Why Does Your CSA Score Still Matter?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) primary mission is to avoid collisions, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) operating in the United States. The FMCSA began the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program in December 2010. This data-driven safety and compliance enforcement approach was created to increase safety and reduce CMV accidents.

As part of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, every carrier with a DOT number receives an ongoing and updated safety score. These safety rankings reflect the carrier’s success, influencing how drivers, inspectors, shippers, receivers, brokers, and others engage with them.

This article explains what CSA scores are, how they are calculated, why they are still important, and how to improve them.

What Is a CSA Score?

The FMCSA devised the CSA score program to improve the safety, deaths, crashes, and injuries for all interstate carriers having a US DOT number. However, CSA scores are not made available to the general public, thus the nuances of how they impact one’s fleet are obscured.

The CSA program employs a three-pronged approach to data:

  • Measure– It all begins with the Safety Measurement System (SMS). This includes analyzing data from inspections, investigations, and accident reports.
  • Intervene– Then there are Interventions, which are used when necessary. This entails systematic mechanisms to identify and monitor carriers with low scores to assist them in improving.
  • Evaluate– Finally, the Safety and Fitness Determination (SFD) rating system is available. Not all carriers receive an SFD score, therefore not having a grade in this area is often not a concern.

How Are CSA Scores Calculated?

The SMS (Safety Measurement System) measures seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) using data from inspections, examinations, and accident reports. The FMCSA’s SMS collects data from states on a variety of parameters to evaluate road safety for:

  • The amount, severity, and frequency of safety violations and inspections
  • The discovery of “Acute and Critical Violations” during investigations
  • The size and number of vehicle miles traveled by an operator’s fleet
  • The sequence of safety infractions, with more recent instances given greater weight

BASIC Fundamental Categories 

Crash indicator– This identifies patterns of high crash involvement and associated behaviors.

Unsafe driving– This entails recklessly operating a commercial motor vehicle. Violations may include speeding, texting while driving, and a variety of other offenses.

Driver fitness– This is concerned with driving records, such as commercial driver’s licenses, yearly reviews, medical certificates, state driving licenses, and so on.

Vehicle maintenance– Failure to properly maintain or repair the vehicle may result in a penalty for the driver or the company.

Hours of Service (HOS) compliance– Violations in this section may occur when a driver exceeds HOS limitations or is physically unable to drive.

Alcohol or a controlled drug- Addresses violations committed by drivers under the influence of illicit substances or alcohol.

Hazardous materials– Includes restrictions requiring special care for hazardous commodities, such as proper packaging and knowledge of tank specification regulations.

Every month, the SMS gathers data on safety incidents, inspections, and investigations over the previous two years. Data from all BASIC categories are matched to each carrier’s DOT number, and points are assigned according to the severity of the violation.

CSA Scores Still Matter a Lot

A company cannot disregard the CSA score just because they are no longer publicly available. Although the widespread belief is that the withdrawal from public view has minimal influence on the business, the CSA score remains highly essential. 

Motor carriers and law enforcement continue to have access to these percentile rankings and, in collaboration with the FMCSA and State Partners, continue to provide interventions (including warning letters and investigations).

A good CSA score is essential for anybody participating in a company’s operations. Carriers with higher ratings typically:

  • Increase business opportunities – Customers like to do business with carriers that have demonstrated a commitment to compliance and safety.
  • Get audited and inspected less frequently – The DOT is more likely to audit someone with a low score than someone with a high score.
  • Reduced insurance rates – A clean record will help a fleet company to save thousands of dollars on insurance each year.
  • Get good drivers – Drivers like to work with carriers with a strong reputation.

How to Improve CSA Score?

  • Use Good ELD Devices

ELDs can help to improve CSA outcomes in several ways. To begin, drivers and dispatchers can track hours of service and be alerted when a driver’s limit is approaching. The main violations that roadside inspectors look for include running an out-of-service vehicle and driving after being declared out-of-service.

Form and method violations can potentially have an impact on CSA findings. “Form & Manner” and “Outdated Logs” violations account for nearly a quarter of all roadside violations. These violations are regularly discovered during roadside inspections. They may be avoided, though, if drivers report their hours electronically rather than managers depending on drivers to physically document their hours.

  • Focus On Vehicle Inspection 

Violations of vehicle maintenance have a substantial influence on CSA ratings. It may also be difficult to keep up with changing standards for keeping a vehicle operational. The most significant factor in avoiding these violations is doing extensive pre-trip inspections that focus on vehicle maintenance issues that drivers usually overlook.

Experts recommend checking for air leaks in the brakes, broken lights, and debris in the tires. Broken lights have been linked to up to 29% of all traffic offenses and can result in a six-point penalty.

Tire-related breaches can account for up to 12% of all violations, with cases carrying a severe penalty of 8 CSA points. To improve the total CSA score, properly inspect the tires and keep them in good condition.

  • Hire Good Drivers 

Hiring excellent drivers who can follow road and safety standards is always a smart idea. Evaluating potential drivers’ Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) reports is the greatest way to ensure that a firm is hiring people with good safety records.

The FMCSA’s PSP reports reflect each driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history from the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), giving extensive information about a driver’s safety record.

According to FMCSA statistics, companies who review PSP reports before hiring drivers reduce out-of-service penalties by 17% and crash rates by 8%.

  • Stay up-to-date with all Any Regulation Changes 

Ignorance of the law is no excuse when one is charged with a criminal offense. This especially goes for trucking regulations, many of which change from time to time throughout the year. If a company fails to follow these new changes, then their driver’s CSA score will increase, even if they are not aware of it.

Fleet managers and drivers need to stay updated with various changes in the regulations due to the changes in the severity of violence. This will allow them to maintain a low CSA score. 


CSA score still matters a lot even if they are not publicly available. Maintaining a good CSA score will bring various benefits to a fleet company. A good CSA score will also help in avoiding frequent inspections and lower the insurance rate. 


What are the major functions of the CSA score? 

 The major function of CSA include:

  • Raise the safety bar
  • Remove high-risk drivers from roads
  • Make operators maintain high safety standards 

What are the major components of CSA?

 The major components of CSA include:

  • Safety measurements 
  • Data collection 
  • Intervention 

Is it possible to remove CSA points?

Yes, in case of a violation, CSA points will likely be removed from a carrier’s overall score.

Leave a Comment