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CSA Grades: How Do They Work and Why Are They Important to Your Fleet?

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) Grades are a measure of safety performance used by the commercial trucking industry. They are calculated based on several different metrics that we will cover in a moment.

But what you need to know going in is that whatever it takes to achieve a good CSA score is worth it. That’s because of the 1,650% increase in nuclear verdicts (more than $1 million judgments) that we’ve witnessed in the transportation industry since 2001. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about what your CSA grades are, why they are important, and what you can do to improve them. 

What Are CSA Grades, and What Do They Measure?

CSA grades are a measure of how well a trucking company is performing in seven different areas: Unsafe Driving, Hours-of-Service Compliance, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Hazardous Materials, and Crash Indicator. The overall score is known as the BASIC score. You can see where your company ranks in each of these scores by visiting the CSA website.

How Are CSA Grades Calculated?

CSA scores use data from the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) to arrive at a final tally. The MCMIS contains information on crashes, inspections, and violations. The CSA scores are intended to give transportation companies an idea of how safe their operations are.

Out of the seven categories mentioned above, each category is given a score from 1 to 100, with 100 being the best possible score. A company’s overall CSA score is an average of the scores in each category.

Examples of what can get transportation companies a good score in each category include having few or no crashes, maintaining their vehicles well, and having drivers who are well-rested and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Bad scores? More than one crash over a short period of time, increased time in the shop and having drivers who fudge their logbooks or get picked up for driving while impaired.

Transportation companies that score well in all categories are considered to be “safe” while those that score poorly in one or more categories are considered “unsafe.” A passing CSA score is one that is equal to or greater than 70.

Why Are CSA Grades Important?

If you’re a transportation company, your CSA scores are important because they give you an idea of how well you’re doing in terms of safety. They also play a role in how much insurance you pay and whether or not you’re able to get insurance at all. Good CSA scores can also help you win bids for contracts as well.

CSA grades are calculated every month and are available for the public to view. However, it’s important to note that these grades are not static. They require vigilance and an ongoing commitment to safety from the equipment you use to the drivers you hire. If your CSA grade drops below a 70, you’ll be placed on a watch list and will be subject to increased scrutiny from the Department of Transportation (DoT).

If your transportation company’s CSA scores are lower than you’d like, there are steps you can take to improve them. These include:

  • Reviewing your company’s safety policies and procedures
  • Ensuring that your drivers are well-trained and up-to-date on best practices
  • Conducting regular maintenance on your vehicles
  • Hiring a third-party auditor to help identify areas of improvement

Making safety a priority will not only help improve your CSA scores, but it will make for a safer environment and situation for your drivers, vehicles, and the general public.

Impact of CSA Grades on the Transportation Industry

The DoT uses CSA grades to assess the safety records of all commercial motor vehicle carriers. These grades prioritize investigations and interventions and help insurance companies to set rates. As a result, CSA grades can have a significant impact on the transportation industry as a whole.

Carriers with poor CSA grades may find it difficult to obtain insurance coverage. They may also be subject to increased DOT scrutiny through compliance inspections and audits. Additionally, shippers may be reluctant to work with carriers that have low CSA grades, resulting in lost business opportunities. As such, transportation companies should take steps to ensure that their CSA grades are as high as possible, as often as possible. (Remember, they’re not static!)

Other Factors to Consider When Assessing Your Fleet’s CSA Grades

CSA grades are one way to assess the safety of your fleet, but they’re not the only way. In addition to monitoring your company’s CSA scores, it’s important to review other factors that can impact the safety of your vehicles and drivers. These include:

  • Vehicle maintenance records
  • Driver training records
  • Crash history
  • Compliance with hours of service regulations

Reviewing these factors on a regular basis can help you identify areas for improvement and take steps to address them. Do you need a partner in this?J&A Fleet Maintenance is your dedicated maintenance shop. We can ensure that your drivers have the equipment and resources to maintain safe records and get your cargo to their destinations as efficiently as possible. Contact us today to learn more!

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