Posted: Aug, 24th 2021

A distressed owner of a carrier will often call an ITI consultant wanting to know how to improve their high CSA scores. If you already have produced high CSA scores, there is not much to be done except to wait on time to take its course. Most small owners in the trucking industry do not understand just how CSA scores are calculated. Their scores get way out of hand before they realize they are in trouble. Once the CSA scores reach the threshold level, only good carrier management can assist them in reducing scores over time.


CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, and Accountability.  It is the compliance and enforcement program of the FMCSA. A company’s safety data is collected on FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) and is updated monthly with data from roadside inspections, crash reports, driver and vehicle violations. The data is factored into a CSA score. A DOT compliance audit could be triggered after an accident, road violation, a roadside stop gone wrong, or CSA scores.


The CSA scores comprise many factors, including driver fitness, DOT physicals, CDL licenses, vehicle maintenance, pre-trip and post-trip inspections, and keeping up with all repairs.  Unsafe driving, hours of service, and drug and alcohol compliance are other areas factored into the overall score. The lower the score, the better. Owners can access their individual scores on the FMCSA database.


While many factors can lead to an increased CSA score, there are two categories every owner and driver should be knowledgeable about Roadside Inspections and Accidents. The CSA uses these categories to assign violations and points towards CSA scores.


When a carrier experiences a roadside inspection and no violations are listed, this is good.  However, if a roadside inspection produces violations, these violations will typically result in points being generated by that roadside inspection which will remain with the carrier’s CSA for two years.  Once these roadside inspections result in violations, there is not much which can be done to change that unless the carrier wishes to challenge some of the violations using a DATA Q Challenge.  The trick to ensuring good CSA scores from roadside inspections is to prevent violations from being discovered by roadside inspectors. How is this accomplished?  Proper regularly scheduled maintenance on all carrier vehicles to avoid violations of equipment.  Good management on the part of driver’s requirements, such as ensuring their license and medicals are valid. Educating drivers to follow the speed limits and drive in a manner that prevents moving and Hours of Service violations. 


The other main factor resulting in a lower CSA score is preventing accidents, especially accidents where your driver is at fault. Unfortunately, the current way accidents are assigned to a carrier by the FMCSA does not consider if the accident was not preventable by the trucking company’s driver.  So, a recordable accident your driver is involved in automatically is assigned to the carrier. The carrier must develop an accident prevention program and enforce penalties when a driver fails. Every carrier should review each accident that is assigned to them. Suppose they feel the accident was not preventable on the part of their driver. In that case, they can submit a DATA Q Challenge using the Crash Preventability Determination Program, which might remove that accident from CSA calculations. 


DATA Q Challenging roadside inspections and accidents may help remove violations and accidents from being used in figuring CSA scores. The only way to keep your CSA scores low is to prevent violations on Roadside inspections and prevent drivers from being involved in recordable accidents. ITI can help you become compliant. Our consultants are retired from enforcement and understand the accident and roadside inspection process. Our consultants can review your programs and help guide each individual client to design policies and procedures to assist with compliance and prevent high CSA scores.