lead to much larger problems, and quickly.
Can I improve my CSA score?
Each company must decide whether to be proactive or reactive when it comes to safety and compliance. Even the CSA program itself is implementing innovations like the ability to search Drug and Alcohol violations for specific drivers so companies can be more informed in hiring practices. A high CSA score is not the kind of problem that gets better by waiting it out.
6 tips for succeeding in safety
In reality, without the tools to recognize the patterns that led to a CSA score, many companies can end up feeling hamstrung by it.
You can take steps to lower your CSA score or ensure it stays low. Many tools can help you take ownership and control of internal safety practices.
- Start with a pre-trip inspection of every vehicle, every time. Broken lights account for a large number of roadside violations, and the hit to your CSA score is significant.
- Check the tires and brakes, too, as well as other parts of the vehicle that are known to be in violation more often than others.
- Implement a system of checks and balances by leveraging fleet safety and coaching solutions to promote a culture of safety.
- Advancements in driver workflow may help you keep a close eye on Driver Fitness while curbing the risk of exhausted driving.
- The risk of Hours of Service violations may be drastically mitigated by an ELD solution. Learn more about ELDs and how they may help.
- Don’t forget that if you do receive a violation that raises your fleet’s CSA score, you have two years to challenge it.
CSA scores aren’t going anywhere. Use your fleet’s CSA score health as a barometer to measure your fleet’s safety culture on an ongoing basis.
Moving from a reactive to a proactive point of view means taking ownership of preventable liabilities.
By equipping your fleet with the tools to drive safely, you can maintain a positive CSA score. You can also show internal employees and prospective clients that safety and profitability work hand in hand.
Learn more about CSA scores.
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