Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scoring is an initiative by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve road safety and reduce accidents, fatalities, and injuries for all US domestic commercial motor vehicles with a USDOT number (United States Department of Transportation). This number is an identifier for vehicles during report collection, compliance reviews, audits, inspections, and crash investigations.
For all fleets, lower CSA scores are preferred as they imply lesser accidents and on-road concerns. CSA scores are also made public except for two aspects and are instrumental in increasing better business opportunities. Prospective clients always prefer companies that have low CSA scores as against those that have high CSA scores. Reducing liabilities, fines, and penalties also help keep losses and lawsuits at bay. Carrier companies with low CSA scores also provide assured deliveries and on-time performance of all their commercial motor vehicles.
What are CSA scores?
To determine Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score, the FMCSA uses a Safety Management System (SMS). The SMS analyzes all data collected through crash records, audits, penalties, fines, IFTA reporting, and violations to monitor and highlight safety issues with a carrier. The data collected is further segregated into seven broad categories, known as Behaviour Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
- Unsafe Driving: Operating a motor vehicle recklessly or dangerously, such as improper lane changing and speeding.
- Driver Fitness: Driving a commercial carrier without a license, or exhibiting medical conditions that prohibit safe driving like night blindness renders a driver unfit to drive a vehicle.
- Hours of Service (HOS) compliance: Operating a commercial motor vehicle for more than the allotted number of hours, or driving when sick, drowsy or fatigued.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Failure to maintain the vehicle and follow safety rules and protocols regarding service schedules and changing of spare parts and allowable emissions.
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol: Driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of recreational drugs, illegal drugs, excessive consumption of over-the-counter medications, or alcohol.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance: This record is not made public. Improper or unsafe handling of hazardous materials like not securing the vehicle correctly, leakages, and so on.
- Crash Indicator: This record is not made available to the public. Repeated patterns of crashes and accidents are indicators of improper driving.
Depending upon the reports collected through these seven BASICs scores, each carrier is allotted a percentile for interventions by the FMCSA. The higher the percentile score, the lower is the ranking. Carrier companies strive for improved CSA scores to avoid unnecessary audits and interventions from the Federal Motor Administration.
Why do CSA scores matter?
If your company has a good CSA score, the benefits are far more significant than those businesses that do not have strong percentiles. Some of the advantages are listed below.
- Fewer roadside inspections and DOT (Department of Transportation) audits
- Lower insurance premiums
- Easy skilled and experienced driver recruitments
- Prospective customer preference
If your CSA scores are low, the FMCSA is more likely to keep regular tabs on all operations and safety procedures and protocols. Constant supervision and monitoring may also lead to higher audits, fines, penalties, and interference. This could mean extreme corrective action and resultant losses.
The public perception of the carrier company also matters in terms of brand recognition and quality assurance. Competitors can also access these records and can take pre-emptive action in the market.
How to improve the CSA score?
There are several ways that a carrier company can improve their CSA scores. If you want to improve your CSA score, you must start following all safety and security protocols from the start and must adhere to all procedures and guidelines laid out by the FMCSA.
With the implementation of the ELD (Electronic Logging Device) mandate for non-compliant vehicles, regular inspections, records upkeep, fuel reporting, taxes, accidents and crash records, and monitoring of all vehicles is mandatory.
The main focus of the FMCSA and the ELD mandate is to ensure that all transport carriers protect the safety of all employees, passengers, and the driving public. The CSA scores cover all the companies that manufacture commercial vehicles and also the businesses that use these vehicles.
Let us look at some ways that companies can improve their CSA scores.
- Communicate with employees: Provide adequate information to all employees within the organization about CSA scores and their importance. Conduct training sessions for drivers, Human Resource personnel, dispatchers, fleet managers, maintenance staff, top executives, and so on. These people help spread the word and follow guidelines and protocols set for the CSA score. Each person contributes to effectively reduce the CSA scores in an actionable and time bound manner.
- Make safety a priority: Management of the company, all vehicles, maintenance, personnel, and on-road safety should be implemented and followed at all times. The behavior, attitude, and outlook of all employees towards safety should be of prime concern. Violations of these laws and subsequent action taken should also be communicated to all employees.
- Accurately record all data: Identify issues that have resulted in high CSA scores, and actively pursue data correction. Identify the areas that need immediate attention. Prioritize the aspects that need to be worked upon to help lower the CSA scores and allow for transparent and truthful record keeping. You should also ensure that all registration data and licensing are updated.
- Training: Conduct bi-annual and annual training sessions for all drivers with regards to the BASICs of unsafe driving, crash history, driver fatigue, and Hours of Service (HOS). Violations of these three categories usually amount to driving the CSA score higher than any of the others. Since drivers are the backbone of the carrier industry, particular emphasis should be paid to their retraining and safety guidelines.
Implement specific countermeasures: If any of the records collected indicate that they have crossed the prescribed limits, you should set actionable countermeasures for corrective behavior and record-keeping. The violations against the company will decrease with strict countermeasures.
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