CSA Points: Understanding and Improving Your Safety Record
There’s a lot on the line when it comes to road safety, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. The CSA Program is intended to keep carriers responsible and accountable on the road. Carriers who don’t adhere to safety procedures and guidelines may receive disciplinary action or loss of jobs as they may be seen as a liability. However, CSA scores are updated monthly through the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) and can be improved. Understanding the CSA program is an essential part of making sure that you’re doing your part to keep our roads safe—and keep your company healthy and competitive.
We’ll discuss what CSA scores mean, how they are calculated, and ways to improve your CSA score.
What Are CSA Scores?
CSA scores are a system used by the FMCSA to identify high-risk carriers. Based on roadside inspection and crash report data from the past 24 months, each carrier is grouped into a percentile ranking. Factors such as the severity of a crash or incident, when the event took place, and how many miles a vehicle drives annually also affect the calculation of a CSA score.
The core metrics for CSA scores are called Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). They include:
- Unsafe driving. This consists of speeding, reckless driving, improper lane changes, inattention, texting while driving, not wearing a seat belt, etc.
- Crash indicator. This covers a carrier’s history of crash involvement.
- Hours-of-service (HOS) compliance. This refers to noncompliance with any HOS regulations.
- Vehicle maintenance. This covers brakes, lights, defects, or failure to make necessary repairs.
- Controlled substances/alcohol. This metric refers to the use or possession of controlled substances and alcohol.
- Hazardous materials compliance. This encompasses leaking containers, improper packaging, or improper placement of required placards.
- Driver fitness. This refers to drivers having valid licenses and being medically fit to operate a CMV.
CSA scores play an integral role when it comes to your overall safety management. They serve as a benchmark by which a carrier can assess the overall safety of their fleet. Regularly reviewing your CSA scores allows you to identify strengths and areas for improvement, track progress, and implement changes to improve overall safety performance.
Why Are CSA Scores Important?
CSA scores serve as a reliable way to monitor carrier safety on the road. A poor CSA score reflects not only a disregard for safety, but can also have negative financial implications for business.
They can mean:
- Time off the road for increased DOT audits
- Higher insurance premiums
- Costly fines
- Difficulty finding and retaining quality drivers
- Reputational damage with shippers and brokers
A good CSA score signifies a commitment to safety and regulatory compliance, resulting in better operational efficiency and profitability.
What Does My CSA Score Mean?
The core metric used to calculate your CSA score are the BASICs. To collect all the necessary information on your carrier’s BASICs, the FMCSA uses a tool called the Safety Measurement System (SMS). The SMS relies on multiple sources of data from the previous 24 months, such as roadside inspections, crash reports, safety audits, and inspections, to paint a clear picture of a carrier’s overall safety. Any violations found in this data result in points added to the score. Scores are on a scale from 0 to 100, with a low score indicating the highest level of safety
The weight of each violation is determined by both the time and the severity of the violation. A violation from three months ago, for example, would be weighted more heavily than an older violation.
Tracking and Improving Your CSA Score
You can monitor your score at the CSA program’s website with your DOT number and your Personal Identification Number (PIN). This will help you identify areas of deficiency and track your progress along the way. There are also best practices and tools you can implement to improve your score.
- Pre- and post-trip inspections. Thoroughly inspecting vehicles before and after a trip is an excellent way to ensure that it is prepared and safe for the road ahead—and that you’re less likely to accrue any violations in a roadside inspection. This includes everything from having all the required documentation (failure to carry their CDL is a CSA violation!) and inspecting the exterior for signs of damage to double-checking that the tires and headlights are functional and the fluid levels of the truck are at acceptable levels.
- Regular vehicle maintenance. This practice ties in closely with the importance of pre- and post-trip inspections. When these inspections turn up any issue with the vehicle—no matter how minor—be sure to get it corrected immediately. With 31% of roadside inspections triggered by visible defects, checking and maintaining your lights, brakes, and tires not only keeps you safe, but off the radar.
- Smart hiring and safety training. Your CSA score is a reflection of the safety of your overall company, so keeping your score low is a team effort. When deciding who to bring onto your team, be sure to evaluate each driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) records to get a clear picture of their driving record. Provide regular safety training for drivers so they can be continually refreshed about road safety topics and get the most up-to-date information about laws, regulations, and safety protocols.
- Reporting and documentation. Keeping careful records for both your vehicles and your drivers can help avoid CSA violations. For example, using an electronic logging device (ELD) makes it easier for you to track a driver’s hours of service (HOS) so they know when it’s time to take a break. This not only avoids the possibility of getting a violation for exceeding their HOS, but also keeps the driver rested and alert, reducing the possibility of a fatigue-related crash. It’s also possible to appeal your CSA score if you believe it was calculated based on errors and inaccuracies. Keeping careful records of inspections, maintenance, driver training, corrective actions, and other safety measures makes it more likely that you’ll have the documentation to support your appeal.
- Regular review of CSA scores. It’s hard to improve your CSA score if you don’t know what it is. Take time regularly to evaluate your score. Where are you excelling? What areas need improvement? Are any of the corrective measures you’ve implemented paying off? Knowing what’s working and what still needs to be changed is an essential part of improving your CSA score. When you’re reviewing your score, also take some time to review the most up-to-date guidelines and criteria for how your score is calculated. Keeping on top of the latest regulations ensures that you know what actions or behaviors you should avoid.
Road Safety Benefits Everyone
Having a solid understanding of CSA scores and how they’re calculated is an essential part of ensuring that the roads stay safe and your company is able to thrive. Don’t ever let a low CSA score make you complacent—it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to continually strive to improve and lower your CSA score so that you can improve the safety of your drivers, your vehicles, and everyone else on the road.
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