Understanding CSA Scores & How They Impact Your Fleet

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Fleet vehicles are subject to yearly inspections and may encounter roadside inspections or one of six levels of inspection at weigh stations. If a vehicle or fleet driver is not up to code, companies may face DOT violation fines, placed out of service, and higher CSA scores. Certain technologies, such as electronic logging devices (ELD) for Hours of Service (HOS) and fleet management software make compliance easier than ever. However, understanding what CSA scores are and how they impact your fleet is pertinent to a fleet company's success. Even more important than knowing how to avoid higher CSA scores is knowing what to do to improve your score. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the FMCSA driver score below.

What is a CSA Score?

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) uses a CSA (compliance, safety, accountability) score to identify high-risk motor carriers. The goal of this is to reduce the number of accidents on the road by enforcing accountability and encouraging fleet risk management and safety planning. When a driver operating a commercial vehicle under a carrier DOT number receives a violation fine, the fine is assigned to that DOT carrier.

What is a good CSA score?

The CSA point system uses a 100-point scale, with 100 being the worst record and zero being the best. Therefore, the lower the CSA score the better.

How CSA Scores are Calculated

CSA scores are calculated based on driver performance data, inspections, and accidents. The FMCSA collects this data via their Safety Measurement System (SMS), which is a database of state-reported crashes, inspections, and investigations from the last two years. This data is updated once per month and can alter your CSA score. In other words, your score may change monthly, leaving room for you to either improve or make it worse. This is why it’s vital to know everything that goes into your score. Here’s how the FMCSA calculates your points:

Safety Violations

Using SMS, the FMCSA documents all types of safety violations from commercial fleet drivers. Drivers can negatively impact their CSA score if certain violations, or too many violations, are cited against them. When calculating a CSA score, the aspects listed below are kept at the forefront:

  • Number of violations
  • Severity of the violations
  • Date of the violations (more recent violations have more weight)
  • Number of fleet vehicles operated by the carrier
  • Miles traveled
  • Inspections
  • Registration details

After the collection of these details, the FMCSA breaks down the data using the BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories).

What are the FMCSA BASICs?

The BASICs are comprised of seven different categories, including:

  • Unsafe driving: Includes incidents of speeding, recklessness, improper lane changes, seatbelt violations, and distracted driving
  • Driver fitness: Includes driving records, qualification files, CDL license files, medical records, and more
  • Hours of Service: Including compliance, logbook records, and falsification
  • Vehicle maintenance: Includes inspections, vehicle defects, and repairs
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drug test results, as well as prescription drug use
  • Crash indicator: History of state reported accidents
  • Hazardous materials compliance: Proper compliance with loading, testing, packaging, labeling, and more

Another factor the FMCSA uses is insurance. Drivers and carriers must have the right amount of documentation and coverage.

Why CSA Scores Matter

There are a lot of reasons CSA scores are vital to your fleet company. Perhaps the most notable and obvious is that a high CSA score indicates a company with a higher risk of accidents and non-compliance with safety regulations. This is important because it tells your customers how reliable you are. They use this information to determine whether or not they want to work with you. Insurance companies use this information for the same thing. They assess risk for every company and individual they work with, counting every bit of information they have available. CSA scores help them identify those in high-risk categories, which helps to determine premiums.

The FMCSA may not be able to suspend a CDL license, but they can intervene or fine drivers. This may include warning letters, safety investigations, fines, and even higher CSA scores. Fleet companies already face budget constraints and high costs of fuel and maintenance, so there’s no room for additional fines when you can avoid them. Especially since they affect your ability to increase your client base, and your insurance premiums, and therefore your bottom line.

A high CSA score also increases the negative attention on your company. The FMCSA is more likely to watch your operations and increase the number of inspections to push for corrective action. They’re also more likely to push for out-of-service orders. Of course, all of this has a negative impact on your ability to do business. Operations slow down with more inspections and more out-of-service orders.

How to Check CSA Scores

It can be difficult to improve CSA scores, just as it is with any credit system, but knowing where you stand is the first step. To do this, go to the FMCSA website called SAFER (Safety and Fitness Records). You can search for your company records using your DOT number. Select SMS once you’re inside the profile to see your scores. You do need a DOT pin to see this score, which all carriers receive with their DOT number or obtained through the FMCSA.

How to Improve CSA SCores

Once you know where you stand, you can work on improving your CSA score. Just like your personal credit score, it can be difficult to improve. The FMCSA updates scores every month, counting accidents, inspections, and the aforementioned data in these scores. Accidents closer to the date of the calculation hold much more weight than violations in the past. But the FMCSA will continue including accidents and infractions as far back as 36 months. This means that, without extra violations, scores can improve over time. When they do, you’ll benefit from reduced accidents, inspections, fines, more clients, lower insurance premiums, and more.

There are many ways to improve your score. The actions below are some of the simplest and most options for improvement.

Use PSP reports during hiring

The Pre-employment Screenings Program (PSP) is not the same as a CSA score for drivers, though many confuse the two. The PSP stores information about a candidate’s driving history. Fleet managers should use this during the hiring process to determine eligibility for the position. When you make the right hiring decisions, you lower accident risk and out-of-service likelihood.

Use dashcams

Dashcams allow you to view driver behavior, rather than solely rely on diagnostic data. You’ll be able to see hard braking, speeding, seatbelt compliance, accidents, and other violations. You can use this footage for insurance claims, lawsuits, inspections, and for improving training by tailoring to the needs of the driver.

Predictive and preventative maintenance

If you’re actively working on preventative maintenance, your vehicles are much safer on the road, as well as your drivers. Telematics systems monitor vehicle diagnostics, alerting you to vehicle issues well before the diagnostic trouble codes. Telematics also collects vehicle and driver data and stores it in one place, providing an easy way to create and store DVIR forms. This makes it much easier to pass inspections.

Challenge citations

When a carrier receives a violation that affects their CSA score, they have two years to challenge it. It’s a lot like disputing challenges on your credit report—you can dispute violations on your CSA report. Not only can you challenge the charge, but you can also challenge the severity of it, which may result in fewer CSA points.

Training

Training is one of the most effective ways to make a change in your company’s fleet risk management and driver safety. First, you must educate drivers on the importance of safety and the measures your company is going to take to increase safety. You can also use telematics devices to monitor driver behavior to tailor training to each driver, improving safety on a more permanent basis.

Know the most common violations

It isn’t just about the most common violations of all carriers, but about your carrier’s common violations. You have to know your areas of weakness. What are your drivers doing to impact your CSA score? How can you use training to change that? What can you do to decrease your score? Telematics can help you monitor your fleet in comprehensive ways, such as driver behavior and vehicle diagnostics. This allows you to see exactly where your fleet is at risk to create strategies for improvement.

Choose an ELD solution

Choosing the right ELD makes all the difference in your ability to comply with regulations and pass inspections. Comprehensive fleet management software doesn’t stop with Hours of Service logging. It provides vehicle diagnostics monitoring, driver behavior reporting, real-time location, maintenance alerts, fuel card integration, route optimization, and so much more.


Learn more about an ELD solution that provides your fleet more than compliance, at Azuga.

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What is the Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax?

The vehicle miles traveled tax is known by multiple names: the mileage tax, road usage charging (RUC), distance-based user fees (DBUF), vehicle miles traveled tax (VMTT), or mileage-based user fees (MBUF). It is simply a tax based on how many miles a driver travels. It is an excellent option to replace the gas tax as a means to fund the Highway Trust Fund. This fund is how our nation pays for maintaining and building infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and tunnels.  

Why Do We Need the Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax?

The gas tax is an antiquated way of funding our infrastructure and has been inadequate for over a decade. It has not kept up with inflation in the last 25 years, causing it to drop in value by over 40%. In the last quarter-century, traffic has only increased as the population has grown. The wear and tear on our infrastructure worsens, but our ability to maintain it can’t keep up. 

Furthermore, electric and fuel-efficient cars pay very little, if any, gas tax. They still use the roads and contribute to their degradation, but the drivers do not help pay for their upkeep. While electric and fuel-efficient vehicles are better for the environment, it is still important that these drivers pay their fair share of taxes for the roads. 

How Would We Implement the Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax? 

This tax is already in place in Oregon and Utah on an opt-in basis. Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, California, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have researched road usage charging programs in their states with success. Oregon’s fully functioning road usage charging program, OReGO, is the leading example of how to implement a mileage tax nationwide. 

OReGO uses Azuga Insight to automatically track driver miles and collect revenue without any staff needed or driver intervention. Drivers simply install hardware into their OBD port and set up a wallet online. As they drive, Azuga Insight tracks their miles and removes funds automatically from the wallet. 

Participation in OReGO is optional, but drivers have the incentive of not having to pay increased registration fees based on mpg rating. Drivers who opt-in have to meet these vehicle requirements: 

  • Light-duty
  • 20 miles-per-gallon or better rating
  • Registered to an Oregon resident

OReGO has been implemented smoothly and is easy to sustain. 

Benefits of the Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax

Safer

Roads in poor condition cause 14,000 highway fatalities annually. It’s necessary for communities everywhere to obtain the funding to repair and maintain their roads. Streets all over the country are aging rapidly, and more funding in the Highway Trust Fund would help us stay on top of maintenance before more fatalities happen. 

Fairer

Most drivers will pay the same as they are currently paying under the gas tax, but all drivers will be paying instead of just some. This means that electric vehicles and fuel-efficient vehicles will contribute their fair share as well. Everyone pays for what they use, so drivers who don’t drive very much won’t have to worry about paying very much.

More Funding

Experts believe that implementing a vehicle miles traveled tax across the US would increase the Highway Trust Fund by $340 million. This would fund improvements to existing infrastructure, along with new infrastructure for areas that have grown in the past 25 years. 

Conclusion

The vehicle miles traveled tax is the most likely solution to the issue of our country’s crumbling infrastructure. It may be a long time before it is implemented across the nation, but as states pick it up, it is important to know what it is and how it will affect you. To keep up with the latest updates regarding the vehicle miles traveled tax, follow Azuga Insight’s blog.

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What is Fleet Data?

Tracking fleet data is vitally important to running a fleet in any industry. Any kind of data can be tracked, from where vehicles are, to what assets a company has on hand, to the safety of drivers and vehicles. All of this information is important for fleet managers to know to make their fleet effective and productive. What is fleet data, and how can it help fleets be more effective?

Fleet Data for Vehicle Maintenance

Keeping up with vehicle maintenance is one of the best ways to keep vehicles on the road for the long haul. With how much time fleets spend driving, wear and tear on a vehicle is inevitable, but fleet managers can reduce this by harnessing telematics and maintenance alerts. Telematics can tell managers when a vehicle has engine trouble or when a driver is being rough on the brakes or idling too much. Managers can also set up maintenance alerts so they do not have to try and remember when each vehicle needs routine maintenance. Preventative maintenance is crucial to a vehicle’s longevity and will help it stay on the road for years to come. 

Fleet Data for Safety

Any fleet’s top priority is safety. Drivers and vehicles are integral to a fleet business’s entire operation, and ensuring that they do their jobs safely is a huge part of a fleet manager’s job. Luckily fleet data can track driver behavior and determine if drivers are behaving safely behind the wheel. Telematics can track actions such as hard braking, rapid acceleration, distracted driving, and speeding. When drivers display any of these behaviors, they will receive an alert. If the behaviors continue, the system will alert the fleet manager, who can then choose to get in touch with the driver. Accidents can cost thousands of dollars, and days of lost time for businesses, so avoiding them is crucial for companies to succeed. 

Fleet Data for Asset Tracking

Asset tracking is terrific for preventing theft, but it is also ideal for fleet managers to keep track of what they have on hand in their warehouse. Often, assets and equipment sit unused in a warehouse, taking up space that something practical could be occupying. With asset data, fleet managers can determine what assets the fleet does not use and get rid of them, making room for something that will be more beneficial for the company. Furthermore, knowing what’s on hand prevents double-purchasing, which saves the company money as well. 

Conclusion

Tracking fleet data is essential for keeping a fleet productive and effective. It is all part of a fleet manager’s job. Luckily, Azuga has many tools to help with tracking fleet data. Reach out to the experts at Azuga today to find out how to get started gathering data today so that you can do the best for your fleet.


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Record of Duty Status

Each driver is required by the law to record a driver’s duty of status every 24 hours, using the structures stipulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A record of duty status (RODS) can also be referred to as a driver’s log. It allows drivers to record details such as date, vehicle number, totals driving hours, the total number of miles driven within 24 hours, carrier’s name, a 24-hour period starting time, address, driver’s certification/signature, and remarks. 

Records can be maintained using an electronic logging device (ELD), using an FMCSA approved automatic on-board recording gadget, or even manually on a grid. Logs must be validated at all times by indicating each change in a duty status.

Exemptions to Record of Duty Status

A RODS is mandatory as part of Hours of Service (HOS) rules, which applies to commercial vehicles (CMVs). However, a few cases of short-haul carriers are exempt from maintaining records of duty status. 

Company policies may be different, but the FMCSA only expects drivers to record time and location after every stop.

Since the introduction of the ELD mandate, several motor carriers are leaning toward electronic logging devices to maintain their records of duty status automatically. Companies were given until December 16, 2019 to update automatic on-board recording devices to the latest ones, meaning there were also some exemptions to the ELD Rule.

Exemptions to RODS regulations include the following:

  • Drivers driving within a radius of 150 air-miles
  • Drivers of CMVs driving within a radius of 150 air-miles, who do not need a CDL, and at the same time operate within a radius of 150 air-miles of their daily reporting locations.

For drivers to qualify for the exemption, they must meet all the requirements stated by the regulations. Failure to meet even one of the requirements means all HOS rules apply.

Electronic Logging Devices

A driver must produce ELD records when requested by a safety official, either immediately, or within the permissible time if the motor carrier operates from more than one terminal or office. A motor carrier is supposed to retain a back-up copy of all ELD records for at least six months.

Only carriers or drivers falling under the exempted categories may use other recording methods, which may include automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) to maintain driver record of duty status.

Submitting and Retaining Driver Record of Duty Status Paper Logs

Being exempted from the ELD rule does not mean you are automatically exempted from the HOS regulations. A driver is required to submit original paper log sheets to their respective carriers within 13 days after the completion of their trips. The driver retains a copy of all RODS for the previous seven days, which must be produced on request for inspection at the time they are on duty. Drivers must also sign all hard copies of RODS.

Electronic HOS Regulations

The idea behind mandating the ELD rules was to provide accurate, consistent, and accessible methods of logging driver hours of service, and simultaneously create a safer working environment. The new measures were intended to ensure drivers took necessary breaks and rested appropriately, and to ensure they remained alert while driving. Making the switch from manual processes like logbooks to electronic hours of service tools makes it easier for businesses to keep up with the FMCSA requirements.

However, the implementation of electronic logging devices does not change the fleet manager’s responsibility to track off duty or driving hours. What it does require is that you make use of a log tracking device and software system.

Who Should Comply with ELD HOS Logging?

The HOS rules apply to drivers operating CMVs such as school buses and semi-trucks. For a vehicle to be classified as a CMV, it must fulfil the following:

  • Weigh above 10,000 pounds
  • Have a combined weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 pounds
  • Be used for transporting 16 or more persons, including the driver, or nine or more passengers for commercial transport purposes
  • Transport goods classified as hazardous and require placards

If a vehicle meets the qualifications above, it is required by the law to comply with HOS regulations and to maintain decent hours of service log. 

Common Hours of Service Violations - And How to Fix Them

Besides ordinary traffic violations and unsafe driving, it is common among drivers to fail to comply with HOS regulations. Hours of Service compliance counts as one of the core basics of CSA, and maintaining a low score is often a result of piling frustrations.

The ability to fix problems associated with hours of service is the most crucial way to keep safety scores in check, and helps in controlling the frequency of roadside inspections.

Below are the most common violations of Hours of Service and how you can fix them.

Clerical Form Errors

When entering data manually, issues like mathematical errors, poor handwriting, the omission of essential information, and many other mistakes, may arise. These are issues that can be minimized by implementing an electronic system that automatically fills in the required data when it is needed. Tired drivers can easily leave out essential data, which could be deemed a violation of the hours of service regulations.

Not Updating Statuses

The driver record of duty status graph shown on a log must always be up to date, showing each detail of changes. Forgetting, or simply failing to update duty status is common among drivers and leads to severe roadside inspections. It is mostly due to drivers failing on their mandate to remain vigilant by changing statuses.

It is easy to fix this recurring problem with the simple touch of a screen. All drivers have to do is to indicate the time their shifts start, and to change their status to off-duty when shifts end. Electronic logbooks are designed to detect when a vehicle is stationary or in motion, and gives accurate data at all times.

No Records of Duty Status

Failing to properly maintain your RODS and not maintaining logs for seven days is a violation that can lead to hefty fines. Drivers of companies running smaller vehicles may not be aware of what is required of them, but they must check with the relevant authorities. Inspectors ask for records of the previous seven days. Therefore, drivers must not misplace any record whatsoever.

Partner with Azuga for FMCSA Compliance

Azuga works with you to deliver customized solutions for fleets and drivers. It doesn’t matter the size of your fleet, Azuga offers the right products and technology to duly maintain drivers’ records of duty status and keep you compliant with the hours of service regulations.

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