What is a trucking company’s CSA score and why is it important?

There are at least 5 million truck and bus drivers sharing the road with more than 250 million motorists. Because motor vehicle crashes involving large trucks lead to more severe damage and injuries, there are stringent guidelines that regulate the trucking industry. One way these guidelines are implemented is through a CSA score or BASIC percentile. 

The design of the CSA program is to improve the overall safety of trucks on the road. It’s the program that holds companies accountable for the condition of both trucks and drivers they employ.

What is a CSA score?

CSA is short for Compliance, Safety, Accountability. It is a program run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). It is the federal measure that holds companies accountable for safe on-road performance. The FMCSA groups different carriers with a similar number of safety events and assigns each carrier a percentile rank. Technically, the FMCSA does not issue scores, but the term is often used in place for these percentiles. 

The data is held online the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). The system updates this information monthly with new data from roadside inspections. 

Do drivers have CSA scores?

No, drivers do not have individual CSA scores. Roadside inspections that result in violations are assigned to the motor carriers based on their department of transportation number. Drivers do, however, have unique pre-employment screen program records with FMCSA. 

A PSP record contains a driver’s five-year crash and three-year roadside inspection history. These records generally aren’t available to the public but can be found by drivers, carriers and other industry companies who need it for pre-employment screening. 

Determining CSA scores

CSA scores are evaluated by identifying high-risk behaviors of trucking companies based on the previous 24 months. There are seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) used in developing CSA carrier scores.

Violations increase CSA scores based on the severity. “Points” range from 1 to 10 with the least serious violations rated at 1 and more severe violations increasing toward 10. Because weights reflect the relative importance of each violation within each particular BASIC, they cannot be compared meaningfully. 

Points are multiplied depending on how recent a violation was:

  • 3x within the past six months
  • 2x within the past six to twelve months
  • 1x within the past 12 to 24 months

The sum of all violations in any category during a single inspection is capped at 30. This means that a penalty of 30 points will be 90 for the first six months, 60 for another six months, and 30 for the remaining 12 months. Violations that result in an Out-of-Service Order (OOSO), receive an additional two points to the severity score. 

CSA weights each of the BASICs safety violations for drivers through points. 

The seven behaviors examined as part of the BASICs categories are as follows:

Unsafe driving

The unsafe driving BASIC prioritizes intervening on repeated risky behaviors. Drivers who engage in:

  • Texting
  • Speeding
  • Using a hand-held cell phone
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper lane change
  • Inattention 

Violations are recorded in the Safety Measurement System regardless if a truck driver receives a verbal warning or ticket. 

Crash indicator

The crash indicator BASIC helps identify the patterns of high crash involvement. This indicator reviews the behaviors that contributed to the crash. No matter if the commercial driver is responsible for the crash or not, crashes are factored if they result in a fatality, injury or require a vehicle to be transported from the crash scene. 

Hours of Service compliance

Hours of service limits the amount of driving a truck driver is permitted to ensure drivers are rested. Truck drivers staying alert, awake, and able to quickly respond to road condition is essential to road safety. 

Vehicle maintenance

Because of their size, 18-wheelers can cause severe damage to smaller vehicles and lead to more serious injuries. As a result, trucking companies have a serious responsibility to make sure their vehicles are operating up to standard. Inspections should occur before and after trips. Further, these inspection note any vehicle defects. However, it is the responsibility of the motor carrier to repair the defect as soon as possible. 

Controlled substances/alcohol

Drinking and driving is the biggest public service announcement campaign for the last four decades. As a result, it’s widely known and accepted that alcohol and operating motor vehicles don’t mix. Further, illegal drugs and over-the-counter prescription medication misuse impair driving abilities as well. 

Hazardous materials compliance

There are special requirements that a company must adhere to when transporting hazardous materials. BASIC requires that for hazardous materials transportation companies properly package, label, mark, and load hazardous materials to specifications. 

Driver fitness

The law requires motor carriers to ensure their drivers’ qualification files are complete and current. These files must include:

  • Valid commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs)
  • Medical certificates
  • State driving records
  • Annual reviews of driving records
  • Employment applications

Each of these violations is a possible way that a motor carrier company can get points added to their CSA score. 

What does a CSA score mean?

There are benefits to carriers who maintain a lower percentile ranking. For example, carriers with good CSA scores benefit from:

  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Fewer DOT audits
  • Fewer roadside inspections
  • Better reputation with current and potential customers

These thresholds encourage motor carriers to make safety the core focus of their companies.

When percentile rankings or scores are higher, the FMCSA keeps close tabs on a trucking company’s operations. A poor rating can lead to corrective action and in more extreme cases, an Out-of-Service Order (OOSO). OOSOs bar companies from operating.

Further, a poor rating can influence the public’s perception of a fleet. This is because safety and compliance are available to anyone in the public.

What is a good CSA score?

There is no specific CSA score that signifies a “good” or “bad” CSA score. As mentioned before, the FMCSA assigns CSA scores based on information from the Safety Measurement System from the previous 24 months. Carriers with scores greater than 65% in unsafe driving, crash indicator and HOS are subject to investigations from the FMCSA. For hazardous materials and passenger carriers, the threshold is even lower at 60% and 50%, respectively. Each of the remaining BASICs has an 80% threshold before the FMCSA intervenes.

How does the FMCSA intervene for poor CSA scores?

If a company falls below the BASIC threshold, the department of transportation initiates interventions. The point of these interventions is to catch safety problems before they become a recurring problem. Early intervention includes warning letters and targeted roadside inspections.  However, CSA interventions also include the following types of investigations: 

  • Offsite investigations. Investigators will review documentation remotely to determine safety and compliance issues.
  • Onsite focused investigations. A safety investigator focuses on specific safety and compliance issues at your physical location. Further, they may interview employees and inspect your fleets vehicles.
  • Onsite comprehensive investigation. Similar to the onsite focused investigation, however, a comprehensive onsite investigation examines your entire safety operation.

Where do I find the CSA score?

While safety and compliance data is publicly available and can be found on the FMCSA’s website, BASIC percentiles (or scores) are not available to the public. The passage of the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) in December 2015 hides CSA percentiles from the public view. This change wasn’t well-received by insurers or customers who used those percentiles as a quick way to determine a carrier’s safety performance. 

Still, the FMCSA’s website is a resource to examine BASIC information available to the public.

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

If you were involved in a trucking accident with a big rid, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. An experienced truck accident attorney from The Carlson Law Firm can help you receive the maximum amount of damages you’re entitled to. Because of their size, truck crashes lead to some of the most serious injuries among victims. Our attorneys recognize this and will fight aggressively for your rights. We will provide you with assistance if you or a loved one suffered an injury in a trucking accident. 

Call us to schedule a free consultation.

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