There’s a never-ending battle of cheap vs. safety. Which will you choose – cheaper or safer? Going with safer over cheaper might (and will) save you a lot of trouble and money in the long run. It’s not worth to lose a dollar while trying to save a dime, right?
But how can we find out what’s safer? That’s where CSA scores come into play. The Compliance Safety Accountability is a project launched by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) back in 2010. The main purpose of this initiative is to improve safety on the roads for heavy trucks and buses.
What are the CSA scores anyway? The evaluation is based on seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, commonly referred to as BASICs. These include:
- Hours of Service
- Unsafe driving
- Driver fitness
- Controlled substances/alcohol
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Hazardous compliance
- Crash Indicator
Violations in each category count against general carrier safety. Of course, you cannot treat a broken tail light and driving under influence as equally critical violations. Violations are ranked by severity each subject to a certain amount of points. The combination of violations defines a general safety Out of Service percentage for Driver and Vehicle. Many shippers and 3PL’s have certain Out of Service thresholds in place for the carriers they use on their loads.
Understanding and considering CSA scores when pre-screening carriers for your loads is a helpful tool. Although implementing CSA scores seemed like a win-win at first, it caused a lot of controversial feedback. The push-back resulted in limiting the public access to these scores back in 2015.
FMCSA has been working on improving carrier safety evaluation to smoothen the process. Currently, the data is available on the FMCSA website. The scores in each category, except Crash Indicator and Hazardous compliance, are public. You can access the data on the recent violations under each available category, as well as historical data, which shows general trends – are the violations continuously rising? can you clearly tell the carrier is working hard on boosting their safety scores?
In the end, it’s all about information. Making an evaluated decision backed up by some actual data is never a bad idea.