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April 11, 2020

What are CSA Scores and why are they important?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) launched Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores in 2010. The goal of CSA scores is to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles. It is a safety enforcement program that holds drivers and carriers responsible for their safe driving.

A CSA score is points given for a driver’s performance and safety violations across categories called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). CSA scores apply mainly to carriers of truck fleets, but are often used when talking about a driver’s safety record. A driver can be given a point during a random Department of Transportation (DOT) inspection, a crash, or violation.

CSA scores are kept in the Safety Measurement System (SMS). Scores are often called SMS scores, while the CSA sometimes refers more to the points system that makes up the score. The SMS is updated monthly, so points will be added and drop off regularly. The SMS focuses on identifying high-risk motor carriers that need intervention right away. It also identifies carriers with some on-road performance problems that may require help.

What Are the BASICs Categories?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) groups the SMS data into seven categories called BASICs. They are:

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

Once the scores have been created, SMS will rank carriers and prioritize them for interventions.

What is a Good CSA Score?

A good CSA score is one with low points in each BASIC. Violations raise your score from 1-10 points based on the offense. The less violations the lower the score. Points may be multiplied depending on how often and recent the violations are:

  • 3x – Within 6 months
  • 2x – Within 6-12 months
  • 1x – Within 12-24 months

These scores may be used to determine fleet safety, so having drivers without many violations is good for carriers.

What is A Bad CSA Score?

A bad CSA score is one with high points in each BASIC. The total of all violations per basic cannot exceed 30, but it can still be multiplied for time.

A fleet can lose their license to operate if they have too high of a CSA score. Insurance rates are higher with a high CSA.

When driving for a fleet, a driver is under that carrier’s DOT number, so violations will be given to the carrier. A driver’s CDL is not impacted by CSA violations.

How Can a CSA Score Be Improved?

A bad score can only be changed as points drop off over time, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent a high CSA for carriers. Pre-trip checks for vehicle maintenance issues like broken lights, brake checks, and debris can limit points during DOT inspections.

Check your brakes. Operation Safe Driver Week and Brake Safety Week can mean more inspections. Routine brake adjustments and fixing air leaks in brakes can prevent a 4-point violation.

Hire drivers with clean records. Make sure drivers are healthy and physically able to do all necessary parts of their job when driving, and make sure they have a current medical certification.

Challenge citations. Carriers have two years to challenge a citation, which may be reduced or dismissed.

It is important to understand the ins and outs of CSA and SMS scores. At New England Tractor Trainer School (NETTTS) we can help teach more about DOT Compliance & Safety or help train your fleet of driers with a program on driver Safety & Awareness.