Expert Offers Insight to CSA Program

Jim McCormack

Fleet safety has often been a source of serious concern within the trucking industry, but it has now evolved into one of the industry’s most critical issues as truckers seek to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety monitoring and measuring program.

ACE USA, the U.S.-based retail operations of the ACE Group recently released a white paper that provides details to increase truckers’ understanding of the overall impact of the CSA regulations and suggests steps that fleets can take to integrate the new regulations into their operations to fulfill the requirements set forth.


trucker Fleet safety

“The industry’s concern about fleet safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) program is reflected in the results of a survey of more than 4,000 trucking industry executives who identified the program as among the ten most critical issues they face,” said David Brown, vice president and Transportation Practice Leader for ACE Risk Management. “Federal safety programs were originally launched in the 1990s. These recent changes, however, mean fleet safety has taken on a new level of urgency as executives work to understand the new regulations and how it will impact their business.

“Fleet Safety: Understanding New Regulations,” was authored by Jack Scarborough, senior health, safety and environmental consultant at ESIS, Inc., the risk management services division of the ACE Group. As a leader in his field, Scarborough has been instrumental in the development of the FMCSA Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system. Scarborough leverages his 20 years’ experience in large fleet management to address emerging industry concerns in the context of fleet safety and the FMCSA safety monitoring and measuring program.

In his paper, Scarborough noted that while many of the original requirements have remained unchanged, the process set forth by the FMCSA SAFER system has been re-engineered to provide a better view into how well large commercial motor vehicle carriers and drivers are complying with safety rules. “These evolving regulatory measures put additional pressure on commercial motor vehicle carriers to reduce safety violations, Scarborough said.”

The industry’s concern about fleet safety and the CSA program is reflected in the results of an October survey of more than 4,000 trucking industry executives by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), he says. The executives were asked to identify the 10 most critical issues facing the North American trucking industry. Of the 10 named, the CSA program ranked at the very top of the list, Scarborough points out.

“While the CSA program raises challenging compliance issues for the industry, there are a number of steps that senior executives can take to improve their company’s safety record and meet the requirements of the new program,” Scarborough says.

“With the launch of the CSA program, fleet safety has taken on a new level of urgency. As the program shifts into high gear, trucking companies have begun to receive warning letters from the Department of Transportation (DOT), and executives have become increasingly concerned about compliance and the potential impact of the program on their operations,” he adds.

“Although the CSA program is new, it represents an evolution of previous federal safety programs developed in the 1990s. While many of the requirements have remained unchanged, the process has been re-engineered to provide a better view into how well large commercial motor vehicle carriers and drivers are complying with safety rules and to intervene earlier with those who are no in compliance,” he points out.

The changes to the safety program come after a decade of big improvements in highway and truck safety, Scarborough notes. The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes, for instance, dropped 30% from 2000 to 2010, and injury crashes dropped by 42%, according to figures released from the DOT in August 2012.  These improvements came even as the number of registered large trucks rose sharply, increasing by more than three million, or 41%, from 1999 to 2009.

Even so, Scarborough notes, there is room for improvement. Although 2010 was one of the safest years on record for the trucking industry, there were still a total of 3,261 large truck fatal crashes and a total of 3,675 people killed in large truck fatal crashes. Another 80,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks, according to the Large Truck Crash Overview 2010 issued by the FMCSA in June 2012

The CSA program seeks to reduce crashes and improve safety by using roadside inspection and crash results to identify motor vehicle carriers whose behaviors could reasonably lead to crashes. CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) quantifies the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers and that assessment then helps identify candidates for intervention and allows safety problems to be monitored to determine whether they are improving or worsening.

The SMS assessment is based on a motor carrier’s data from roadside inspections, including all safety-based violations, state reported crashes, and the federal motor carrier census, to quantify performance in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Those seven BASICs include: unsafe driving, hours of service compliance, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials compliance, and crash indicator or patterns of high crash involvement. Commercial motor vehicle companies receive a score based on those seven BASICs.

Companies that cross certain thresholds receive a warning letter from the DOT, and vehicles may be taken out of service and fines may be imposed. If problems remain unresolved, the DOT may issue an operations-out-of-service order requiring the carrier to cease all motor vehicle operations, and drivers may lose their commercial driver’s licenses.

The CSA program puts additional pressure on commercial motor vehicle carriers to reduce safety violations that could turn up at roadside inspections. The new enforcement process also sharply increases operating risk by imposing strict penalties for ongoing safety violations, Scarborough notes.

“While commercial motor vehicle carriers have reason to be concerned about the CSA program and its impact on their operations, there are a number of steps executives can take to improve their safety performance and reduce the risk of incurring penalties,” he adds.

Steps all carriers need to take to stay on top of the CSA situation, Scarborough offers:

– Review and update records. Commercial motor vehicle carriers should ensure their Motor Carrier Census Form is up-to-date and accurate, and review their new SMS BASIC percentile rank in the CSA Data Preview monthly at

– Commercial motor vehicle carriers also should routinely monitor and review inspection and crash data (see blog post), which is found in the Data Preview, at SAFER In addition, they should review evidence related to any observed violations and request review of any potentially incorrect data using DataQs at

– Ensure compliance. Companies should review their inspection and violation history for the past two years and try to identify patterns, trends and areas needing improvement. They also should examine their business processes to determine how they may be contributing to any safety compliance deficiencies. In addition, they should take steps to increase their drivers’ awareness that violations and driver performance directly impacts driving records and the safety assessment of their employing carrier.

– Visit the CSA website. The FMCSA regularly updates materials on the CSA website, Commercial motor vehicle carriers will find explanations, answers to questions, tips and guidance. You can also submit questions and review a full set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Be sure to review the materials about SMS and the new BASICS.

In addition to these steps, Scarborough adds, fleet consultants can also provide trucking companies with valuable assistance in managing the process. “Experienced consultants can develop programs to reduce exposure to loss and manage regulatory compliance problems,” he points out.

To access the report visit

The material presented in this report is not intended to provide legal or other expert advice, Scarborough added. It is presented as informational only. Readers should consult legal counsel or other experts, as applicable, with any specific questions they may have.