A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your CSA Score

A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your CSA Score

July 30th , 2018

With over 5 million trucks and 250 million motorists on the road, there are a lot of lives on the line when it comes to fleet safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with keeping America’s roadways safe by reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities with large trucks and buses, and it's vital that drivers and carriers partner with them in this effort.

The FMCSA takes their job seriously and utilizes the CSA program to identify carriers with safety problems and prioritize them for interventions. To ensure that you maintain an excellent safety record, it’s important to understand your CSA score.

What Are CSA Scores?

The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is designed to hold motorists, including owner-operators, accountable for their role in road safety. The FMCSA groups carriers with those who have a similar number of safety events and assigns each carrier a percentile rank. Technically speaking, the FMCSA does not issue "CSA scores," though this term is often used as shorthand for CSA percentiles.

The safety data is held online in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) and is updated monthly with new data from roadside inspections. SMS data is organized into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), which include categories like unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance, and driver fitness.

Do Drivers Have CSA Scores?

Drivers do not have their own CSA scores, as CSA scores are assigned to carriers based on their DOT number. If a driver receives a violation, it is assigned to the carrier and not the driver. Drivers, however, have unique Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) records with the FMCSA. A PSP record contains information on a driver’s five-year crash and three-year roadside inspection history. PSP records are available to commercial drivers, carriers, and other industry companies completing pre-employment screening for commercial drivers.

How Are CSA Scores Calculated?

CSA scores are calculated with roadside inspection and crash report data from the Safety Measurement System (SMS) from the last 24 months. The calculations take into account factors like crash severity, how long ago the event occurred, and annual vehicle miles traveled. Carriers receive a CSA score for each of the seven BASICs:

  • Unsafe Driving: Operating a commercial vehicle in a dangerous manner, such as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, or improper lane changing.
  • Crash Indicator: Based on state-reported crash data, this BASIC contains historical patterns of frequency and severity of crash involvement.
  • HOS Compliance: Operating a commercial vehicle when sick or fatigued and not maintaining records of duty status for six months.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: Failing to properly maintain the commercial vehicle, such as improper load securement or faulty brakes or lights.
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol: Operating a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Hazardous Materials Compliance: Handling hazardous materials in an unsafe manner, such as having leaking containers and failing to label hazardous materials as such.
  • Driver Fitness: Operating a commercial vehicle by an unfit driver, such as lack of a valid CDL, and failing to maintain driver qualification files.

How Do I Check My CSA Score?

You can check your CSA score on the CSA program website with your carrier name or DOT number. All the BASIC information is available to the public except for the Crash Indicator and Hazardous Materials Compliance BASICs. Additional safety data through the SMS can be accessed with a unique login and pin. If you currently do not have an FMCSA login, you can register for the portal online.

What Is a Good CSA Score?

CSA scores are calculated on a zero to 100 percentile scale, with 100 indicating the worst performance and zero indicating the best performance. The FMCSA sets intervention thresholds on a per category level, based on the BASIC's relationship to crash risk. Carriers with scores greater than 65% in Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, and HOS Compliance are subject to FMCSA investigations. For hazardous materials and passenger carriers, the threshold is even lower, at 60% and 50%, respectively. The remaining BASIC categories have an 80% threshold for most carriers, after which the FMCSA will intervene.

Carriers with good CSA scores will benefit from lower insurance premiums, fewer DOT audits and roadside inspections, and a better reputation with current and potential customers, so staying well below those thresholds can have an outsize impact on your operations and profitability.

How Do I Improve My CSA Score?

CSA scores can be improved over time by making safety a core focus of your company. It’s important to understand the BASICs and what factors, such as traffic violations and crashes, influence the score. Now that the ELD mandate is implemented, you should also be familiar with the requirements of the mandate to ensure you’re compliant.

1) Careful Hiring

CSA scores are calculated using all of your drivers' roadside inspection and crash reports, so it's critical to hire drivers with a good safety record. During the hiring process, you should review the PSP records, which include individual driver safety records, of all potential new hires. In fact, companies who use PSP reports during the hiring process lower their crash rate by 8% and driver out-of-service rate by 17%.

2) Training Programs

CSA scores are essentially a measure of your overall safety as a company. To improve your CSA score, you should invest in a safety program with ongoing training and check-ins. Accidents happen, but it’s critical that you take steps to minimize your risk by regularly reviewing any harsh driving incidents. Fleet tracking systems, like Samsara, can give you greater visibility into driver behavior, such as harsh braking and acceleration or tailgating, so you can address problematic patterns.

3) Attention to Maintenance

Of all roadside violations, 30% are connected to lights and over 11% are for tires. All violations are assigned a severity weight that reflects the crash risk based on a scale of one (lowest crash risk) to 10 (highest crash risk) for each BASIC category. Violations related to lights, for example, are typically awarded two to six points on the 10-point scale, so maintenance issues can quickly add up to a high CSA score. To keep your fleet running smoothly and your CSA score low, implement a preventative maintenance program and make sure drivers are completing pre- and post-trip inspections. Samsara allows your drivers to seamlessly submit paperless DVIRs, which are immediately uploaded to a maintenance dashboard for mechanics to address.

Interested in seeing how Samsara's fleet management platform can help you improve your safety program and CSA score? Sign up for our free trial!

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