CSA Scores: What They Are & Why They Matter

CSA Scores: What They Are & Why They Matter
Mariah Barr
10 mins read

Not sure what a CSA score is or how it's calculated? Foley can clear the air on some of the most common CSA score questions.

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.

Below, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is a CSA score & what is the CSA program? 
  • How is a CSA score calculated?
  • Whose behavior impacts the CSA score? 
  • What is considered a good CSA score? 
  • What is considered a bad CSA score? 
  • How can you improve your CSA Score? 
  • What happens if you get a violation? 
  • How severe is each potential violation?
  • What is the FMCSA changing about CSA scores?

Read on to learn all about what your CSA score is, how it’s calculated, and how it affects your business.

What is a CSA score & what is the CSA program?

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: 

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 considered a good CSA score?

The closer you can get your 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 considered 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 high is your audit risk?

How can you improve your CSA Score?

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: 

  1. Hire 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.

  2. Train your drivers: make sure your drivers understand how to handle difficult situations, and review any incidents to understand what happened and if they can be prevented. 

  3. Maintain vehicles: drivers should report any vehicle issues requiring repair immediately, and carriers should have the resources to complete the repairs as quickly as possible.  

  4. 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 happens if you get a 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.

What's changing with CSA scores?

In a February 15 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.

Depend on Foley for your 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 new Audit Risk Monitoring (ARM) report can keep you updated on your CSA score on a monthly basis, including a breakdown of each BASIC score so you can see where your business is staying safe and what areas may need attention. You'll receive a monthly 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 compliance software today to start taking charge of your CSA score, driver qualification files, and overall compliance in the eyes of the FMCSA. Fill out the form below to get started.


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