Managing a trucking business can come with considerable challenges. Some significant aspects to give importance to are road safety and diminishing the risk of accidents. This is why the federal government established the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program.
An Overview of the CSA Program
The CSA Program was organized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to support motor carriers. This serves as a guide for commercial vehicle enforcement officers to determine the need for a roadside inspection or an intervention. Different categories fall under grading systems, and the overall values result in what is called the CSA Score.
Why Is The CSA Score Important?
The primary damages that high CSA scores can bring to your business are:
- Insurance – Insurance companies depend on the CSA score to evaluate the risk profile of a potential client. With a poor CSA score, you will be facing higher premiums and additional deductibles.
- Intervention and investigation – These two situations are both stressful and time-consuming, but you have to undergo them if you have poor CSA scores.
- Revenue – Though not all CSA data can be accessed by the public, some clients can choose to partner with companies that are known for being safe and reliable. Poor scores can lead to loss of profitable transactions.
The Safety Measurement System
The first function of the CSA is to measure, which is where the Safety Measurement System or the SMS comes in. It utilizes the data gathered from reports and road inspections from the last 2 years to identify the motor carriers that are ranked to be high safety risks.
This data is updated monthly and is grouped into 7 Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). They are the following:
- Crash Indicator – This category looks at the history of crashes reported in the state. A crash will be considered in the report if it involved injuries, fatalities, or led to the transporting of the vehicle from the scene of the accident. This report is regardless of whose fault it was for the accident. But, the FMCSA is considering to include this matter in future releases.
- Controlled Substances – This category covers violations of drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and prohibited drugs while operating a commercial vehicle. The violations include refusal to take an intoxication test, failing the alcohol test, and having alcohol beverages inside the vehicle.
- Driver Fitness – This BASIC involves all relevant files of the vehicle driver, including licenses, driving records, state records, annual records, employment applications, qualification reports, and medical certificates. This category does not include neck size, weight, or Body Mass Index.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance – This basic involves violations like not being able to label, mark, or placard packages containing hazardous materials in their vehicle. It also requires improper cargo securing. Additionally, this also includes violations in package leakage, attendance to the dangerous substances, improper loading and unloading, and cargo tank specification testing problems.
- Hours-of-Service Compliance – For this category, CSA looks into the records of duty status, also known as RODS, and its relationship with commercial motor vehicle driver fatigue. Basically, this looks into whether the driver operates their vehicle more hours than it is allowed.
- Unsafe Driving – Violations like this are reported in the SMS whether the carrier received a verbal warning or was issued a citation.
- 1. Improper lane change
3. Reckless driving
6. Using a hand-held cellphone
- Vehicle Maintenance – This category involves the proper maintenance of the CMV to avoid spilling, leakages, dropping cargo, and preventing shifting loads. It also includes ensuring all lights are working, the tires are not flat or worn, and other proper maintenance tips. Violations include failure to make vehicle repairs, inoperative brakes, and other mechanical problems.
The CSA Interventions
The CSA is committed to creating an extensive list of intervention tools to ensure that motor carriers comply with the regulations set by the FMCSA. There are three categories of intervention, namely:
- Early Contact
- 1. Warning Letters – These serve to notify the carriers about problems in their compliance and vehicle safety, including the consequences that can include future investigations.2. Targeted Roadside Inspection – These are conducted roadside in temporary locations so that the data on the problems can be verified.
- 1. Offsite Investigation – This involves asking the carrier to provide documents remotely to identify compliance issues and specific safety failures.
2. Onsite Focused Investigation – This safety protocol involves a visit to the carrier’s place of business where vehicles will be inspected, and employees will be interviewed.
3. Onsite Comprehensive Investigation – This is similar to the focused investigation but taking a long time and a more in-depth approach.
- 1. Cooperative Safety Plan – This is a voluntary program or action plan that carriers can implement so that all negative findings can be addressed.
2. Notice of Violation – This is a formal notice from the CSA that warrants legal action from the carrier. The company needs to take corrective action and report the evidence to the FMCSA.
3. Notice of Claim – This formal notice includes the demand for assessment and civil penalties.
4. Operation Out Of Service Order – This is a formal order that will cease all vehicle operations.
The Safety Fitness Determination
Aside from measuring and intervening, the final function of the CSA is to evaluate. The evaluation is completed through safety ratings, which may be issued after investigations. The results can be:
- Satisfactory – After an Onsite Comprehensive Investigation, the carrier has been found to meet all compliance standards.
- Conditional – The carrier has been found to have inadequate safety controls, but not as intense as a violation of the safety fitness standards.
- Unsatisfactory – The carrier has violated the safety witness standards and is prohibited from operating commercial motor vehicles.
How to Check Your CSA Score
If you are curious to find out about your CSA score, just visit the FMCSA website and enter your registered name or your Department of Transportation Number. For some categories, you will need to ask for a PIN from the FMCSA.
CSA scores can affect the survival and success of your business. This is why you should seek to run a company that is strictly compliant with all regulations. You can start with self-evaluation, education, and consulting an expert.
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