The fleet industry is a serious business. It does not only focus on income generation, but it also concerns the safety and lives of people. With millions of vehicles on the road every day, the well-being of motorists is of utmost importance.
In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of keeping roadways safe. Its objective is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities, especially with large trucks and buses. However, the FMCSA cannot do it alone since it needs the cooperation of drivers and fleet company owners.
The FMCSA uses the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program to monitor road safety. Fleet companies are required to maintain a specific CSA score to be able to dispatch vehicles out on the streets. But what is the CSA score all about?
The CSA ensures that motorists and fleet companies perform their part in keeping all people on the road safe. Fleet businesses have assigned CSA score and percentile ranking. The information on CSA percentiles is kept by FMCSA online and updated every month. Reports on roadside inspections serve as the bases for updating the scores of fleet companies.
Remember that drivers do not get CSA scores, only the fleet companies, and carriers. Violations of the drivers affect the overall rating of the fleet companies. However, drivers have their records on the violations committed. DMCA shares this record with other commercial drivers and companies for pre-employment screening.
But how are CSA scores being computed? What is the CSA score’s role in the operations of any fleet business?
There are seven BASICs from which the CSA scores are based and calculated. The computations take into account the crash reports from the Safety Measurement System (SMS). Let us discuss the seven BASICs in the CSA scoring.
1. Unsafe Driving
It involves operating a vehicle carelessly and dangerously, which puts the lives of other motorists at risk. The following violations are considered as unsafe driving:
- Using hand-held cellular phones
- Reckless driving
- Improper changing of lanes
- Not wearing a seat belt
2. Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance
Drivers are one of the significant assets of the fleet industry. Their health should be the primary concern to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. The following are deemed to be HOS Compliance violations:
- Operating a commercial vehicle when sick
- Operating a commercial vehicle when fatigued
- Failure to maintain records of duty status for six months
- Falsification of Record of Duty Status (RODS) and driver Logs
- Driving more hours than allowed
3. Vehicle Maintenance
Maintenance of commercial vehicles is a responsibility of all fleet owners, which should not be taken for granted. Compliance with regular and timely preventive maintenance is a requirement for all fleet businesses. It also involves inspections of vehicles before and after dispatch. The following violations should be avoided so as not affect a CSA score negatively:
- Faulty brakes
- Faulty lights
- Improper load/cargo securement
- Worn tires
4. Controlled Substances/Alcohol
Just like in any other country, driving under the influence of any alcohol or substance is not allowed in the United States. Commercial vehicle drivers should always stay alert, focused, and attentive. They are not supposed to operate a vehicle if they have taken in alcohol or illegal drugs. Improper use of over-the-counter and prescription medications is considered a violation, too. The presence of alcoholic beverages inside the vehicles Is also not allowed, even if not consumed.
Drivers are regularly reminded that illegal substances and alcohol can impair their judgment when driving. Shying away from these materials when on duty can save their lives and those of other motorists as well.
5. Hazardous Materials Compliance
Handling and transporting hazardous materials need proper care and attention. Exposure to these chemicals can put the lives of people in jeopardy. Fleet managers and drivers need to avoid the following when transporting hazardous materials:
- Leaky containers
- Failure to label and mark hazardous materials
- Wrong placarding
- Improper packaging
- Improper loading or unloading
- Inadequate tank specification testing
- Incomplete or unavailable shipping documents
6. Driver Fitness
Fleet drivers undergo a series of training and testing before they can operate any commercial vehicle. Their commitment is not only to deliver products and services in good condition to their clients but to ensure safety on the road. They do not want to put their lives and those of other motorists by being reckless and irresponsible.
Below are some of the factors which can make drivers considered as unfit to operate a commercial vehicle:
- No valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Lack of training
- Lack of experience
- Recorded medical or mental condition
- Absence of driver qualification files
Commercial drivers need to maintain the following valid and updated driving records and documents to qualify as fit drivers:
- Driver qualification files
- Medical certificates
- State driving records
- Annual driving record reviews
- Compliant employment applications
7. Crash Indicator
This BASIC indicator includes historical information and patterns on the severity and frequency of commercial vehicle’s involvement in road crashes. The reports are based on the state-reported crashes, which usually involve injuries and fatalities. It also includes accidents when the vehicle needs to be transported from the crash scene. Crash indicator data are not available to the public, but it gives information when a fleet company has a problem to address.
The crash indicator is different from the six other categories since no weight is assigned for non-compliance. Instead, a formula is used when a fleet or carrier is involved in a car crash. A unit is assigned to frequency and severity factors, based on the last time such an accident happened.
Even if insurance is not considered as a BASIC indicator, the FMCSA uses this in determining the necessary interventions for carriers. Thus, fleet companies must ensure that their vehicles have the required insurance with at least the minimum amount of coverage. Insurance documents must always be readily available for inspection and must also include the proper crash reports.
All fleet owners should never forget that the CSA scores of their companies are publicly available. Anybody can get information on their company’s percentile or ranking and can affect insurance cost. Moreover, customers prefer carriers with good CSA scores.
Aside from numbers, fleet owners must be more concerned with the safety of their personnel and other motorists. Their goal of maintaining a good CSA score must be backed by their concern to road safety and protecting lives.