There are more motor vehicles on the road today than ever before. Commercial trucks and other motor vehicles make up a substantial part of this number. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was constituted to promote and make sure a standard of road safety is maintained by large commercial vehicles like trucks and buses.

In light of this, the FMSCA has set up the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to ensure drivers maintain strict standards of road safety. Fleet management companies and drives take these scores seriously as they are critical to the success of a carrier. A high CSA score can help carriers access preferred loads and reduced insurance rates.

Through this guide, we will break down the CSA program to help you understand how the program works and also offer tips to improve your CSA score.


What is the CSA program?

The FMSCA created the CSA Program with the intention of curbing high-risk driving by commercial drivers who drive in an unsafe manner to meet deadlines. This kind of driving puts them and other vehicles especially smaller cars and bikes at risk. The goal of the program is to prevent such driving through proactive intervention and holding drivers accountable for safety standards.

To do this; the FMSCA created a Safety Management System (SMS) which is a database and collects and stores the numbers on parameters like roadside inspections, state-reported crashes and investigation results from the last two years.

The SMS considers:

  • The number of safety violations and inspections
  • The severity of safety violations or crashes
  • Chronology of safety violations occurred, with recent events weighted more heavily
  • The number of trucks a carrier operates and the cumulative distance traveled
  • Acute and Critical Violations found during investigations

The FMSCA organizes this data into seven categories known as the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories or BASICs.

What are the CSA BASIC categories?

Unsafe Driving

This category comprises the following driver violations – speeding, using a hand-held cell phone, reckless driving, improper lane changes, and inattention.

Driver Fitness

Covers driving records like driver qualification files, state driving records, commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), medical certificates, annual driving record reviews, and compliant employment applications.

Hours-of-Service(HOS) Compliance 

This BASIC covers compliance with FMSCA’s standard of hours driven and records data to prevent driver’s from driving more hours than allowed

Vehicle Maintenance 

This category comprises of pre and post trip maintenance checks that must be carried out to ensure a safe journey.  It also considers if the vehicle was promptly repaired.

Controlled Substances

This BASIC covers the operation of carries under the influence of illegal substances and alcohol. It looks into results of on road drug/alcohol checks and the abuse of over the counter drugs/prescription drugs.

Crash Indicator

This BASIC looks into the history of previous state-reported crashes. A crash is considered reportable only if it leads to an injury/fatality or requires the vehicle to be carried away from the scene of the incident.

Hazardous Materials Compliance

This BASIC Compliance check looks into if vehicles that carry hazardous materials are rightly equipped to do so. This includes proper packaging, labels, and load amounts. They also look into regulatory checks like tank specification testing, loading/unloading, and leakage.


This BASIC compliance does not have a strict standard of measurement but is important when the FMSCA needs to prioritize carriers for intervention. This calls for vehicles to have adequate insurance and proper documentation.

How to Improve CSA Score?

The process of calculation of CSA scores is tedious and beyond the scope of our discussion. It is therefore prudent for businesses and drivers to understand the best ways to improve their CSA scores.

The best way to go about improving CSA scores is to implement telematics solutions in carriers. Digitization is the future of the carrier industry and telematics installed in vehicles are a great way to prevent/reduce interaction with government authorities.

You will find below a list of telematics solutions as well as other solutions to improve your CSA Score.

Dual-facing Dashboard Cameras

Dashcams have a proved to be an effective solution when it comes to reducing road accidents. Since drivers know they are under surveillance, they are a lot more careful about their conduct while driving. Many BASIC points can be covered by using a dashcam like making sure drivers wear seatbelts, not using their cell phones and other insurance claims.

ELD Solutions

The most common and expensive violation is the HOS non-compliance issue. Many drivers tend to drive in long stints in order to meet their deadlines. This is unhealthy and unsafe not only for the driver but also for other motorists. ELD is a telematics solution that solves this critical issue along with many others.

ELD track how long the engine has been running for along with specific data points like idle time, distance traveled, average speed, etc. 

Proactive Vehicle Maintenance

Stay ahead of your carriers’ maintenance and servicing needs by installing ELDs. During most roadside inspections, authorities find poor tires and engine maintenance as leading cause of fines.

ELDs offer vehicle diagnostics for various parts like headlights, taillights, engine specs, and fuel consumption. This data is readily available to you and any issues which might crop up can be then addressed in pre or post trip maintenance checks.

PSP Reports to Hire

Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) reports are an important parameter to look at while hiring drivers. Drivers that have a good showing in these reports are certified to be better and safer drivers. Safer drivers are less likely to make mistakes and therefore help you avoid any unnecessary fines which you may have to incur due to reckless driving.  

 Challenge Incorrect Violations

A simple point but one many small businesses tend to overlook. It is possible to challenge any violation which has affected your CSA score. By having telematics solutions like Dual Facing Cameras and E logs, you will have the evidence to back up your claims and challenge any wrongly issued fines.