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Compliance, Safety, Accountability - CSA

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The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program that is in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is a safety enforcement system that has caused great concern to trucking carriers since its implementation in 2010. Since CSA has redefined the way every motor carrier performs its daily safety functions, questions continue to surround the accuracy of the measurement systems implemented for motor carriers.

In January 2015, the FMCSA concluded that including a “crash accountability” factor into its CSA program would not affect scores and would actually be too difficult, complicated, and costly. Truck carrier organizations like the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have released statements of disapproval with this decision. The stance of these organizations is that the CSA has a major fairness issue if crash fault assignment is not determined. Drivers should not be penalized or judged unfairly by reasonably unavoidable crashes, like when a drunk driver rear ends a truck or a motorist hits a carrier head on. Additionally, the CSA rankings are made public, so a biased report further ruins the reputation of a company and a driver. The OOIDA statement on the matter reads, “If the [FMCSA] agency is providing information to the public that is to be used to make safety decisions or conclusions, that information should be relevant, accurate and as complete as humanly possible.”

At the end of 2014, a coalition of transportation trade groups wrote to the Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting that the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores be made private instead of public. The reason given for this request was based on recent government research that found that the scores derived from the SMS are unreliable. The report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said, “FMCSA lacks sufficient safety performance information to reliably compare them with other carriers.” It went on to report that the lack of this crucial information “creates the likelihood that many SMS scores do not represent an accurate or precise safety assessment for a carrier.”

Revisions to the CSA have been ongoing, but most recently a major revision was submitted for review in October 2014. This revision seeks to correct the safety fitness determination process for trucking companies. The new rating process will no longer be based on relative comparisons or groupings, but instead it will focus on roadside inspection data and traditional compliance reviews, creating an “absolute” carrier score. This revision, or Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), is still being assessed, but if it passes scrutiny, it will be published in the 2015 Fiscal Year.

In 2015, FMSCA also plans to carry out “phase three” of the CSA program, or their final series of safety interventions, and they intend to review the severity ratings implemented within CSA.


FMCSA developed its CSA program to replace SafeStat. The goal of CSA is to reduce crashes by increasing FMCSA contact with carriers and drivers, identifying driver and carrier high risk activities, and correcting such behaviors. FMCSA began evaluating carriers using CSA’s safety measurement system (SMS) in 2010. CSA scores (with the exception of those in the Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator BASICs) are now publicly available.

The effect of this rulemaking is to reduce crashes of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) that result in death, injuries, and property damage on U.S. highways, by more effectively using FMCSA data and resources to identify unfit motor carriers and remove them from the Nation’s roadways.

Many problems exist with this much maligned program, but the results are relevant. Driver and vehicle violation rates continue their downward trends and carriers are embracing the availability of their safety data and the opportunity to make their operations safer.

Additional Information

CSA Web Site

SMS Web Site

TCA Policies: Safety