Chances are, if you’re a trucker, you’ve at least heard of CSA scores. Carriers are always harping about them, but what are they really? How are they calculated? And most importantly, why should you care? The short answer is, they are scores assigned to each carrier and owner-operator to hold them accountable for their part in road safety. But there’s much more to it than that – even though individual drivers aren’t assigned a CSA scorethey are affected by them and there are benefits to assisting and working for a company with a low score. 

There is a lot that goes into CSA scores, so let’s break it down. 

What is a CSA Score? 

CSA stands for compliance, safety, and accountability. CSA scores are produced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which as the name suggests is responsible for monitoring and minimizing dangers related to commercial vehicles on US roads. The score itselfand the penalties associated with it, are designed to discourage unsafe behavior and identify high risk carriers. 

Every carrier’s safety data can be found online in the Safety Measurement System (SMS). This is updated monthly and consists of the following: 

  • Number of violations and inspections  
  • Severity of violations or crashes 
  • How recently violations occurred  
  • Number of trucks and miles driven
  • Acute and critical violations found during investigations

The SMS is then organized into 7 Behaviors Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

What Impacts a CSA Score? 

These scores are based on roadside inspections and crash reports from the last 2 years. Carriers receive a score for each of the 7 BASICs: 

Unsafe Driving

This is speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, inattention, not wearing a seatbelt, etc. 

Crash Indicator

This is the history of a carrier’s involvement in crashes. 

HOS Compliance

How closely a carrier adheres to HOS regulations, including logbooks. 

Vehicle Maintenance

This is exactly what it sounds like – it includes, brakes, lights, defects, failure to make repairs, etc. 

Controlled Substances/Alcohol

The use or possession of controlled substances/alcohol.  

Hazardous Materials Compliance

Leaking containers, improper packaging, and or placarding. 

Driver Fitness

The status of a driver’s credentials (license) and their medical fitness. 

Although carriers’ CSA and BASIC scores updated monthly and available to the public, their Crash Indicator and Hazardous Materials Compliance are not made public.  

Each carrier’s score is ranked as a percentile of 100. Except in this case, like in golf, the lower the score the better (0 = best performance and 100 = worst performance). 

As we mentioned, a CSA score is only assigned to carriers. If a driver receives a violation, it goes to the carrier. Additionally, carriers that hire a new driver do not “inherit” any of that driver’s past violations. 

Why Should Truckers Care? 

Drivers don’t get assigned a CSA score, so why should they care? Any violation a driver gets during an inspection goes against the company they work for. However, if the FMCSA determines that the driver was responsible and could have prevented the violation, it will also be placed on their driving record.  

Besides demerits on their record, drivers have another vested interest in keeping CSA scores low – driving for a company that has a low CSA score has its perks! Companies with low scores will have much fewer audits and roadside inspections versus companies with a higher score. Additionally, CSA scores are typically at the top of the list of criteria that customers consider when choosing a carrier. After all, they want to know that their freight will arrive safely, as well as on time. Being appealing to customers means more freight and more favorable lanes for drivers. Better shipping lanes typically means drivers get home more often. 

What Can Drivers do to Help? 

Drivers can help by being proactive in preventing these violations by driving at the proper speed, practicing safe driving, and adhering to all regulations. Performing thorough pre and post trips is not only mandatory, but also crucial for keeping CSA scores down. Doing them mindfully, rather than just going through the motions and checking it off the to-do list makes a world of difference. Being proactive about the truck’s maintenance and spotting issues before hitting the road are huge! Drivers can also ensure that their license and physicals are current.  

Individually these things may not seem like a big deal, but when you add them up they can have a massive impact on a company’s CSA score, in a positive direction or a negative one.  

Conclusion

Drivers should care about CSA scores because even though they are not directly affected by them, they impact a company’s ability to attract customers, which impacts the quality of their freight and shipping lanes, and these things definitely do affect drivers. At ShipEX, safety is a priority. We know that drivers have enough to worry about, so we pair new equipment with one of the best maintenance teams in the business, to try to make their lives just a little bit easier. If that appeals to you, you should check out ShipEX.  

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