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How Safety Culture and Technology Can Improve CSA Scores

By Kevin Aries September 1, 2020

CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative that grades commercial carriers based on several safety-related factors. This enforcement program is carried out with the help of the Safety Measurement System (SMS) which scores motor carrier entities based on inspection results, violations and crashes across an entire fleet of commercial vehicles. The higher the CSA score, the more likely the FMCSA will rate a carrier “to be involved in an accident.” The lower the CSA score, the better.

Carriers don’t have full control over their CSA score—but they can make a positive impact by working to develop a strong safety culture and implementing fleet management technology for commercial driver behavior management.

What is a Culture of Safety?

According to the FMCSA, safety culture is best defined by an organization’s norms, attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding safety. Because culture and safety have such a clear connection, establishing safety procedures and enforcing them company-wide can go a long way towards positively impacting a CSA score.

How Can I Check My CSA Score?

Visit the FMCSA website: https://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/. You’ll need to enter your USDOT number and pin. If you don’t have a pin, you’ll need to request one from the DOT.

Factors Impacting Your CSA Score

Many factors impact CSA scores, and because they’re used to identify high-risk motor carriers, the scores can influence a carrier’s bottom line as well. A carrier with a poor CSA score may experience more frequent roadside inspections and DOT audits, as well as higher insurance premiums. A better score goes a long way toward minimizing the potential for costly delays and fines, and carriers with low CSA scores may be seen as a more attractive choice to customers looking to select a trucking company.

The seven major factors impacting CSA scores are the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs):

  • Unsafe driving
  • Fatigued driving, or Hours of Service (HOS) compliance
  • Driver fitness
  • Controlled substances / illegal drugs / alcohol
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Cargo-related
  • Crash indicator

The seven BASICs are weighted with the most dangerous violations assigned the highest points and less dangerous violations assigned the lower points. Examples of 10-Point violations (the highest weighted violations) include reckless driving, speeding 15 MPH or more over the limit, violating an out-of-service order and the use of drugs and alcohol while operating a vehicle. Lower point violations can include the driver lacking the physical qualifications – i.e. not wearing corrective lenses while driving (2 points) not having seat belts installed (2 points) and improper turns (5 points). You can learn more about CSA point values here.

Download our fleet vehicle compliance management guide to learn more about fleet compliance management as well as common mandates and requirements.

How to Improve Your Fleet’s CSA Score

First and foremost, carriers and owner-operators with a known poor CSA score, or carriers who have received a warning letter from the DOT should immediately take action. Fleet compliance issues such as Hours-of-Service violations (HOS), failed DOT inspections, vehicle maintenance issues, electronic logging device (ELD) compliance issues, and driver behavior issues (including alcohol and drug screening) all impact a fleet’s CSA score.

After addressing any outstanding safety and compliance violations, carriers should work to develop stringent safety policies and procedures and implement them from the top down. Along with the adoption of a safety culture, carriers should strive to hire drivers with safe driving records.

CSA Scores and PSP Reports

CSA scores should not be confused with Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) reports. A PSP report captures the safety performance history of individual drivers, including five years of crash reports and three years of roadside inspection data. PSP reports can be used as a hiring tool to screen commercial motor vehicle drivers with a history of safety violations and/or drug and alcohol violations. Fleet managers should also know that driver PSP records can impact their CSA scores, but the two are not always directly correlated.

Improving CSA Scores Using Technology

Monitoring, tracking and reporting on driver behavior is one of the core policies carriers can implement to improve safety culture and CSA scores. Below are a few ways fleet management technology helps:

  1. Driver management software helps CDL drivers by making dispatch smarter, providing directions to help them get to and from jobs faster and providing proof that they are compliant. It also gives carriers the insight into drivers’ best (and worst) behaviors, including reckless driving. Carriers can use safety data from GPS tracking software to coach driver safety and save on fuel costs by improving routes and reducing unproductive idling.
  2. After December 16, 2019, all drivers and carriers subject to the final electronic logging device (ELD) rule must use self-certified ELDs that are registered with FMCSA. ELDs monitor HOS and can help reduce unsafe driving conditions (such as driver fatigue) that lead to accidents. ELDs have already made a positive impact on CSA scores: 51% of fleet owners say their CSA scores improved after becoming ELD-compliant.1

The goal of any CSA program is to make the roads safer for carriers, their drivers and the public. By establishing the right culture and implementing the right driver management technology, you can improve fleet safety and, ultimately, your CSA score.

For more information on how to implement a successful fleet safety program that will help positive impact your Fleet’s CSA scores, watch our free 1 hour webinar with Our Expert Brad Penneau.


1 https://www.freightwaves.com/news/2018/7/7/coretexreleases-post-mandate-eld-satisfaction-survey-results

Kevin Aries

Kevin Aries leads Global Product Success for Verizon Connect, helping build software solutions that optimize the way people, vehicles and things move through the world.

Tags: Customer Service, ELD & Compliance, Inspections, Safety, Service level compliance

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