CSA scores are the source of a lot of debate and confusion. What exactly is a CSA score? Are they public or not? Are they changing? And lastly, do they really matter?

In this article, we’ll cover:

What are CSA scores?

CSA scores are a part of a safety program created by the FMCSA called the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. The program was created to prevent accidents through proactive intervention and hold carriers accountable for safety standards.

The CSA program uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS) as a method of tracking and measuring data points about a carrier’s operations that are believed to signify a greater accident risk. The scores provided by the SMS are typically what we refer to as a “CSA score.” There are 7 areas of focus for the SMS called BASICs:

Unsafe Driving, Driver Fitness, Hours-of-service Compliance, Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substances, Crash Risk Indicator, and Hazardous Materials Compliance.

For more information on how the program works, check out this complete CSA score guide.

Are CSA scores public?

This is a point of a lot of confusion, as this has changed over the years. As of January 2020, 5 of the 7 BASICs can be viewed by the public on the FMCSA’s website. The Crash Risk Indicator and Hazardous Materials BASICs are hidden from public view and can only be viewed by the carrier. You can log in on the FMCSA’s website to view yours. If you need your login PIN, you can request it here.

Are CSA scores changing?

As we’re sure you’re aware, there has been a lot of controversy around the accuracy and fairness of the CSA program. This led to Congress asking the National Academy of Science to conduct an independent study into the CSA program in 2017. The findings from this study started a process that the FMCSA is currently undergoing to improve the CSA program.

The current status (as of January 2020) is that the FMCSA is determining whether they are ready to undergo “full-scale testing” of the updated CSA program. This decision is expected by Sept. 30, 2020. Any actual changes to the program will be dependent upon the results of the test. This article goes into more detail on potential changes to the CSA program.

How CSA scores impact your business

There are a number of ways that your CSA score can positively and negatively affect your business. Here are a few of the main ones:

FMCSA interventions. The FMCSA uses “intervention thresholds” that help prioritize interventions and investigations. The thresholds are based upon the carrier’s percentile on a 1-100 scale (how you compare to your peers), with higher scores indicating fleets’ unsafe behavior. For a property carrier, the threshold starts at 65. An FMCSA investigation can be a very time-intensive process that can result in fines, and in extreme cases, a complete carrier out-of-service order.

A loss of business. Shippers and 3PLs often look at the publically available CSA score data as a factor when choosing a carrier. Often, there are many carriers vying for the business of the best shippers. These are the ones with high freight volumes, well-run docks, and who pay the highest rates. A poor CSA score can lead to the best loads going to other carriers.

Insurance premiums. Most insurance companies use CSA scores as a factor in their evaluation of a carrier’s risk profile. This can lead to higher deductibles and premiums, or even a denial of coverage. 2019 was full of carriers going out of business, citing big increases in insurance costs as a factor. Maintaining your CSA score is one way to potentially reduce the odds of your business being next.

How to improve your CSA score

We’ve established that CSA scores are important. How can a carrier go about improving their CSA score? Here are six actionable tips to get started:

1. Challenge incorrect violations

Unfortunately, it’s possible that an incorrect violation will be issued by an officer or that a violation will adversely affect your CSA score. Fortunately, the DataQ process is in place to provide an opportunity to challenge the violation and, if successful, get it removed from your CSA score. Considering the fact that a violation stays on your CSA score for two years, quickly addressing any issues you see is important.

2. Review PSP reports before hiring drivers

Pre-employment Screening Program reports are a bit like CSA scores for drivers. They provide information into a candidate’s driving history, including accidents, violations, and more. According to the FMCSA, fleets who use PSP reports to make hiring decisions benefit from an 8 percent lower crash rate and 17 percent lower driver out-of-service rate.

3. Implement a dashcam solution

Did you know that dash cams may prevent 15 percent of accidents involving heavy-duty trucks each year?

With real-time video access, you can be proactive about risk. For example, drivers with a violation for following too closely have a 46 percent higher accident risk, according to ATRI. By being able to view videos of hard braking events, you can identify the drivers following too closely and correct the behavior before a collision occurs.

Additionally, dual-facing dash cams (road- and driver-facing) can help identify drivers not wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelt violations are common and add 7 points to your CSA score.

4. Get proactive about vehicle maintenance

During roadside inspections, the most common violations are for lights (30 percent) and tires (10 percent). By using a pre- and post-trip inspection tool that’s mobile (so the driver can log issues as they see them) and customizable (to specify certain parts for specific vehicle and trailer types) you can significantly improve the effectiveness of your inspections. Additionally, vehicle diagnostics can help identify small issues so they can be fixed before becoming a violation.

5. Use a weigh station bypass solution

It stands to reason that the fewer inspections you experience, the fewer violations you will receive. By adopting a weigh station bypass solution, you can skip certain weigh stations and reduce your odds of being inspected. Additionally, preemptive upcoming weigh station alerts can help prevent “accidental avoidance” situations.

6. Choose an ELD solution that fits your needs

Hours of Service violations are some of the most common and costly hits to a carrier’s CSA score. In the ELD era, the quality of your technology can make a big difference in your Hours of Service compliance. For example:

  • An easy-to-use ELD can help reduce the odds of driver-related errors. This is especially important for new drivers.
  • A reliable ELD can reduce the chances of needing to revert to paper logs if the device malfunctions. Drivers who haven’t used paper logs in a while, or perhaps who have only used an ELD, are more likely to make a mistake resulting in a violation.
  • An ELD that offers document management can greatly simplify the ELD mandate supporting document requirements.

The time to get serious about your CSA score is now

The transportation industry is changing rapidly. It’s hard to say what the future holds, but no matter what changes the CSA program undergoes, it seems likely CSA scores will continue to have a significant impact on a carrier’s financial success.

By making changes to improve the safety and compliance of your business today, you’ll be better prepared to grow and compete in the future. To learn more about the CSA program, read this complete guide.