Check Your CSA Scores

Crash Indicator BASIC

Know the Score

If for no other reason than ‘occasionally mistakes are made,’ it is a good practice to check your motor carrier safety and performance data on a regular basis—say, monthly.

What kind of mistakes? As motor carriers as tracked by their individually assigned U.S. DOT number, it is not unheard of to have another motor carrier’s violation show up under your DOT number, if someone mistakenly puts in a wrong digit of the number.

Drivers may forget to inform you of a failed roadside inspection or that they were stopped and ticketed for a traffic infraction, moving violation, or a violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

How to Check Your Score?

To check your CSA scores and profile, go to the CSA landing page.

Then, in the box under “Check Motor Carrier Safety and Performance Data,” type or paste either the name or company under which you registered with the DOT or your U.S. DOT number. This will take you to the “Overview” page.

On the Overview page, you will see your “Out of Service Rates,” expressed as a percentage, for Vehicles and Drivers. These percentages should stay under the national average.

Further down the Overview page are the individual Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). As a rule, these should not go above the 20 per cent line in any of the seven BASICs, of which only five are available for viewing by the general public. For insurance purposes, none of the BASICs should ever be flagged in an “Alert” status.

Below the BASICs on the Overview page is a link to your “Complete SMS Profile.” Here you will find a “Violation Summary” showing a list of violations, and a “Inspection History” showing a listing of inspections.

Study the Inspection History for new violations, any violations which may be unknown to you, or violations that may be listed here by mistake. Investigate these violations to your satisfaction.

Next is a Crash Activity Detail or a listing of vehicles “involved” in a crash. Under a new proposed method, certain crashes (deemed nonpreventable) will likely not be tracked in the future.

Study the Crash Activity Detail section to make sure it is accurate. Generally you will not find any “property” damage accidents or incidents listed here, so it may not be as complete as your insurance loss runs.

Why Bother?

The main reasons to check your CSA safety and performance data are as follows:

  1. Insurance companies are interested in the data when they underwrite policies
  2. Shippers and brokers are interested in the data in assigning loads
  3. The press and media can use this information, if your company is involved in an incident/accident/collision
  4. Mistakes can occur, and, if not corrected, can affect the above
  5. The bottom line: Your reputation is at stake. Bad data or incorrect data can lead to bad judgments about your operations

Correcting the Mistakes

In an upcoming blog we will discuss how to correct mistakes on your safety profile using DataQs.

Thank you for reading this.

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599



Operation Safe Driver Week is in Full Swing

Roadside Inspection

This week marks the CVSA’s 2015 Operation Safe Driver Week which runs October 18-24.

The goals of Safe Driver Week include increasing vehicle traffic enforcement, safety belt enforcement, driver roadside inspections and driver regulatory compliance, all aimed at pinpointing unsafe driving behaviors.

The top five warnings and citations issued to CMV drivers were:

  1. Speeding
  2. Failure to use a safety belt
  3. Failure to obey traffic control devices
  4. Improper lane change
  5. Following too closely.
  • 392.2S Speeding may result in up to 10 CSA Severity points, depending on the speed and/or location (school or construction zone, etc.).
  • 392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV has a Violation Severity Weight of 7 points.
  • 392.2LC Improper lane change and 392.2FC Following too close can result in 5 points each.
  • 392.2C Failure to obey traffic control device is pegged at 5 points.

These types of infractions are considered Dangerous Driving and a number of these violations will result in a company’s Unsafe Driving BASIC to be flagged with an Alert.

Best Practices

Don’t wait for the DOT to flag your CSA scores. Unsafe Driving violations are considered problem driver behaviors by the DOT.

But it’s not the DOT’s problem.

Review your CSA scores, safety and performance data. If you have repeated bad players with bad driving habits on your team, they need to change their problem behaviors.

Like right now . . .

Thank you for reading this.






The Breakdown on Breakdowns

There’s one rule in trucking: keep the wheels moving.

If a truck is stopped or disabled on the road or even on the side of the road, it can become a road hazard and, as such, the driver has a duty to warn motorists of its presence.

Failing to use hazard warning flashers §392.22(a) is one CSA Violation Severity point for Unsafe Driving. This citation is often paired with Failing/improper placement of warning devices §392.22(b) which racks up two more CSA Violation Severity points.

Trucking companies and other motor carriers are racking up dozens of CSA points by drivers positioned on the side of the road or in a breakdown lane without using their hazard warning flashers or properly placing their warning devices (such as safety triangles).

As Indiana Jack points out in his video, he, too, has noticed improper placement of warning devices.improper warning

The regulations are clear: §392.22 says:

(a) Hazard warning signal flashers. Whenever a commercial motor vehicle is stopped upon the traveled portion of a highway or the shoulder of a highway for any cause other than necessary traffic stops, the driver of the stopped commercial motor vehicle shall immediately activate the vehicular hazard warning signal flashers and continue the flashing until the driver places the warning devices required by paragraph (b) of this section. The flashing signals shall be used during the time the warning devices are picked up for storage before movement of the commercial motor vehicle. The flashing lights may be used at other times while a commercial motor vehicle is stopped in addition to, but not in lieu of, the warning devices required by paragraph (b) of this section.

(b)  . . . place the warning devices required by § 393.95 of this subchapter, in the following manner:

(i) One on the traffic side of and 4 paces (approximately 3 meters or 10 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the direction of approaching traffic;

(ii) One at 40 paces (approximately 30 meters or 100 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder occupied by the commercial motor vehicle and in the direction of approaching traffic; and

(iii) One at 40 paces (approximately 30 meters or 100 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder occupied by the commercial motor vehicle and in the direction away from approaching traffic.

warning devices









The above diagram appears in your state’s CDL manual.

The regs say the warning devices should be placed within 10 minutes of the stop. The reality is that safety triangles should be placed as soon as the vehicle is secure (brakes are set), especially at night or near well-lit backgrounds which can obscure a truck. Half-awake or impaired drivers have a tendency to line up with the vehicle ahead, often with tragic results. So put on the emergency flashers and get those warning devices out there any time your commercial vehicle is stopped on or next to the roadway.

Breakdown or Stopping Summary

Ensure drivers put on their hazard warning flashers and properly place their warning devices, if stopped on, next to, or near the roadway.

Ensure every commercial vehicle (over 10,001 pounds GVWR or 26,001 pounds GVWR, depending on your state) has at least three warning devices as safety triangles secured in the cab or on the vehicle.

Review with your drivers the regulations, company policies and driver’s manuals for §392.22 requirements on a periodic basis.

Thanks for reading this. Have a safe day.



John Taratuta, Risk Engineer, (989) 474-9599


What is the #1 Safe Driving Behavior?

camera cops

Operation Peek-A-Boo on I-5

What is the one safe driver behavior every driver should do every time they drive?

Doing this one simple safe driving behavior:
• Would have saved 3 out of every 5 people killed in vehicle crashes.
• Reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%.
• Ensures driver control of the vehicle— when it is needed most.
• Protects the driver’s head, spinal cord, organs and limbs.
• In a rollover, a truck driver is 80% less likely to die.

Examples of not doing this safe driving behavior:

  • A Stockton, CA truck driver lost control of semi-truck and was killed.
  • Three Chicago-area movers were killed on a rain slicked road when their semi-truck jackknifed.
  • In fact, 35 percent of the truck drivers who died in 2012 were not doing this.

 But there is more to the story.

Researchers in one study have found that truck drivers who sometimes do this (7.8%) or never do this one behavior (about 6%), likely work for a company with no written safety program and engage in other risky behaviors as:

  • Driving ≥10 mph (16 kph) over the speed limit (5-7 CSA Severity Points),
  • Receiving two or more tickets for moving violations in the preceding 12 months (10 or more CSA Severity Points)

In the epoch of CSA, high insurance cost, and other associated costs of high-risk behaviors, who can afford such drivers?

Yet if one looks at the CSA Violation Summary of any organization or company pulled at random, they will generally find several citations for not doing this life-saving safe driving behavior— sometimes multiple citations for the same risky behavior.

Why don’t drivers do this?

Some reasons cited by drivers are because they:

  • Forgot to to do it. It’s not a habit
  • Are only travelling a short distance.
  • Can’t be bothered.
  •  “Feel safe” in a big rig.
  • No body will catch them.

Safe Driving Countermeasures

Implement a written safety program.

Monitor the CSA Violation Summary

Keep reminding drivers that they are required by federal regulations to do this and it is part of the job they signed on to do.

Provide job coaching and counseling for errant drivers.

As a last resort, use progressive discipline. Don’t settle for substandard behavior.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

What are some Driver Out-of-Service (OOS) Violations?

false log

Roadside Inspectors follow Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria for placing drivers Out-of-Service (OOS) for regulatory violations. During the stop the Roadside Inspector will ask the driver some basic questions about his or her recent activities and ask for today’s logsheet and the previous seven days’ worth, and possibly various supporting documents as trip bills, receipts, tolls, etc.

Some examples of Hours of Service (Part 395) violations resulting in an OOS include:

On Duty Beyond Maximum Periods Permitted
No driver shall drive after being on duty in excess of the maximum periods permitted by this part. Part 395.13 (b)(1).

No Record of Duty Status (RODS)
No record of duty status in possession, when one is required. Part 395.8(a)

No Previous 7 Days Logs
Failing to have in possession a record of duty status for the previous seven (7) consecutive days. Part (395.8(k)(2) — See Exception in Part 395.13(b)(3) – if the duty status is not current on the day of examination and the prior day, but driver has completed records of duty status up to that time (previous 6 days) — the driver will be given the opportunity to make the duty status record current, but may be cited for 395.8(f)(1) – Driver’s record of duty status not current (which is better than an OOS).

False Record of Duty Status
A false record of duty status is one that does not accurately reflect the driver’s actual activities and duty status (including time and location of each duty status change and the time spent in each duty status) in an apparent attempt to conceal a violation of an hours of service limitation within the current 60/70 hour rule period. Part 395.8(e)

Consequences of Being Placed Out-of-Service
• The driver must be placed Out-of-Service for ten (10) consecutive hours. The driver cannot drive any commercial motor vehicle while in OOS status.
• In addition, a driver may get a fine up to $200, per violation, per log-book page.
• The company may receive a $1,000 or greater fine by the FMCSA after a compliance audit or CSA intervention.
• The company will get CSA points.

Drivers can be placed Out-of-Service, if not medically fit, missing their prescription glasses or contacts, ill, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not having a CDL in their possession, driving on a suspended license, etc.

Drivers should abide by any and all OOS orders. Fines to a company for violation of an OOS order can run in thousands of dollars and/or result in suspension of credentials to operate.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an Independent Risk Engineer. Call (989) 474-9599 to chat him up.





Let’s Eliminate “Unsafe Driving”


Violation Summary

If one looks at their organization’s CSA Violation Summary, the list generally starts off with “Unsafe Driving” violations. Unsafe Driving is one of the six CSA Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Unsafe Driving violations vary from “392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV” (essential to maintain control of a vehicle), to “392.2Y Failure to yield right of way” (the leading cause of fatal crashes), to “392.82A1 Using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV” (a factor in up to 25% of all crashes).

In short, Unsafe Driving violations get to the crux of safety. By definition, the unsafe driver is operating unsafely. The unsafe driver listing varies by company from zero violations to dozens, some reoccurring again and again and again. Congrats, if no such violations are listed on your CSA Violation Summary.

Turning a Blind Eye . . .

There is a leadership quote making the rounds these days. It goes like this:

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

An organization’s culture is how it gets things done. Safety culture is the reflection of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to doing things safely or as safely as possible (free of risk).

Culture is the organization's immune system.

Another quote says:

“When the leader blinks, the entire organization turns a blind eye.”

How does this happen? How does one not see what is going on, sometimes, literally, “before their eyes?”

The concept of “willful blindness” originated in criminal law in the nineteenth century. One becomes willfully blind when there is knowledge that they could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, in order to evade responsibility.

I know there are companies that do not actively check their CSA scores. Sometimes they are not aware of CSA. In some situations, they have never been inspected by the DOT and have nothing to see. The most common excuse I hear is that resources are lacking. And it’s true, there is never enough time in the day when you are pulled in ten different directions. If so, then it’s time to prioritize and put safety-related activities back on the top of the to-do list.

Everyone should check their CSA scores to at least make sure that there are no DOT violations which were mistakenly listed. You can bet the insurance company will check the CSA scores when it comes time to set the premium.

Eliminating Unsafe Driving Violations

There is no secret to eliminating Unsafe Driving violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a helpful brochure on this called, “Safety Management Cycle for the Unsafe Driving BASIC.” You may not agree with all of its suggestions, but this is a good place to start.

We should be able to agree that there is no place for unsafe drivers on U.S. roads. While we are not responsible for other driver’s behavior, we can influence our own drivers, and  eliminating Unsafe Driving violations is a good place to start. Here are some additional safety tools:

  1. Driver coaching is effective in changing unsafe behaviors. According to a study by Teletrac, up to 40% of drivers change their behavior after their first safety warning.
  2. Telematics can provide real time information on safety events as harsh acceleration or braking (when more force than normal is applied to the vehicle’s brake or accelerator), harsh cornering (the coffee-cup test— if the driver is cornering fast enough to spill a coffee cup, then it’s too fast of a turn), and speeding.
  3. Accident Event Recorders capture safety related events, both in front of the vehicle and/or inside the cab, with video technology. Insurers may offer a discount for their use.
  4. Pay attention to reports from the general public. At times, the reports may be unwarranted or unjustified. Look for patterns of unsafe driving behavior.
  5. Perform check rides. Most of us over-rate our own levels of performance. Periodic check rides provide drivers with feedback on their driving and safety skills.  For example, one Texas ready mix company with over 100 trucks has a retired driver doing check rides with every driver at least once a year,
  6. Set your own standard of safety. Ex. One large motor carrier bans all U-turns.

Finally, do not tolerate any Unsafe Driving. Vehicles are much larger, roads are congested and on some days, it’s really crazy out there. Taking unnecessary risks or turning a blind eye to those who do, invariably leads to unintended consequences . . . usually of the negative sort.

Rules don’t protect people; people protect themselves and each other by observing the rules, by following safe and healthy work practices without having to be reminded constantly. (Contractor′s Supplies, Inc., Toolbox Talk)

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.

Free Idealease Safety Seminar —Registration is Open


Idealease offers a free one-day Idealsafe Safety Seminar, co-sponsored by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), to all customers and prospects.


  • 10/7/15 Erie, PA
  • 10/13/15 Toledo, OH
  • 10/14/15 Grand Rapids, MI
  • 10/14/15 Charlotte, NC
  • 10/20/15 Las Vegas, NV
  • 10/21/15 Los Angeles, CA
  • 10/22/15 San Martin, CA

This year’s seminars will focus on basic safety and compliance, regulation changes and of course, CSA. 

For more information, click here.

To register, click here.

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How do I get my CSA scores down?


On December 10, 2010, a pilot enforcement program known as Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010) was relaunched nationally and became Compliance, Safety, Accountability or more commonly, CSA.

The heart of CSA is the Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS). Another part is   the Driver Safety Measurement System (DSMS), which measures the safety of individual commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

The Driver Safety Measurement System is designed to identify drivers with a history of safety violations. The information is used to target enforcement when an investigator visits a motor carrier during a compliance review or other intervention. This information is not provided to the public.

The SMS is based on available roadside safety performance data. This roadside data is used to rank operational safety in six Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and a crash involvement (Crash Indicator). Law enforcement may use rankings within these BASICs and the Crash Indicator to select organizations for further investigation or selection for additional roadside inspections. As this information is public (except for the Crash indication), anyone including shippers, insurance carriers, job candidates, etc., can look at the BASICs as well.


If a certain score (or threshold) is passed, the basic may be flagged.


Flagged BASICs can result in DOT Audits or investigations that can last from several hours to several days, or even weeks, depending on the size of the fleet and the scope of the investigation. If any regulatory discrepancies are discovered during an audit or investigation, the DOT can respond in a number of ways ranging from fines, to issuing a downgraded safety rating, or “orders” to comply or to develop a safety plan.

Essentially, the results of every Roadside Inspection (RI) are important because the safety performance data from the inspection can affect the BASIC or CSA score.

How do I get my CSA scores down?

Says Eric Arnold of Arnold Safety Consulting:

“I am asked over and over again, ‘how do I get my CSA scores down?’ Generally speaking, you have to control your drivers. You can’t just turn them loose and let them do whatever they want to do. Every time they get written up by the police at a scalehouse, or on the side of the road, your score goes up. You need to be in your drivers’ ears all the time. It’s not too much more complicated than that.”

In addition, I recommend that you—

1. Become aware of your CSA scores. The CSA scores can be checked at:

2. Have a process in place for immediate repair of any vehicle safety defects or faults. A successful maintenance program should be 80% proactive or preventative, and 20% reactive. Catch problems when they are small and manageable.

3. Make sure your driver(s) understand Hours of Service rules and regulations (Part 395).

4. Make sure drivers are well-rested and alert when they drive.

5. Hire well. Do good background investigations and drug and alcohol testing, if required. Road test drivers before hire and do driver check rides at least annually.

6. Have a set of written standards for your fleet. Document driver and vehicle expectations. Provide drivers with safety training, manuals, guides and training. Monitor driving performance and give feedback when necessary.

7. Learn and know the DOT regulations. Know what the regulations expect of you and your team. Then communicate your expectations, on a daily basis.

Organizations with low CSA scores do all of the above and more.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

The Level One Post-crash Inspection

Crash Indicator BASIC

Q. Can a Roadside Inspector conduct an inspection after a collision? How is this fair, if the vehicle has been mashed up?

A. A commercial vehicle involved in a crash can be given a Level I North American Standard Inspection (Safety Inspection) covering: driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificate (if required), and medical waiver, if applicable, alcohol and drugs, driver’s record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, and critical items as the brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses, and HM requirements, as applicable.

If some of the parts and accessories are damaged due to the crash, the officer may document any defects that need to be repaired before the vehicle can go back on the road. If the defects were the result of the collision, then no CSA points for the defects should be assessed against the carrier.

Tip: Check your Crash Indicator BASIC After a Crash

Any post-crash vehicle damage to parts or accessories due to a collision should not result in CSA points. Check your CSA scores on your Crash Indicator BASIC at least thirty to forty-five days after the collision.  If CSA points were assessed against your organization in error, they can be challenged through the DOT’s DataQs system.




Carriers Identified and Prioritized for CSA Interventions by BASIC


Will you “qualify” for a DOT Audit?

Here’s the scoop: a bad collision or crash can trigger a DOT Audit. But so can a series of crashes. How many? Says the DOT:

“These crash rates were calculated by the FMCSA on a national scale and do not indicate or predict a crash rate for an individual carrier. The crash rate is the number of crashes per 100 vehicles. The national average for all carriers is 3.43 crashes/ 100 vehicles.”


Carriers targeted for enforcement, due to their Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, the fourth bar in the graph, had a average of 5.65 crashes per 100 trucks and/or buses.

Crash Rates per BASIC:

  • Driver Fitness 3.11
  • HAZMAT 4.49
  • Drug/Alcohol 4.61
  • Maintenance 5.56
  • Hours of Service 6.26
  • Accidents 6.34
  • Unsafe Driving 6.61

If your BASIC is flagged and your company has had a higher than average crash rate, then expect some sort of response from the DOT, up to and including an audit. Audits may be unannounced.

Note: most fleets don’t have hundreds of vehicles. One or two crashes may be enough to trigger a DOT intervention for a smaller fleet.

Source: From The Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS)Effectiveness Test by Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) report, dated January 2014.