The Essential Guide to CSA Methodology Fundamentals

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

After all, according to the American Trucking Association, trucks move around 71 percent of the nation’s freight by weight, making up a lofty portion of the United States supply chain. With the necessity for trucking comes the need for regulation as well.

Trucking 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 (or lack thereof) 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.

So 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.

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What is a CSA score?

Simply put, CSA scoring is based off the number of points given based off a driver’s performance and whether or not they’ve received safety violations. These CSA points are determined by evaluating behavior against the appropriately abbreviated BASICs, meaning Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.

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

The BASICS categories

Evaluating drivers against the BASICS is fueled by the Safety Measurement System, or SMS. The FMCSA uses data from the SMS, specifically roadside inspections and crash reports spanning the previous two years, to appropriately discover and intervene as appropriate with the carriers that pose the greatest risk.

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 indicator 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.

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 the 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.

What is IRT and should you keep it top of mind?

Item Response Theory (IRT) looks deeper than typical CSA methodology by assigning weights and looking for patterns within driver data. A mathematical model established over 50 years ago, IRT is used to measure the relationship seen between unobserved traits with their outcomes.

Although IRT hasn’t been successfully enacted within trucking just yet, the methodology looks to provide more context around unsafe driving behavior, whether said behavior is a result of driver lapses and helps fleets better understand driver safety and performance.

Stay tuned for more news around the IRT model as it relates to the FMCSA.

Making sense of your CSA data

How do you manage all of components of the CSA methodology when keeping your fleet safe and administrative tasks handled? Through data organization, thanks to tools like CSA monitoring, allowing for easier data management.

Keeping track of CSA scoring doesn’t just end at ensuring your drivers don’t fall into the poor percentile ranks, but 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 and what that looks like in-line with your safety policy, thorough tools like CSA monitoring are needed to help you make the most informed decisions.

To learn how you can combat these obstacles and receive the most comprehensive fleet insight through technology like CSA monitoring while improving your CSA scores, download our white paper today, Why Continuous Driver Monitoring Matters, co-authored by law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson and Heary.