December 22, 2022
There's a lot of work that goes into being an owner-operator of a trucking company, and there's also a lot of responsibility, too. Trucking is an essential service in the United States, and it's highly regulated in a number of different ways to ensure that every company that is on the road is operating in a safe manner.
Federal regulators have a number of different metrics that they use to monitor commercial trucking company, and one of the fundamental ones they use is called the CSA. Short for Compliance, Safety and Accountability, this score is compiled by federal agencies and is designed to enforce federal safety measures geared toward both owner-operators and truck drivers.
CSA scores are very important to truck drivers and owner-operators, so it's very important that you understand what they are and how you can improve yours if it's low. Below is a full explanation of what CSA scores are.

What Are CSA Scores?

The FMCSA, or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, runs the CSA program, which monitors the safety measures put in place for all trucking owner-operators and truck drivers. Any individual driver and/or owner-operator who has a DOT number will also be assigned a CSA score chart.
CSA scores are measured on a 0 to 100 scale. The lower your score is, the better. All of this information is stored in the central SMS database, or Safety Measurement System.
The data that goes into the SMS is collected as part of crash reports and roadside inspections over the last two years. Data from FMCSA investigations are also integrated into the CSA score. This data is uploaded every month with the the new data.

How are CSA Scores Determined?

In essence, CSA scores are percentages that are calculated from a point system for the seven different categories of the BASIC program -- Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.
The seven categories are driver fitness, hazardous materials compliance, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, Hours-of-Service (HOS) compliance, crash indicator, and unsafe driving.
What the FMCSA considers for each of these categories includes …
Unsafe driving: Any infraction of not wearing a seatbelt, inattention, late change, improper, reckless driving or speeding
Crash indicator: Any non-public history of involvement in a crash
HOS compliance: Any non-compliance with regulations under HOS, which includes logbooks
Vehicle maintenance: Infractions such as failure to make required repairs, defects, lights or brakes
Controlled substances and alcohol: Any instance of use or possession of alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance
Hazardous materials compliance: Any non-public instance of improper packaging, placarding or leaking containers
Driver fitness: Whether the driver has an invalid license or may not be medically fit to operate a commercial vehicle

How to Check Your CSA Score

The CSA program has its own unique website where you can check your individual CSA score. All you need to do to look up your score is enter your DOT number and carrier name.
There, you'll be able to see all of your BASIC information. All of this is also available for the public to see, with the exception of the hazardous materials compliance and crash indicator categories.
If you are looking to obtain more safety data with the SMS, you'll need a special login that will include a personalized PIN. You can register for a login with the FMCSA right online.

What CSA Scores Would Be Considered Good?

There are intervention thresholds set by the FMCSA on a category-by-category level. This is assessed based on the relationship of that BASIC category to the risk of getting into or causing a crash.
Any CSA score that is 65% or higher for HOS compliance, crash indicator and unsafe driving would be subject to further investigation by the FMCSA. Hazardous materials has a threshold of 60%, while passenger carriers have a lower threshold at 50%.
All of the other BASIC categories carry with them a threshold of 80% before the FMCSA might intervene.

Why is a Good CSA Score Important?

CSA scores aren't just measurements that are used by the FMCSA to determine whether they should intervene with an owner-operator or individual driver. They are used by outside organizations as well.
Owner-operators that have solid CSA scores could benefit from having lower premiums on their insurance, be subject to fewer roadside inspections and audits by the DOT, and even have a more solid reputation with customers. Individual truck drivers with solid CSA scores will have a better chance of getting new jobs -- or hanging onto their current one.
CSA scores can have an enormous impact on the operations of your company and its overall profitability, which is why it's so important to ensure that you have a good one.

Can You Improve Your CSA Score?

A CSA score doesn't have to stay low forever. Over time, you can improve your score by focusing on the different BASIC aspects of your company. The safer you drive, the more your score can increase.
Remember that your CSA score includes the last two years' worth of data for these BASIC categories, and the data is inputted every month. That means that with each month of improved data, you can slowly but surely improve your CSA score.
For an individual driver and even individual owner-operators, this means focusing on your own driving and maintenance. It's a little more in-depth for owners of trucking companies. That's because CSA scores take into account the crash and roadside inspection reports for any driver who works for your company.
If you own a trucking company, then, you should focus on hiring drivers who have solid PSP records, or Pre-employment Screening Program records, that are published by the FMCSA.
You can also fine-tune your company's training programs, which can lead to safer driving. A good training program can also help your drivers minimize their risk.
Finally, ensuring that you're always paying attention to the upkeep and maintenance of your fleet will help reduce roadside violations. When you are constantly checking your vehicles, you'll be addressing problems as they arise, rather than fixing them after your CSA score has already been affected.

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