The Importance of Your CSA Scores

Safety & Environment, Supply Chain
April 29, 2013

What’s in a number? When it comes to improving your CSA score, a lot.

Safety & ComplianceIt was one of the great Greek philosophers who observed, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” However, when it comes to CSA scores, our friend Plato, may have missed the mark. In fact, a favorable CSA score has never been more important than it is today.

The recently enacted Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety measurement system establishes a new enforcement and compliance model for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). With this system, the CSA gathers safety and compliance data from transportation providers, evaluates it and uses the findings to make interventions in how transportation companies, enforcement agencies and other parties behave.

Here’s what you need to know about your CSA motor carrier score (also known as SMS score):

  • A high score is not a good score: Unlike grade school, the lower the number, the better
  • Scores are calculated using the Safety Measurement System (SMS). Your SMS score is a percentile ranking made up of seven BASICs (unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related and crash indicator.) Each BASIC category has its own score.
  • Your scores are public: Customers and competitors can see how your company scores in each category except for the Cargo-related and Crash Indicator categories. Public information includes number of inspections, out-of-service rates and crashes.
  • You’re being compared with others: The CSA groups carriers with similar numbers of inspections to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison. You’re assigned a percentile from 0 to 100 based on how your BASIC measurements compare to other carriers in your group.
  • It’s not just a numbers game: Here’s where Plato had it right: Each BASIC score combines the number of adverse events, the severity of those events and when the events occurred. More recent events weigh more heavily. Over time, events have less impact on your score.
  • The new system goes farther: Unlike the old system, the new safety measurement system emphasizes on-road performance, holds carriers and drivers responsible for safety, establishes steps to correct unsafe behavior and counts out-of-service and safety-related violations.

With stricter enforcement, more complex reporting requirements and the risk of penalties and downtime, it pays to improve your CSA score. So what exactly can you do?

  1. Get familiar with the top violations – From maintenance issues like running on tires with low tread depth to operating vehicles unsafely, know what the most common violations are.
  2. Do what it takes to avoid violations – This may mean implementing written procedures, making pre-trip inspections, identifying patterns of violations for drivers, locations and vehicles, rewarding good behavior, and staying up to date on CSA resources.

What do your drivers’ and company’s CSA numbers look like? Are you taking steps to improve your scores?

To learn more about how you can improve your CSA scores, download our Guide: Improving your CSA Scores now.


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