Trucks move around 71% of the nation’s freight by weight, making up a lofty portion of the United States supply chain. With this high volume and necessity for trucking also comes the need for regulation.

As a transportation professional, you must have a comprehensive understanding of the importance of keeping roadways safe while at the same time ensuring drivers remain compliant with both state and federal regulations.

Transportation Fleet Management 101

Handling the stipulations put forth by the regulatory body of the trucking industry, known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), requires an understanding of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) methodology surrounding commercially licensed drivers. Leaving that knowledge unchecked runs the potential for a significant impact on your company’s CSA score, as well as unforeseen risk.

This can be a juggling act. Between conglomerating multiple sources of driver data, keeping track of commercial and personal drivers licenses as well as processing the administrative needs that come with new hires and annual regulatory stipulations – properly managing a fleet is no small task.

How do you tackle such lofty necessities? By starting off with the fundamentals – because sometimes even the most seasoned commercial fleet managers in the industry may not know what makes up the CSA methodology.


What is a CSA Score?

The FMCSA launched the CSA methodology and subsequently CSA scoring to improve the overall safety of commercially licensed drivers, while in tandem holding drivers and carriers responsible for safe driving practices.

The data that is used to determine your CSA score is stored in a database called the Safety Measurement System (SMS). The FMCSA uses the SMS to gather data on roadside inspections and crash reports going back two years, as well as data from investigations it conducts to determine your score.

CSA scoring is measured on a scale from 0 – 100. The lower the score, the better. These CSA points are determined by evaluating driving behavior against the appropriately abbreviated BASICs, or Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

The BASICS Categories

The FMCSA ranks carriers monthly against the BASICS, assigning a percentile in an attempt to prioritize carriers based on intervention need. The BASICS include:

  1. Unsafe driving
  2. Crash indicators
  3. Hours-of-service compliance
  4. Vehicle maintenance
  5. Controlled substances/alcohol
  6. Hazardous materials compliance
  7. Driver fitness

What is a Good CSA Score?

Having a good CSA score has its benefits, but defining what “good” is proves to be more difficult than one would initially think. Since there is no minimum associated with CSA scoring set forth by the FMCSA that delineates “good,” your percentile rank, specifically in relation to other fleets, is of the utmost importance.

The FMCSA discovered through data analysis that three of the BASICS, unsafe driving, crash indicators and hours-of-service compliance all had the highest correlation to crash risk. Their solution to combat such behavior? Lower intervention thresholds surrounding these BASICS, to engage sooner in the hopes of mediating roadway incidents.

Do Personal Citations Impact a Driver’s CSA Score?

No, tickets or warnings that drivers receive while operating their personal vehicles are considered state citations and don’t impact driver CSA scoring in any way. Although that news may prompt a sigh of relief right now, it’s important to know that you may not be seeing the whole picture of your drivers at hand if choosing to treat these sets of data as two entirely separate entities.

While you may see the picture-perfect view of your CDL drivers based on their spotless CSA score, there may also be things you are unaware of. What you aren’t seeing are the violations incurred on personal time, which can be detrimental to a fleet.

Consider a driver who receives a DUI off the clock and has that violation reflected on their personal motor vehicle record. Even with pristine CSA scoring, such a violation that goes unnoticed can be harmful to your fleet for a multitude of reasons.

One of the most ever-present? The legal concept of negligent entrustment, which finds you liable for the off-the-clock actions of an employee you have deemed safe to drive.

Why CSA Scores Matter

A CSA score isn’t only a number that the FMCSA cares about. Know that the number carries power, as CSA scores can:

  • Directly impact your insurance premiums
  • Hold weight with customers who are prone to follow fleet status and rankings
  • Reduce Department of Transportation audits and roadside inspections
  • Help you better retain your drivers due to a stellar reputation

While these are all positive benefits, a lacking CSA score can mean increased scrutiny from the FMCSA, the potential for rectification and even negative public perception.

Improving Your CSA Score

How do you manage all of the components of the CSA methodology while keeping your fleet safe and administrative tasks handled? A robust driver safety program can help ensure compliance while preventing your drivers from falling into poor percentile ranks. It also proves integral in proactive fleet management. Whether it be the increasingly aggressive litigious landscape, regulatory obligations that come with verifying driver qualifications or the need to vet drivers, a thorough driver safety policy can help you navigate it all.

To learn how you can combat these fleet risk management obstacles and improve your CSA scores, download our free guide, How to Implement a Comprehensive Driver Safety Program.