Keeping a Clean CSA Score

by Pride Transport | Jun 12, 2019

CSA stands for: Compliance, Safety, Accountability and it is an FMSCA initiative introduced to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles and the people who share the road with them. The initiative was launched in 2010 as a safety enforcement program based on carrier information and data collected from inspections. Since it’s inception the program has raised driver awareness and cut down on highway fatalities. Some see it as a blessing, a life saver, some see it as getting in the way of driving, just one more headache for already overtaxed drivers to handle. Whichever way you view it, the CSA is here to stay but, the good news is that getting a good “score” is not that difficult.


csa scores and otr drivers


Why It’s Good

There are a few good reasons to keep a clean CSA score. These scores affect not only the individual driver but they affect the fleet as well. A good CSA score means lower annual insurance premiums, a preference by customers who follow fleet ratings as well as fewer DOT audits and roadside inspections.

Did you know- weigh station scale bypasses are granted more frequently when a company's CSA score is better- your performance impacts all your fellow drivers.


Clean Inspections

Having a good CSA starts with getting a clean inspection. Roadside inspections happen. They can be random, they can be initiated by something visibly wrong with the vehicle. You never know when one might occur so if you always think one will happen, then you’ll always be ready. Here are some tips to help pass the roadside inspection:

  • Read and obey all traffic signs
  • Always wear your seatbelt
  • Never use a handheld device when behind the wheel.
  • Never eat while driving, this is distracted driving and it is a violation.
  • Obey posted speeds inside and outside the weigh station -these violations are subject to disqualification.

It’s really a matter of common sense and not that hard to stay on top of. Again, if you think every day there’s going to be an inspection, you’ll always be ready and you’ll always pass.



There is a myth that a CSA score is based on violations found during inspections but, that’s only partially true. There are a couple more components to your score:

  • Crash reports provided by states to the FMCSA
  • Violations discovered during onsite and offsite investigations


profesional drivers and csa scores


Scores Aren’t Scores

There is a bit of a misconception when it comes to the CSA score because technically, they aren’t scores, they are percentiles. They are BASIC percentiles. BASIC stands for Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Catagories (BASIC). When your fleet has enough safety data in a BASIC, the fleet is then ranked from 0-100 based on the fleet’s violation rate. The percentiles rank the fleet in relations to other carriers of similar size and capacity. The fewer the number of violations, the better the ranking. The Seven BASIC categories are:

  • Unsafe Driving
  • Crash Indicators
  • Hours of Service Compliance
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol
  • Hazardous Materials Compliance
  • Driver Fitness


The goal is to reduce the risk of violations and avoid penalty points in each of the BASIC categories. Here are some tips on keeping your percentiles low in each BASIC category.


Unsafe Driving/Crash Indicator

  • Avoid hiring drivers with a history of speeding (7-10pts)
  • Eliminate or minimize in-cab distractions like texting and eating. (10pts)
  • Always wear a seatbelt. (7pts)
  • Never tailgate or change lanes without signaling. (5pts)
  • Always avoid the far left lane, regardless of state laws. (3 pts)


Hours of Service Compliance & Fatigued Driving

  • Establish a policy against driving while sick or fatigued (10pts)
  • Use Electronic Log Books to eliminate violations related to missing or incorrect driver logs. This accounts for over 30% of all driver violations found during roadside inspections (5-7pts)


proper vehicle maintenance for otr drivers

Vehicle Maintenance

31% of roadside inspections are triggered by observable vehicle defects such as lights and tires. This can be avoided by using ELDs (Electronic Logging Device) that include Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) software. DVIRs guide drivers through their pre-trip and post-trip inspections without paper.

Consider that:

  • 20% of vehicle violations are related to lights (2-6 pts)
  • 20% of violations are due to issue with brakes (4 pts)
  • 9% of violations are for tire issues, half for tread depth. (3-8 pts)

Using ELDs with DVIR software will significantly reduce these kinds of violations.


Controlled Substances & Alcohol

  • Never hire drivers without checking their PSP record.
  • Institute a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol (10pts)
  • Train supervisors to recognize drivers under the influence. (10pts)
  • Make sure no one drinks alcohol 4 hours before being on-duty. (5 pts)


tips on keeping a clean csa score


Hazardous Materials Compliance

  • Ensure drivers know how to properly secure this type of cargo. (1-8pts)
  • Add a good number of straps and chains, the more the better. (1-7 pts)
  • Ensure that drivers stop at all railroad crossings. (5pts)
  • Use edge protectors when hauling cargo with sharp corners (2pts)


Driver Fitness

  • Drivers should always carry their commercial driver license. (8 pts)
  • Hire drivers that speak English. 6% of driver violations are due to non-English speaking drivers (4pts)
  • Drivers should always carry their medical certificate and renew their DOT physical early. This issue accounts for 8% of all driver violations. (1-2 pts)


Accidents stay on on your CSA for 5 years while any violations found during a roadside inspection will stay on your record for 3 years. Violations will impact an individual driver by affecting their career opportunities and earning potential. And a poor score can impact a fleet by making them susceptible to more targeted roadside inspections.

It may seem like a lot but it’s really not. The FMCSA really has laid it all out clearly and concisely. Paying attention, being smart and anticipating things like a roadside inspection happening every day, will keep your CSA score down and be of great benefit to you and to your fleet.


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