While ensuring safety is top-of-mind for any fleet manager, doing so in a way that results in a positive Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score is paramount for the competitiveness and profitability of your fleet.
The CSA program, developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), assesses the safety performance of a fleet as a whole. Lower CSA scores reflect lower risk in your fleet — resulting in lower insurance rates and a better reputation. But there are many factors to manage if you want to achieve the best possible CSA score.
In this resource, we dive into everything fleet managers need to know about the CSA program and its metrics. Read on to learn how to improve your CSA score to cement customer trust and sustain competitive operations.
What Is a CSA Score?
One of the FMCSA’s missions is to prevent road crashes and fatalities. The CSA program helps to support this mission by identifying high-risk commercial motor carriers and intervening to improve their safety practices. According to the FMCSA, “CSA affects carriers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, carriers transporting passengers or cargo in interstate commerce, and Hazardous Materials carriers operating in intrastate commerce.”
The program uses a point-based scoring system between 0 and 100, with lower scores indicating good safety performance. “CSA scores are determined based on roadside inspection, traffic enforcement, and crash report data from the previous 24 months,” as the FMCSA states, and the scores take into account dozens of factors, such as the number of crashes caused by a fleet, the severity of those crashes, the age of them, and more. These factors also consider the size of the fleet, miles driven, and other contextual elements.
What Does a CSA Score Measure?
The FMCSA uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to identify motor carriers with the greatest safety risk and those who should receive interventions. FMCSA then organizes the data into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and assigns carriers a score for each of the following:
- Unsafe Driving – This category covers driver violations, including speeding, texting while driving, improper lane changes, and inattention. If a driver receives a score of 65% or higher, the carrier company can be subjected to an FMCSA investigation, which can lead to fines, penalties, and even revocation of the carrier’s operating authority.
- Hours-of-Service Compliance – The Department of Transportation (DoT) imposes stringent regulations on driving time, rest breaks, and record-keeping. This category covers violations related to hours of service, such as exceeding maximum driving hours or neglecting required breaks.
- Driver Fitness – This area of BASICs is less commonly enforced, however, violations still warrant an FMCSA investigation. Infractions in this category do not necessarily relate to a driver’s physical ability to operate a commercial vehicle, but rather “lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications,” according to the DoT. For example, if a driver doesn’t have a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license (CDL) or is medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle, the driver and fleet could incur infractions.
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol – This area assesses a fleet’s adherence to DoT regulations for drug and alcohol testing, including pre-employment, random, and post-accident testing. Violations can occur if drivers use illegal substances or alcohol or misuse prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Vehicle Maintenance – This section evaluates a carrier’s compliance with routine inspection, repair, and maintenance of all vehicles and trailing equipment in their fleet. Carriers must implement a maintenance program that records all maintenance-related activities, including service schedules and unexpected repairs.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance – This area assesses adherence to regulations concerning the transportation of hazardous materials — encompassing correctly packaging, labeling, placarding, and loading hazardous materials. It also requires that drivers possess the documentation to fulfill their duties accurately.
- Crash Indicator – This category identifies and assesses carriers with elevated crash rates. It does not solely reflect a driver’s ability, but it does examine the range of events and variables associated with a crash which may encompass the carrier’s fleet size and total miles driven.
What Are Good and Bad CSA Scores?
While there are no official “good” or “bad” CSA scores, there are thresholds that trigger FMCSA investigations.
The closer your score is to zero, the better. When your fleet collectively maintains a low CSA score, you enjoy fewer DoT audits and lower insurance premiums. Additionally, a positive CSA score reflects well on your fleet’s brand.
A score of 50 points or above warrants a serious look at your fleet’s safety practices. Scoring 65% or above in Crash Indicator, HOS Compliance, or Unsafe Driving will initiate an FMCSA investigation. If you transport passengers or hazardous materials, the threshold for an investigation in these categories is 50%. Scoring 80% and above in any BASIC category will automatically trigger an investigation.
Unfavorable CSA scores can result in an out-of-service order if your fleet receives multiple warnings and violation notices that go unaddressed. Such an order can halt your operations, tarnish your company’s reputation, and damage customer relationships — negatively affecting your long-term operations.
How Can I Check My CSA Score?
The FMCSA provides a way to access and review your fleet’s CSA score through their website:
- Go to the FMSCA website and enter your USDoT login and PIN.
- Locate your score on the SMS page.
What Does a CSA Score Affect?
CSA scores affect your fleet’s overall ability to operate and its bottom line. Carriers with higher CSA scores are considered to have a higher risk of safety violations — resulting in increased intervention. Undergoing an investigation can be time-consuming and stressful and negatively impact your fleet’s operations.
FMCSA audits and penalties can also result in profit loss if enough customers get wind of your fleet’s risk levels. While CSA data is not publicly available, customers seek safety and reliability information about carriers, and a poor reputation can make it difficult to maintain profitable customer relationships and load preferences.
Additionally, insurance companies consider several factors when determining insurance coverage cost, including a carrier’s safety performance score across vehicle maintenance, driver safety training, and hours-of-service compliance. A high CSA score could lead to higher insurance premiums. In some cases, carriers may even be denied coverage altogether.
How Do You Improve Your CSA Score?
Follow these steps to maintain a low CSA score:
- Hire drivers with good safety records.
While this recommendation might seem like a no-brainer, the trucking industry’s driver shortage has threatened the pragmatism of this step. Fleet managers should prioritize hiring experienced drivers with records that demonstrate reliable, safe driving as much as possible. Conducting a pre-screening process in which you review a driver’s safety records can help.
- Invest in a safety training program and modern coaching.
The right safety training can improve CSA scores by supporting drivers in their efforts to minimize crashes and adhere to CSA regulations. Effective safety training also includes coaching that keeps drivers consistently on-par with safety guidelines. Safety training and coaching should include:
- Regular check-ins between drivers and coaches to review incidents such as sudden acceleration or tailgating and identify areas where drivers may need additional support.
- Technology-based alerts and prompts to correct driver behavior in real time, such as through Netradyne’s Driver•i fleet management system.
- Data-driven visibility into driver performance so fleet managers can reinforce positive driving.
- Incentive programs to motivate drivers to achieve high safety scores.
- Regular training on evolving safety requirements and CSA adherence.
- Prioritize preventive maintenance.
You can avoid some roadside violations with preventive maintenance. In 2018, 30% of violations were related to vehicle lights, adding two to six points to the overall CSA score. Establishing preventive maintenance programs that include pre-trip inspections helps identify vehicle issues before they become problematic and raise flags for the FMCSA.
- Leverage an AI-powered fleet management system to improve safety.
The right fleet management system comes with advanced tools like telematics and real-time data collection so fleet managers can monitor driver behavior and support safe driving practices in the moment. A smart fleet management system not only delivers full visibility into road conditions, vehicle status, and incidents, it helps managers analyze driver footage and introduces self-coaching. Technology that helps drivers take improvement into their own hands benefits the fleet as a whole by driving down CSA scores.
Improve Your CSA Score in 2024
By prioritizing the BASICs and adopting fleet management technology, fleets can work towards reducing their CSA scores. Start improving safety by learning more about Netradyne’s Driver•i fleet management system. Book a demo with us today.