One of the FMCSA’s priorities for 2015 is to roll out more full interventions, this means there will be a lot more CSA audits being conducted this year.
CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability, and is an FMCSA initiative that was introduced to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles. Launched in December 2010, it is a safety enforcement program based on carrier performance and driven by the data collected on them. The CSA program is meant to allow the FMCSA to put a more intense focus on companies that pose the highest safety risks on the roads.
The ultimate goal of the CSA program is to make the roads safer for both carriers and the public. To achieve this, both motor carriers and drivers are held accountable for their role in safety. Through compliance with safety rules, motor carriers and drivers should be able to identify and rectify potential safety concerns before they cause harm.
How CSA scores are calculated
A company’s safety data is collected from roadside inspections, crash reports, investigation results and registration details. All this data is then made available on the FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) website, which is updated on a monthly basis.
The SMS takes into consideration the amount, severity and date of any violations, inspections or crashes a carrier has been involved in. There is more weight given to violations that are more recent, and after two years violations are removed from the record. Also, crashes are weighted based on severity, so a crash involving a fatality or injury has more impact on your score than one that just required a tow.
This data is broken down into seven different categories. These categories are called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and they cover:
- Unsafe Driving – Dangerous or careless operation of a vehicle including unsafe driving practices like speeding, improper land changes and failure to wear a seat belt
- Crash Indicator – History of crash involvement based on state-reported crashes (not publicly available)
- Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance – Incidents of vehicle operation by drivers who are ill, fatigued or in noncompliance with HOS regulations including driver log violations
- Vehicle Maintenance – Mechanical defects and failure to make required repairs as well as improper load securing
- Controlled Substance/Alcohol – Impaired driving through the use of alcohol, illegal drugs and misuse over the counter and prescription drugs
- Hazardous Materials Compliance – Unsafe or incorrect handling of hazardous materials including leaking containers, improper placarding and missing shipping papers (not publicly available)
- Driver Fitness – Vehicles operated by drivers who are unfit due to lack of training, experience or medical conditions
With this data categorized, the SMS then groups carriers, with the same range of safety events, together by each BASIC. It will rank all carriers and assign them a percentile from 0 – 100. Carriers are then prioritized for interventions based on how they performed, with the highest percentiles being the worse scores. Improving scores in any of the BASICs comes from new inspections that are violation free.
CSA scores are also made publicly available, however, the public do not have access to the Crash Indicator or Hazardous Materials Compliance BASICs.
Always keep a copy of CSA Basic on hand by downloading out pamphlet
Why taking care of CSA scores is important
Being subject to DOT inspections can cost a business a lot of money in lost time and fines. It is important to check scores, as they are an indicator of the type of companies the FMCSA will target, as they believe them to be unsafe. They are also a guide to where a carrier needs to make improvements in their safety and compliance.
As a carrier’s safety scores are publicly available, a company can be scrutinized by entities other than law enforcement. Having poor scores reflects in the cost of insurance a company will be offered. It can also result in loss of business as brokers and freight-forwarders can look at safety performance and choose not to use a company based on their scores. There is ongoing debate about the value of making these scores public, so keep an eye out for changes down the road.
Each BASIC has an intervention threshold limit; carriers with scores above these limits are the carriers the FMCSA are trying to focus on. Companies failing to make improvements in their safety and compliance will always have scores above these thresholds and they’ll find themselves subjected to interventions.
At the lowest level, interventions could start with warning letters alerting carriers of problems they need to fix along with the consequences of not improving them. Even when just receiving a warning letter, a carrier can expect to be targeted for more roadside inspections.
Beyond warning letters, carriers failing to improve, can expect safety investigations to be conducted. Off-site investigations involve the carrier submitting documents to the investigators for review. An on-site investigation may focus on just one BASIC or be fully comprehensive investigation. Not only can these investigations be aggravation to the company they are also disruptive, time consuming and costly.
Of course, if you keep getting more inspections and don’t take any initiative to improve, the inspections will reveal more problems. This will make your score worse and… You can see that it is a bit of a downward spiral.
Unfortunately, some companies still fail to understand the true cost of safety until it is too late. Although, it is impossible to put a price on a human life, the consequences of a tragic accident far outweigh the costs of been proactive in preventing such tragedies. Safety and compliance is always something that pays for itself.
Having good CSA scores in each basic reduces overall involvement with the DOT, allowing carriers to get on with their day-to-day operations. By keeping good scores, they can greatly reduce fines and expect a lot less frequent or time-consuming roadside inspections.
CSA scores are one thing that many fleet owners try to maintain, but often find difficult. Drivers, for any carrier, represent the public face of the company and most of the BASIC categories relate to driver performance. It makes sense then, that a comprehensive driver training and hiring processes is one key towards lowering CSA scores. Properly trained drivers should have a good understanding of regulations as well know their role in a company’s safety and compliance program.
It’s also important to note that drivers have their own Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) scores that are incorrectly known as driver CSA scores. . They aren’t publicly available, but can be requested and are often checked as part of a hiring process.