What Drivers Still Need to Know About CSA

May 24, 2013

Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance Safety and Accountability Program known throughout the industry as CSA was launched on December 12, 2010 there is still confusion among many drivers about their role under the new system and how it impacts their careers.

FMCSA says the CSA program emphasizes driver safety enforcement because studies have shown that unsafe driver behavior is a major contributor to commercial vehicle-related crashes and indicate that a small segment of the commercial driver population is involved in a disproportionately large number of crashes. As a result, FMCSA expanded its approach to identifying and addressing unsafe drivers during interventions with motor carriers.

The foundation of CSA is to identify behaviors of commercial truck drivers that are linked to increased incidence of crashes. CSA consists of seven categories called BASICs, an acronym for Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories. A collection of approximately 600 possible violations are assigned severity weights and assigned to one of these categories.

The resulting score is then ranked against similar carriers to arrive at a score of between 0 and 100. The higher the score signals poorer performance and presumably an increased likelihood of crash. At certain thresholds, the scores are cause for intervention by the FMCSA.

There are two methodologies for arriving at these percentile scores, one for motor carriers called the carrier Safety Measurement System (SMS) and a second that individually scores and ranks commercial drivers through a Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS). So CSA is basically a safety scoring system utilizing the driver behavior to calculate a safety score for drivers, which is then aggregated to create a carrier score.

The DSMS uses 36 months of a driver's roadside performance data across all their employers. More recent violations are weighted more heavily than older violations. Violations that occurred within the last six months count three times; violations that occurred between six months and a year ago count two times, and violations between one and two years old count only one time. After two years, violations do not count at all. Following are some typical violations and their severity rating:

  • Failure to obey traffic control device: 5
  • Headlamps Failing to dim when required: 3
  • Following too close: 5
  • Improper lane change: 5
  • Lane restriction violation: 3
  • Improper passing: 5
  • Unlawfully parking and/or leaving vehicle in the roadway: 1
  • Reckless driving: 10
  • Railroad grade crossing violation: 5
  • Speeding: 5
  • State/Local Laws Speeding 1-5 mph over the speed limit: 1
  • State/Local Laws Speeding 6-10 mph over the speed limit: 4
  • State/Local Laws Speeding 11-14 mph over the speed limit: 7
  • State/Local Laws Speeding 15 or mph over the speed limit: 10
  • State/Local Laws Speeding in a work/construction zone: 10
  • State/Local Laws Operating a commercial vehicle while texting: 10
  • Improper turns: 5
  • Failure to yield right-of-way: 5
  • Hours-of-service violation: 7

Despite a common misperception by many truckers, FMCSA does not assign formal safety ratings to individual drivers. While carriers are prioritized for intervention based on their CSA scores, drivers are only investigated during a carrier investigation. Therefore, no Intervention thresholds are in place for drivers.

At the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration senior specialist Bryan Price tried to dispel this common myth about the CSA program.

"There's a perception that if I go to work at XYZ Trucking and XYZ Trucking hires me that they automatically inherit my violations," Price said. He stressed that a carrier's CSA record reflects the violations recorded only for that company. Carriers do not inherit any driver's violations.

Carriers and drivers do have access to the new Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) designed to assist carriers in assessing individual operators' crash and serious safety violation history. Through NIC Technologies, motor carriers may request driver information for the purpose of pre-employment screening only. The driver must provide written consent. Individual drivers may request their own driver information record at any time. Electronic profiles contain five years of crash data and three years of inspection data.

The best way for drivers to be well-informed about their role in CSA is to go to directly to the source. FMCSA's website explains CSA in clear detail. So, spending time there is a good way to separate reality from rumor.

And, while CSA does not require mandatory carrier or driver training, it is in everyone's interest to be informed about the program.

Here's how:

  1. Learn the details about the BASICs and how FMCSA assesses safety under CSA at http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.
  2. Know and follow safety rules and regulations. Check out safe driving tips for commercial motor vehicles by visiting www.fmcsa.dot.gov. Click on "driver" in the Quick Links panel.
  3. Review inspection reports before driving away. Ensure data is accurate to avoid corrections later; keep copies of reports.
  4. Check your Pre-Employment Screening Program safety record at http://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov.
  5. Learn about employers' safety records. Check carrier safety records online at http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms.
  6. Stay connected to CSA.Subscribe to the RSS feed or email list to stay up-to-date on CSA news and information at http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.
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