Overview

CSA Scores: What You Should Know

CSA scores, points, compliance, and ratings explained

Approximate read time: 10 minutes

What is the CSA program?

Enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program is a way to hold carriers and drivers accountable for compliance and safety on the roads.

The FMCSA collects carrier safety data and stores it in its Safety Measurement System (SMS). This safety data includes information such as:

  • Roadside inspections
  • Number of vehicle incidents
  • Number of driver violations
  • Severity of violations and incidents
  • Details of the violations/incidents and when they occur

Based on this data, each carrier is assigned a CSA score. FMCSA CSA scores are indicators of whether carriers are abiding by safety standards and protocols. A poor CSA rating can result in warnings and interventions from the FMCSA. How many CSA points can you get before disciplinary actions are enacted? As you’ll learn below, the answer isn’t quite as simple as counting points alone.

Why CSA scores are important

CSA scores for trucking companies are an important indication that a carrier is doing its part to increase the overall safety of their fleet, ultimately preventing incidents resulting in injuries or deaths on American highways. CSA scores are important because they can affect a company’s reputation in all aspects of business. 

While there is no such thing as an individual driver CSA score, drivers still contribute to the overall CSA scores for trucking companies and other industries. As a driver, one of the key factors in deciding whether to work for a particular carrier is their CSA score. Carriers with poor CSA scores raise alarm bells for drivers in regards to their past safety record.

The BASICs categories

As mentioned above, the FMCSA collects safety data of all carriers and inputs it into their Safety Measurement System (SMS). The SMS categorizes the stored data into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs):

Your company’s safety data appears online in FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). FMCSA updates the SMS once a month with data from roadside inspections, including driver and vehicle violations; crash reports from the last two years; and investigation results. The SMS considers: 

  • The number of safety violations and inspections 
  • The severity of safety violations or crashes 
  • When the safety violations occurred, with recent events weighted more heavily 
  • The number of trucks/buses a carrier operates and the number of vehicle miles traveled 
  • Acute and Critical Violations found during investigations 

FMCSA organizes the SMS data into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs): 

  • Unsafe driving
  • Crash indicator
  • Hours of service compliance
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Driver fitness

The SMS groups carriers by BASIC with other carriers that have a similar number of safety events (e.g., crashes, inspections, or violations) and then ranks carriers and assigns a percentile from 0 to 100 (the higher the percentile, the worse the performance) to prioritize them for interventions. 

This scoring system dictates how many CSA points you can get by ranking you within your peer group in the CSA points chart and applying it against a threshold for each BASIC before the FMCSA begins intervention.

What is a good CSA score?

A good FMCSA CSA score is a low ranking in each of the BASICs categories. Essentially, the lower your score, the fewer safety incidents your carrier has had. 

Multipliers can be applied to your score, depending on how recent the incidents were or how often they occurred. For example, a multiplier of three will be applied to your score if an incident took place within six months. A multiplier of two will be applied if the incident took place within 6-12 months, and a multiplier of one will be applied within 12-24 months.

If a low percentile means a good CSA score, how many CSA points is bad? The FMCSA has set specific thresholds for each BASICs category before any intervention takes place. For example, carriers will be subject to FMCSA investigations if they receive scores of over 65 in the “Unsafe driving,” “Crash indicator,” and “Hours of service compliance” categories. 

How many CSA points you can get before these investigations take place will also depend on factors such as whether you’re carrying passengers or hazardous materials.

How does your CSA score affect your business?

Your CSA score and CSA compliance affect your business in various ways:

  • Company reputation: Having a poor CSA score will affect your company’s reputation. Customers consider CSA scores when deciding whether to conduct business with a particular carrier.
  • Insurance rates: A good CSA score helps lower insurance premiums, saving precious dollars for your company.
  • Audits and investigations: Once your CSA score reaches a certain threshold, you will be placed on the FMCSA’s radar for audits and investigations. These audits can be extremely costly and time consuming for your business.
  • Hiring: Hiring can be a challenge if you have a poor CSA score. Drivers want to work for carriers that take safety seriously, and your CSA score will have a significant impact on their decision to work for you.

How to improve your CSA score

Here are three ways to improve your CSA score:

  • Pre-screen drivers: Having drivers with a solid safety record is key to improving your CSA score. Drivers directly impact your CSA rating through the number of incidents they are involved in. Ensure you review each driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) records, which details their previous driving history before hiring.
  • Maintenance checks: Be vigorous in your maintenance schedule and daily inspections. You can limit the number of CSA points if lights, brakes, and tires are all functioning properly during DOT inspections.
  • Challenge citations: You have up to two years to challenge any violations against your CSA score. Challenging citations can result in either a complete dismissal of violation (not guilty) or reducing the severity of a violation.
  • Challenge crash preventability:  FMCSA has expanded the types of accidents eligible to 15, that if successfully challenged will change the classification to non-preventable and keep from counting against your CSA Score. Video can be extremely powerful in proving that a crash was non-preventable. 

Do more with Lytx

The comprehensive Lytx Compliance Services, along with our video solution, can help you improve your CSA scores and DOT compliance, as well as your overall fleet management and driver safety. Book a demo today to see how we can take your fleet to the next level.