The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance Safety Accountability program (CSA) seeks to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries on the nation's highways. CSA measures safety performance, using inspection and crash results to identify carriers whose behaviors could reasonably lead to crashes. If warranted, a carrier may have to pay fines and can be levied with other civil penalties. Carriers whose CSA scores characterize them as unsafe ultimately can be put out of service and the carrier will have to cease all motor vehicle operations. Also, a driver’s roadside inspection performance can be viewed by future employers through the FMCSA’s Pre-employment Screening Program. Obviously it is in everyone’s interest, the carrier’s and the drivers’, to keep CSA black marks off the carrier’s record.
Driver Performance Counts
Much of the responsibility for safety compliance lies with the carrier. But the driver's performance also plays a big role in how the carrier is graded under the CSA ranking system. Driver performance factors that come into play with respect to a carrier’s CSA score are:
- reckless driving
- improper lane changes
- hours of service violations
- logbook violations
- lack of training
- lack of experience
- being medically unqualified to operate a CMV
- lack of a valid or appropriate CDL
- illegal drugs
- the misuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications
These factors are so important to safety that CSA includes these in its On-Road Safety Performance “BASICS,” the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories.
Cargo Must Be Secure
Cargo securement issues can also negatively affect a carrier’s CSA score. Drivers have to guard against:
- spilled or dropped cargo
- load that shift due to improper securement
- unsafe handling of hazardous materials
Vehicles Must Be Safe to Operate
However, vehicle maintenance issues are also important. CSA tracks 220 maintenance-related violations and around 170 driver scores are also maintenance-related. An out-of-service order doubles the severity of the CSA violation.
Common maintenance violations include:
- inadequate tire depth
- brakes out of adjustment
- broken stop lamps or headlamps or other lighting defects
- cracked brake hoses
- missing or unsecured fire extinguisher
Some maintenance issues can seriously affect the carrier’s CSA score. These are:
- defects in the suspension, brake and steering systems
- tire defects
- lighting defects
The wrong time to find these flaws is during a roadside inspection. Drivers can be CSA heroes by taking their pre-trip inspection seriously and documenting defects that could result in an out-of-service order, so these defects can be repaired before the vehicle is driven again. Not only does this help to ensure a safe working environment for the driver, it also helps to keep the carrier’s CSA score low.