The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) designed the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program in the United States in 2010 to regulate all commercial vehicles and ensure that drivers and employers operate within safety guidelines and standards.
Under the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS), all commercial driving and safety offenses are awarded a score or point, also known as severity weight. These points are assessed for each wrongdoing or violation. The CSA is a safety enforcement program for all carrier companies based on data and analysis collected about them. The CSA program aims to make the roads safer for the public and the commercial carriers by ensuring that drivers and motor transport companies share equal responsibility. It has a set of guidelines and rules that help mitigate potential threats to safety by rectifying all concerns that may cause harm or unnecessary accidents.
The Safety Management System (SMS) analyzes the inspections, crashes, violations, or safety infringements that the commercial vehicle carrier company has been in. Infractions expire after a span of two years, but the most recent ones are weighted quite heavily. Crashes and accidents are weighted based on severity, injury, or fatality.
The SMS is broken down into subsections called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). There are seven main categories.
Driver Fitness: Fitness refers to the medical condition of the driver, lack of training, and experience while driving a commercial motor vehicle. An expired driving license would make a driver unfit to sit behind the steering wheel of a commercial vehicle.
Unsafe Driving: Careless, reckless, or dangerous driving of a commercial vehicle is considered unsafe. Improper lane changing, speeding, or texting while driving, are a few examples of unsafe driving.
Hours Of Service (HOS): Ill, fatigued, or overworked drivers of commercial vehicles and those in non-compliance with HOS regulations come under this category. A fitting example would be exceeding hours of service or maintaining an inaccurate log sheet.
Vehicle Maintenance: Failure to make repairs, change spare parts, fix mechanical issues or the incorrect securing of a massive load all come under vehicle maintenance. Driving with a broken taillight or objects falling from the vehicle are prime examples of maintenance failures.
Controlled Substances and Alcohol: As the name suggests, drivers under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol, and those who consume excessive prescription or over-the-counter medicines violate this category.
Crash Indicator: The Safety Management System evaluates the history of the motor carrier based on the state-reported crashes. This information is not available publicly.
Hazardous Materials Compliance: Incorrect handling and storage of hazardous material during transport like leaking, misplacement of shipping papers, and incorrect labeling are all violations of the Hazardous Materials Compliance category.
The Safety Management System (SMS) ranks all transport companies based on these seven categories and assigns a percentile from 0 to 100. Once assigned, the carriers are then segregated for interventions. Commercial motor companies with high percentiles usually have the worst points and need to improve their CSA scores by encouraging new inspections within the BASICs categories and compliance.
Having lower CSA scores reduces roadside inspections that can be time and money-consuming. CSA scores are reflected publicly with the exemption of Hazardous Materials Compliance and Crash Indicator points.
Why is tracking the CSA score so important?
Since the CSA score mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is evidence that the company operates within safety measures and compliance, it is essential to keep the percentiles low.
Let us look at why CSA scores are essential.
Publicly available: CSA scores are available publicly and are a direct reflection on the safety procedures and compliance of the commercial motor company. The score directly impacts brand and company rating and recognition. Potential and current customers are also influenced by the outlook of the company towards vehicle and driver safety. Since quality and delivery assurances are a massive part of transportation, following all compliance and safety regulations without violating Federal safety mandates is essential.
A good CSA score can work to the benefit of the company by being an active part of all marketing and sales drives. Safety awareness, techniques, maintenance of all commercial vehicles, driver health, fitness, and behavior, can contribute towards improving company image in front of customers and the marketplace. Many drivers also consider the CSA score of a company before joining, since they would be in charge of physically managing the entire vehicle during operations.
Insurance Premium: A high CSA percentile is an indicator of the low quality and maintenance standards of the vehicles. It is also an indicator of all lapsed safety protocols and compliances. Insurance companies look at the CSA score and charge a hefty premium on motor insurance. A CSA score will directly affect the bottom line of the entire fleet post a crash or an accident. Insurance companies also look at other factors during the insurance check, but improving the CSA points would help lower premiums and accident claims.
Inspections and Audits: Commercial carriers with good CSA scores tend to be audited less. While all companies are checked regularly, frequent audits can be a result of high CSA scores. Poor safety ratings and inspections can take up much productive time. Most employees have to halt their work and comply with all inspection regulations and paperwork. Doing this results in a loss of productive time and effort. Audits and inspections can also turn out to be expensive, since the company may be fined a penalty or charge in case of a minor violation. Good CSA scores will help in ensuring the audits are less frequent, and the fines are at a minimum.
A high CSA score can be controlled and brought down by identifying the critical areas in the company that need immediate safety interventions. A regular health and safety training seminar for employees, warranties and spare parts check, safe driving refresher courses, and proper vehicle maintenance can help lower the score. Investigations and thorough follow-up of all BASIC compliances in the company can help improve the CSA score with regular audits.