The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is serious in its job to keep America’s roadways safe. That is why they launched the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program to help identify carriers with safety issues and keep an eye on them for interventions. Based on their safety records, trucking companies including many hotshot businesses get a CSA score which shows a comprehensive picture of the company’s safety performance. 

Understanding the concept of the CSA score such as what factors affect your score, how you can improve it and more, can help your business thrive in the industry. While many argue as to the efficacy of the CSA program, in the end we all can’t take the risk of ignoring it.

CSA Program Overview

The FMCSA implements the CSA program to hold motorists accountable for their performance on the road. CSA scores are between 0 and 100, with 100 being the worst. The FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) compiles your safety data which affects your CSA score. The agency updates CSA scores monthly based on the following Behaviour Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs):

  • Unsafe Driving – It covers dangerous or reckless behaviors when operating a motor vehicle such as speeding and improper lane changes.
  • Crash indicator – This data is from state-reported crashes.
  • HOS Compliance – Your compliance or non-compliance to the hours-of-service rules also affects your CSA score.
  • Vehicle Maintenance – Failure to properly maintain your fleet and follow safety protocols such as keeping the brakes and lights in tip-top shape can pull your score down. 
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol – Your CSA score will also be affected if you drive a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Also, excessive consumption of OTC medicines falls under this category.
  • Hazardous Materials Compliance – Unsafe handling of hazardous materials such as lack of labels and leaking containers does affect your CSA score.
  • Driver Fitness – Driving without a license as well as driving with medical conditions that can render the driver unfit to drive is also among the BASICs.

The motor carriers are held accountable for their driver’s violations. Although you will not inherit the past violations of your new drivers, any violations of your existing drivers will remain on your record for 24 months. This is also true even if the driver who committed the violation no longer works for you. The SMS updates CSA scores every month so you can also schedule checking your CSA score monthly to stay up-to-date.

Warning Letter

The FMCSA sends a Warning Letter that outlines your carrier’s compliance and safety issues based on their SMS (Safety Management System) data. The same letter also shows the possible consequences if you don’t take further corrective actions. While you are not required to respond to the Warning Letter, it is a way that the CSA encourages safety improvement. Lack of attention to your CSA score can lead to bigger problems in the future

Checking Your CSA Score

Checking your CSA score regularly can help you identify if there are necessary actions that you need to take immediately. If you have a high CSA score, it could mean that you need to proactively take interventions or actions to keep your percentile rating low.  

It’s very easy to check your CSA score. It’s also free. All you have to do is visit the CSA program website and use your USDOT number and USDOT PIN at the SMS login page. In case you don’t have a PIN or have misplaced it, you can request one from the USDOT.

It’s important to note that the public can access your individual BASIC scores by doing a DOT number search on the FMCSA website. However, your composite CSA score is not public information.

Your CSA Score Matters

If your CSA percentile rating is low, it is good for your business. Some of the benefits may include:

  • Fewer roadside inspections 
  • Fewer DOT audits
  • Lower insurance premiums as insurers will see you as low-risk
  • Easy recruitment of skilled drivers
  • More business opportunities as shippers prefer those with good safety records

How to Improve Your CSA Score

Your CSA score will not improve if there’s no action on your part. Here are some ways that you can do to bring your CSA score down:

  • Keep your drivers and employees informed. It’s important that your drivers and employees know about CSA scores and their importance to the business. If you have a large fleet, it’s a good idea to conduct training sessions that will help your employees and drivers be aware of the guidelines and protocols to get a good CSA score.
  • Identify your pain points in getting a good CSA score. Getting a low CSA score is hard work. If your score is currently near worst, it’s time to identify the possible causes and the corrective actions that you need to take. You can prioritize areas that need immediate attention such as ensuring that your vehicles are in good condition before hitting the road or making sure that all licensing and registrations are updated.
  • Implement strict compliance with pre-trip inspection. Broken lights is one of the most common roadside violations. Even if it is seemingly insignificant, it can significantly hit your CSA score. A pre-trip inspection is necessary to ensure that your vehicle is in a good and safe condition. 


The CSA program is in place to keep our roads safe as much as possible. Your CSA score is not just a mere number but it is a way of measuring your safety compliance. We hope that this guide helps you understand more about CSA scores and how they will work for your business.