What is a Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) BASIC Score?

Learn more about what makes a CSA BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) score.

Published On: 02/17/2020
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J. J. Keller Editor Kathy Close

Written by:

Kathy Close

Transport Safety Editor — J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

ACSA BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) score is a percentile ranking used to compare a motor carrier against its peers to assist in identify high-risk carriers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) generates CSA BASIC scores for the following seven categories:

  • Unsafe Driving: Dangerous or careless operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
  • Hours of Service Compliance: Driving CMVs when ill, fatigued, or in violation of the hours-of-service rules.
  • Driver Fitness: Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience, or medical qualification.
  • Controlled Substances and Alcohol: Operation of a CMV while impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription medications or over-the-counter medications.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: CMV failure due to improper or inadequate maintenance or inadequate cargo securement.
  • Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance: Unsafe marking, handling, or transportation of hazardous materials in an amount requiring a placard.
  • Crash-Related: Histories or patterns of CMV crashes, including frequency and severity.

How is a CSA BASIC score derived?

The FMCSA uses a motor carrier’s safety data that is transmitted by state and federal enforcement to the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). The past two years’ worth of roadside inspection and crash reports contain critical data elements used in CSA’s elaborate algorithms.

The algorithms provide carriers with a “measure” for each BASIC, taking into consideration:

  • The severity of a roadside inspection violation or crash,
  • How recent the event took place, and
  • The carrier’s level of exposure (i.e., vehicle miles traveled, the average number of power units, number of inspections)

This BASIC measure is then compared against similar motor carriers for the percentile ranking. The rank is on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the worst-performing. This percentile ranking is the carrier’s BASIC score.

How is the percentile ranking used?

Those motor carriers that exceed a predetermined threshold for an individual BASIC score are subject to an intervention by the FMCSA.

Interventions include:

  • Warning letters advising of apparent safety problems and the potential consequences.
  • Targeted roadside inspections to verify that the warning letters are being taken seriously.
  • Offsite investigations that involve the collection and reviewing of documents at an FMCSA location.
  • Focused onsite investigations at the motor carrier’s place of business, focusing on a specific safety problem.
  • Comprehensive onsite investigations that occur at the motor carrier’s place of business.
  • Cooperative safety plans developed and followed voluntarily by a motor carrier to address safety problems.
  • Notices of violation to put a carrier on notice of specific regulatory violations that need to be corrected “or else.”
  • Settlement agreements to contractually bind a motor carrier to take actions that improve safety.
  • Notices of claims to levy a fine and compel compliance in the case of “severe” or repeat violations.

The intervention taken by the FMCSA is not sequential. If a carrier has multiple BASICs exceeding the thresholds and/or scores close to 100 percent, the agency will probably go straight to an investigation. A carrier can only be placed out of service based on the results of a comprehensive investigation since it contains elements of a compliance review.

How Can I Lower My CSA BASIC Scores?

The data used in the CSA formulas are only used for 24 months. As a result, you can only lower your CSA scores over time, by accumulating recent, violation-free inspections, and by avoiding crashes.

To improve its performance data, you should:

  • Examine the violations that are scored in each BASIC,
  • Look for trends (e.g., same driver or location), and
  • Find a root cause for the safety event.

You should use this information to come up with a safety plan to avoid future violations and crashes. If the safety performance does not improve, you'll have to re-evaluate its findings (find the real root cause) and apply another remedy until the issue is resolved.

To view your CSA scores and data, log into the CSA Safety Measurement System website using your DOT number and the carrier-assigned PIN that is used to update your DOT registration (MCS-150).

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