The Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA) uses its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program as its safety monitoring and measurement program for the trucking industry. CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores are frequently used by third parties to make safety-based business decisions about carriers. For example, an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study found that 96.8% of shippers use CSA scores in determining a carrier to hire for transportation. And lawyers are using CSA scores to show fault in accident cases when a trucking company has unfavorable scores.
This practice of relying on CSA scores has been heavily criticized by carriers and industry associations alike, because there is debate whether the CSA scores have a correlation to actual safe driving.
In December 2013, American Trucking Associations (ATA) released a white paper (link to white paper) on the reliability of CSA scores. According to research cited by ATA, scores in at least three of the system’s measurement categories don’t bear a positive correlation to crash risk. Even in those categories that generally have a positive correlation to crash risk, the paper points out that there are tens of thousands of real-world exceptions, carriers with high scores and low crash rates and vice-versa.
Whether or not CSA scores are an accurate predictor of safety, the fact remains that fleets with poor scores are targets for inspection and DOT audits; they can impact insurance rates, and are generally not a good reflection on the fleet.
What can you do to improve your CSA scores?
Because the system is not going away, fleets need to consider what they can do to improve their CSA scores. M. Garner Berry posted several suggestions at his blog “Loaded up and Trucking:”
- Implement and enforce a comprehensive safety plan and show specific measures you are taking to improve safety and CSA scores. Create a company-wide culture of safety from the top down.
- Implement a strong accident response approach, even before your insurance company gets involved, to help gather necessary facts and evidence to prove an accident was not your fault.
- Over-prepare for your loss control visit with your insurance company. Do your homework beforehand and be prepared to intelligently discuss the background for your prior violations, your accident losses, and your CSA scores. These are healthy discussions, take a positive approach.
- Be prepared to discuss your CSA numbers with your insurance agent. It could be as simple as your company has grown and been placed in a new CSA peer group, and while your violations have remained the same, your alerts increased simply from your growth.
- Don’t roll over in accepting and paying roadside violations without stating your case. Make efforts to have your CSA scores trend downward. Take a proactive approach and implement a policy to review each roadside violation and challenge those that should be challenged.
- Work closely with your insurance agent. Don’t just speak to your agent once or twice a year, but have them work closely with you to know your business.
At National Risk Management Services we believe it is our job to be a true partner in your safety program. We invest in safety so that our customers can achieve Long Term Low Cost Insurance. Our safety investment includes a team of dedicated Loss Control experts and propriety resources focused on helping your fleet identify and resolve issues that cause accidents. Let us roll up our sleeves and help you manage your CSA scores!
Read the entire blog post here:
Carrier Safety Measurement System methodology
ATA white paper on the reliability of CSA data and scores
CSA Safety Measurement System webpage