CSA and Safety Scores

Todd Dills | April 02, 2011

CSA Part 1:

Maintaining your record

Next month CSA

Part 2: Maintaining your equipment.

Your driving record carries more weight than ever under CSA. Learn how to access your data, understand it and use it to your advantage.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is finally getting the attention of many in the trucking industry. Inspections are being seen in a new light. Owner-operators and carriers are trying to figure out how the scoring works and how it’s going to affect their livelihood.

“Is it really going to take the bad characters off the road?” owner-operator Don Bradley says. “Or is it going to get the Don Bradleys of the world, who have a lot of time and a lot of safe miles? And last week I got my first moving violation in 50 years.” Bradley, who’s been trucking for 10 of those years, missed a sign prohibiting trucks on an exit in the Northeast.

It’s hard for Bradley not to think about that violation in the context of CSA. By itself it isn’t enough to put Bradley out of service or jeopardize his lease with his carrier.

It will, however, contribute points to the carrier’s CSA ranking in the Unsafe Driving BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category). It will show up on Bradley’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) report, which documents drivers’ inspection and crash histories going back five and three years, respectively. If within three years Bradley attempts to lease to a different carrier, it’s highly likely the new carrier will evaluate his PSP, and he will have to explain the minor violation.

While CSA safety scoring for individual drivers is available at present only to drivers and their employing carriers via third-party service providers, insurance providers may be next. “Why wouldn’t you, if you’ve got visibility to relevant indicators of driver risk?” asks Don Osterberg, Schneider National senior safety vice president. Getting the information could be simply a matter of asking “the driver to agree to access as a condition to write a policy,” he adds.

Shippers are watching carrier rankings in the new Safety Measurement System (SMS) results. A majority (55 percent) of respondents to a Morgan-Stanley-conducted shipper survey reported they would not use a carrier with a ranking above the intervention threshold in any public BASIC.

“I think it’s very important that owner-operators understand the score of the carriers that they’re going to work for,” says Mike Miller, a Progressive Insurance marketing director. “Going with a motor carrier whose score is poor, they’re going to be targeted for inspections.” And if shippers avoid carriers with bad scores, freight availability for operators leased to those carriers will be diminished.

How can I access my CSA score?

Any owner-operator who is leased to a carrier and who hasn’t had his authority for the last two years does not have, at least technically, a CSA score.

But Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Hadden, part of the state’s crew of compliance-review/CSA-intervention-ready officers, says there are new levels of driver accountability with the FMCSA’s Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS), introduced in 2009.

During compliance reviews, “Carriers have always been held accountable for the roadside violations,” he says. But now, during on-site focused or full compliance review-type interventions, “there will be so-called ‘red flag drivers’ ” in the carrier’s CSA data profile. These are drivers who’ve committed one or more “red flag violations,” such as driving without proper credentials or under the influence. “We have to look at those first,” he says.

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