Safety and efficiency are the pillars of the trucking industry, guiding every decision a company makes. A key part of any trucking operation will be ensuring that drivers are in compliance with all regulations governing the safety of themselves, their vehicles, their cargo and others on the road. But how can this be measured and tracked, and how are carriers held accountable? That’s where CSA scores come in.
What Are CSA Scores?
CSA stands for “compliance, safety and accountability,” which are important qualities for drivers everywhere. Commercial driver CSA scores hold motor carriers responsible for safety and adherence to laws and standards. The CSA program identifies motor carriers with safety issues and offers warnings and interventions in an effort to improve the safety and well-being of drivers everywhere.
Each month, a company’s safety data appears online, presented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The report includes information collected from roadside inspections and crash reports. Some of the data considered to create a CSA score for CDL drivers includes:
- Acute and critical violations
- The severity of crashes and safety violations
- The number of safety violations
- The number of vehicles a carrier operates and how far those vehicles have traveled
This data is then organized into behavior analysis and safety improvement categories:
- Unsafe driving
- Crash indicators
- Hours of service compliance
- Vehicle maintenance
- Controlled substances/alcohol
- Hazardous materials compliance
- Driver fitness
Violations are assigned point values, and these points are added up to get the carrier’s total number of points. Then, carriers are ranked and given percentile scores from 0 to 100 that prioritize their need for interventions. There are 5 million trucks and buses on the roads among millions more drivers, and that means that the stakes are high and safety regulations must be enforced. It’s beneficial for every motor carrier to understand the CSA program and do everything they can to improve their FMCSA CSA scores.
How to Improve CSA Scores for Truck Drivers
The FMCSA has several resources aimed at improving DOT CSA scores, including the CMV Safety Belt Program and A Motor Carrier’s Guide to Improving Highway Safety. They also supply a tool called the Safety Management Cycle (SMC) that helps carriers figure out what exactly is causing safety violations. Carriers can download an overview of the SMC to learn more about safety improvement practices. The SMC can help motor carriers determine why an issue is occurring rather than just labeling what the issue is. The tool can help you to brainstorm possible fixes, choose solutions and design and implement your plans.
Another effective way to improve trucking company CSA scores is to be familiar with the breakdown of points in the scoring process. The categories are as follows:
- Driving Violations: To score well in this section, drivers should make sure they’re adhering to road safety rules. Stay within speed limits, obey traffic control devices, use caution in hazardous situations and never drive under the influence.
- E-Log Violations: Make sure your ELD is working at all times. Device failures and errors will cause CSA point deductions.
- Hours of Service Violations: States and municipalities have differing hours of service laws. Drivers may be barred from driving more than 16,14 or 11 hours without taking a rest. Adhere to these standards, and don’t drive while ill or tired to make sure that points aren’t given in this category.
- Mobile Device Violations: Never use a phone or text while driving. This is against the law in most states and will result in 10-point violations.
- Paperwork Violations: Keeping up to date with paperwork is a responsibility attributed to all trucking companies. CSA scores will be raised if drivers’ licenses aren’t in order, they don’t have proper CDL classifications or logs and other records aren’t kept up to date.
- Bus Violations: Bus drivers are held to similar standards to those for commercial drivers. They must have the required licensing, shouldn’t drive while fatigued and must follow road laws and safe driving practices.
What Is a Good CSA Score?
Commercial driver CSA scores are based on point values for each violation, so the lower the score, the better. It may be more helpful to ask, “What is a bad CSA score?” If you receive a 65 percent or more in any category, the FMCSA will probably place you under further scrutiny. Keep in mind that hazmat carriers must keep their score below 60% because they carry dangerous cargo.
How Do I Check My CSA Score?
Trucking company CSA scores are now private, so you can only view them if you’re a motor carrier or a law enforcement officer. If you do have access, you can visit the Safety Measurement System website and enter your login information to view your scores.
The best way to maintain a good CSA score for CDL drivers is to avoid violations whenever possible. You should be able to earn a decent score simply by abiding by the rules, making safe driving choices and making sure all records and licenses are kept up to date.
Peter K. Lam
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