Understanding the CSA in trucking

If you’re a trucking business, you know that there are a lot of regulations you need to follow – and a lot of organizations and programs you need to know about. Safety is a big deal, and there are many oversights and organizations that oversee safety for motor carriers and commercial vehicles. If you feel that all of this is overwhelming, don’t worry – you’re not alone. One organization that you might be wondering about is the CSA. We’re put together a few frequently asked questions about the CSA to help break it down.

What is the CSA?

CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability, and it’s the FMCSA’s safety enforcement program. (The FMCSA is the organization that’s in charge of holding motor carriers accountable for safety.) Basically, if a motor carrier or owner-operator has safety violations, they will be prioritized for intervention from the FMCSA (for example, a warning letter or investigation).

This is a big deal because a driver’s safety record affects not only them, but the motor carrier that they work for.

Where can a driver find their safety data?

A motor carrier’s safety record can be found online in the SMS (Safety Management System), which updates once a month. The safety data that plays a part in this comes from different places:

  • The number of safety violations and inspections a motor carrier has
  • The severity of violations and crashes a motor carrier has
  • The date that the violation occurred (more recent violations have more weight)
  • The number of trucks the motor carrier has
  • The number of miles the motor carrier travels
  • Any acute and critical violations that were found during investigations

(In case you were wondering, the SMS is the place where all this data and safety information is stored, and it’s how the FMCSA prioritizes their workload so they know which carriers to intervene with first.)

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How does FMCSA prioritize carriers for intervention?

Okay, so FMCSA uses the SMS and CSA to prioritize motor carriers for intervention, but how do they do that?

First of all, the safety data the FMCSA collects gets organized into seven categories called the BASICs (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). Those categories are…

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

(There are violations that can cause a motor carrier to get a poor score in each of these categories.)

The SMS groups carriers that have similar numbers of safety events. From there, the SMS ranks motor carriers and gives them a percentile. The percentiles go from 0-100, with 100 being the worst. This is how the FMCSA prioritizes carriers for intervention.

Tips for staying in good standing in the CSA.

Look at your records.

You’ve got to check and review your records regularly. You have to make sure that your MCS-150 (Motor Carrier Identification Report) is current. Make sure to check the number of power units and the number of miles traveled.

You’ve also got to keep track of your BASIC standing and look at your on-road performance status as well as your inspection and crash data. Along with that, it’s important that you look at your investigations in the SMS, and stay on top of your FMCSA Portal account.

Basically you need to keep track of your records and safety data.

Make sure you’re staying compliant with FMCSA regulations.

Another important part of keeping up with your CSA status is simply taking steps to make sure you’re staying in compliance. To do that, you can look at your inspection and violation history from the previous two years, looking for trends that could point you towards any areas of improvement. It could spark some ideas for stepping up safety at your business. (And you can also look at your business procedures, looking for any compliance issues.)

It’s also important to talk to your drivers so that they know how significant inspections are. They need to know that all inspections count in the SMS (not just the out-of-service violations). And they should also know that their safety performance impacts their Pre-employment Screening Program records and the SMS of the carrier they work for.

(You can use the FMCSA’s website to look at FAQs for more information. There are a lot of great resources there.)

Use the CSA website.

You can also check out the CSA website has a bunch of great materials and resources for you to use so you can read up on various topics and learn more about the CSA. You can also sign up for email updates. And as we mentioned, there’s a ton of information on how the BASICs and CSA work.

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So, that’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the CSA. It might seem like a lot to absorb and understand, but our agents can help you with your DOT and compliance. We can also talk about your insurance situation; our agents can help you get great insurance at a great rate. To get started with your truck insurance quotes, fill out our online form, give us a call, or message us on LiveChat. We’re here to help!