CSA Scores: What They Are & Why They Matter
What is the FMCSA’s CSA Program?
The CSA program (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) is designed to improve the safety of all drivers on the road. Each motor carrier has a CSA score that represents how well they meet the established requirements.
While your CSA score may feel like just another compliance matter you need to worry about, with the right mindset, you can turn your CSA score into one of your best business assets.
FMCSA's Safety Measurement System
The FMCSA SMS assesses the safety and compliance of motor carriers by calculating their performance in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). This performance is based on the number of safety violations, severity and recency of crashes, and how many trucks operate under the carrier's name.
What is a CSA score?
The CSA program launched in November 2010, and it is a program run by the FMCSA that’s designed to encourage carriers to be aware of their responsibility to keep our roadways safe.
Each carrier has a CSA score that represents how well they’ve maintained that road safety. The score is calculated on a 0-100 scale, with higher numbers indicating a worse level of safety. CSA scores are updated through the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) each month.
Since 2010, the CSA point system has gone through some changes to make the system fairer to drivers who were involved in accidents that were not their fault. And as you'll read later in this post, more changes could be coming down the line.
How is a CSA score calculated?
The core metrics are called the BASIC scores, which stands for Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. They’re calculated using crash report and roadside inspection data that’s collected in the FMCSA SMS, and will differ depending on factors like how long ago an incident occurred (only the last 24 months contribute to your score), the severity of a crash, and annual miles driven.
The 7 BASICs are defined as:
- Crash Indicator: the frequency and severity of crashes.
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol: having a driver found to be operating a CMV under the influence. Read more about the Controlled Substances and Alcohol BASIC.
- Driver Fitness: having a driver who has failed to maintain qualification files or is operating without a CDL. Read more about the Driver Fitness BASIC.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance: handling hazardous materials in an improper manner, such as failing to label materials or having leaky containers.
- HOS Compliance: driving while sick or tired, or failing to maintain records of duty status for at least 6 months. Read more about the HOS Compliance BASIC.
- Vehicle Maintenance: failing to maintain vehicles, such as faulty lights, brakes, or improper load securement. Read more about the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.
- Unsafe Driving: speeding, improper lane changes, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving in a dangerous manner. Read more about the Unsafe Driving BASIC.
What is a bad CSA score for a driver?
Drivers do not get individual CSA scores, only carriers do. But if you’re an owner-operator, then your CSA score will reflect your driving and safety habits, as well as those of any other drivers for your company.
What is a good CSA score?
The closer you can get your CSA score to 0, the better.
If you have a good CSA score you can benefit from fewer DOT audits, lower insurance premiums, and may find it easier to land more clients as a responsible and trusted carrier.
What is a bad CSA score?
Generally, any score that’s 50 or over needs to be taken seriously. If you have a score of 65% or higher in Crash Indicator, HOS Compliance, or Unsafe Driving you’ll be subject to an FMCSA investigation (this lowers to 50% if you transport passengers or hazardous materials). If you reach a score of 80% in any of the other BASIC categories, you’ll also be subject to an investigation.
How CSA Scores Impact Truck Drivers
While truck drivers don't earn individual CSA scores, their decisions behind the wheel can impact the safety events or accidents that contribute to their employers' CSA scores. Some employers may choose to take disciplinary action if their drivers' choices or habits lead to DOT violations or crashes.
What happens if you get a DOT violation?
Any violation remains on your record for two years. If your CSA score becomes too high, the FMCSA may decide to give you a compliance review, and if your score suggests that you are a danger on the road, an out-of-service order may be issued (this should only happen after multiple violations and warning letters, so it won’t come out of the blue).
How severe is each potential violation?
Starting on page 49 of the SMS Methodology handbook, you’ll find a full breakdown of the severity of each violation and how much it may affect your score.
How to Improve CSA Scores
It’s best to approach your CSA score proactively – meaning you should try to prevent incidents that would affect your CSA score rather than reacting when something bad does happen. You should make sure you do background checks when hiring drivers and make sure your drivers prioritize safety while on the road.
If you can, try to keep drivers connected to your main office so they can call in for advice if they are in a potentially risky situation, such as feeling ill or facing adverse weather conditions.
But accidents DO happen. If you need to improve your score, here are some tips.
Hire Drivers Carefully
With the current driver shortages, it can be tempting to onboard drivers quickly without doing the proper background checks. However, try to balance getting trucks out on the road with making sure your drivers don’t have any red flags that may cause your score to suffer in the future. Foley's new hiring, screening, and onboarding software, Dash, helps ensure you put quality employees behind the wheel of your company vehicles.
Train Your Drivers Properly
Make sure your drivers understand how to handle difficult situations, and review any incidents to understand what happened and if they can be prevented.
Maintain Your Trucks and Other Vehicles
Drivers should report any vehicle issues requiring repair immediately, and carriers should have the resources to complete the repairs as quickly as possible.
Don’t Skip Pre-Trip Inspections
Maintenance is always important, but a quick check of a vehicle before leaving for a trip (or even during trips for a long haul) can help ensure you aren’t cited for a violation that could have been easily fixed, like a broken light.
What's changing with CSA scores in 2024?
In a February 15, 2023 notice, the FMCSA proposed multiple updates to SMS, which is the part of the CSA program that evaluates the crash risk rates of motor carriers and prioritizes them for safety interventions (such as roadside inspections or compliance reviews) based on their performance in the BASICs we covered above.
The FMCSA is considering the following changes.
- Consolidating the BASICs to better pinpoint those that have the largest impact on crash risk.
- Revising the severity weights of violations to eliminate any unnecessary bias from deciding compliance officials.
- Adjusting intervention thresholds to focus on carriers that have committed recent violations and have the highest crash rates.
Click here for an in-depth review of the proposed updates from Foley's compliance experts.
How to Check Your CSA Score
You can get daily updates on your CSA score delivered directly to your inbox when you sign up for Foley's CSA Monitor. Whether your score (and your risk of a DOT audit) increases or decreases, you'll be the first to know.
Depend on Foley for Daily CSA Score Updates
Staying on top of your vehicle maintenance, driver training, and pre-employment background checks will help ensure you keep your CSA score low and take advantage of all the benefits of operating a safe and compliant business.
Foley's CSA Monitor can keep you updated on your CSA score on a daily basis, including a breakdown of crash, inspection, and violation reports for every driver so you can see where your business is staying safe and what areas may need attention. You'll receive a comprehensive report that details any changes to your CSA score, what safety events caused the changes, and how to recover your all-important compliance performance.
Get your FREE demo of Foley’s CSA Monitor and DOT compliance software today to start taking charge of your CSA score, driver qualification files, and overall DOT compliance. Fill out the form below to get started.