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Looking Both Ways

The Basics of CSA Basics

By John Mueller, CDS, COSS
Posted Oct 17th 2013 11:24AM

blog_logo_9.jpgThis post of Look Both Ways will research the basics of the CSA Basics. What exactly is CSA again? What exactly are these things called “Basics”? How do your actions as a driver affect your Carriers CSA Basics? How do your Carrier’s CSA Basics affect you as their driver?


I listened as one driver in the audience attempted to define CSA at the recent Expediters University workshop in Indianapolis. Not one other person even came close to being able to explain CSA. Kudos to that lady for her attempts. Many might think “Why do I - a driver – need to understand anything about this? That is what the company safety department is for – it is their job to know and understand all these complex regulations and to answer my questions when I have them.” Unfortunately it is the professional driver’s responsibility to read, understand and abide by all this technical stuff. Chances are you are asking questions after you are having problems or issues. Hopefully these blogs provide decent information on regulatory stuff in a quick and easy format.

CSA stands for Compliance, Safety and Accountability. It is an initiative associated with MAP-21 – which stands for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. We’ll discuss MAP-21 at a later time.

In the April 12, 2013 blog I explained that CSA is a FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) program that is NOT a set of new rules and regulations, but simply a new means of measuring Carrier and Driver safety related data derived from roadside inspections and crashes. For some time FMCSA used only the SaferSys website to evaluate safety performance of Motor Carriers. SaferSys displays only data on Out of Service violations discovered during roadside inspections. These OOS violations are grouped by driver, vehicle and hazmat. The Carrier’s Out of Service violation percentages are compared to the National Average percentages. See The SMS (Safety Measurement System) system within CSA looks at ALL violations - not just Out of Service violations- discovered during roadside inspections and crashes. CSA also includes Controlled Substance testing data. The new way of viewing safety data using CSA Basics paints a more precise picture of safety violations at a particular carrier. Again, the regulations have not changed – just the way violation data is viewed – and the data we are discussing is the violations discovered during roadside inspections of drivers and vehicles. CSA is just another “tool” for viewing data to evaluate Carrier and driver safety performance.



Unsafe Driving — Operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner. Example violations: Speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 397) Hours-of-Service (HOS) Compliance — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the HOS regulations. This BASIC includes violations of regulations pertaining to records of duty status (RODS) as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of CMV driver fatigue Example violations: HOS RODS, and operating a CMV while ill or fatigued. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 395) Driver Fitness — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications. Example violations: Failure to have a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and being medically unqualified to operate a CMV. (FMCSR Parts 383 and 391) Controlled Substances/Alcohol — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. Example violations: Use or possession of controlled substances/alcohol. (FMCSR Parts 382 and 392) Vehicle Maintenance — Failure to properly maintain a CMV and/or properly prevent shifting loads. Example violations: Brakes, lights, and other mechanical defects, failure to make required repairs, and improper load securement. (FMCSR Parts 392, 393 and 396) Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance — Unsafe handling of HM on a CMV. Example violations: Release of HM from package, no shipping papers (carrier), and no placards/markings when required. (FMCSR Part 397 and Hazardous Materials Regulations Parts 171, 172, 173, 177, 178, 179, and 180) Crash Indicator — Histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity. It is based on information from State-reported crashes.


Picture each CSA Basic as a “bucket”. Every trucking company owns 7 buckets – one for each of the Basics. Every violation that is noted on any roadside inspection you receive by any state is dropped into that particular bucket owned by your Carrier company. So if you are pulled over for speeding and receive either a warning or a citation, that violation is deposited into the Unsafe Driving Basic bucket of the carrier you are leased onto. If you have a 14 hour rule violation noted on a roadside inspection then that violation will deposited into your Carrier’s Hours of service basic bucket. Your actions as a driver are affecting your Carrier’s CSA Basics. That violation is also negatively affecting your driver’s PSP report.


So how do these CSA Basic scores of the carrier you are leased to affect you the professional driver? The answer is the carrier’s ISS score. The higher the ISS score, the more likely you the driver will be pulled in for a roadside inspection.


The Inspection Selection System (ISS) determines the likelihood a roadside inspector to stop the carrier company’s trucks for inspection. Some roadside inspections are based solely on random selection, but most are done as a result of the ISS score or recommendation. Most inspections are prompted by the officer's decision to inspect based on the ISS score information they receive when they type the truck's DOT number into their laptop. The ISS system will return a score and a recommendation based on the carrier’s CSA scores and prior inspection information:

· Inspect: 75 – 100

· Optional: 50 – 74

· Pass: 1 – 49

All drivers and vehicles operated by the Carrier contribute to the Carrier’s ISS score. Think about this statement “A company “safety culture” drives ISS scores”. Professional drivers should desire to be with a Carrier that has low ISS scores and a good safety culture. It is probable that a company with a low ISS score is comprised of many professional drivers and very few rebels or non-compliant drivers. Other drivers – your peers – at your Carrier company affect how frequently you and your vehicle are inspected.

The ISS data on a carrier is not public knowledge. It is available to carriers through the COMPASS “Portal.” It is a great idea for Carrier companies to share their ISS score with their drivers, along with CSA Basics scores. Our company publishes our CSA basic scores and the ISS score on a monthly basis in our company newsletter. Drivers are enabled to focus on the company’s deficiencies and work towards better compliance in problem areas.

Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.

Till the next blog, Thank you drivers for all you do!. Please be safe!

Click here to read more of my blogs!

John Mueller, CDS, COSS


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