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What is a CSA Score and Why Should I Worry About It?

December 20th, 2021

Kelli Bloom

Kelli Bloom

Kelli has been in the trucking industry since 2003. She got her start working in compliance for a trucking carrier that specialized in government freight. She has been the compliance manager with ATS since 2017.




— the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk or injury.  

Do you consider yourself a safe truck driver? Well, let’s see what your Compliance, Safety and Accountability score has to say about that. Do you know what your score is? 

Your CSA score is used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to identify high-risk motor carriers and drivers. 

Failing to understand what this score means and the weight it holds against you and your trucking carrier can land you in a world of hurt — including excess stress, frustration and even job loss. Understanding what is required of you as a driver safety-wise will help you improve as a driver and improve your CSA score.

I’ve been the compliance manager at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) for several years. I am constantly monitoring CSA regulations and seeing how they change. I help drivers stay safe out on the road every day and work with them on accident claims too. 

After reading this article, you will have a much better understanding of what is expected from you as a driver safety-wise. I’ll explain the different safety categories and how you can remain compliant, how you get CSA points and how CSA scores affect trucking carriers. 

What is a CSA Score? 

CSA scores, regulated by the FMCSA, have been around for more than a decade. They marry motor carrier and driver compliance safety standards to improve highway safety. The goal is to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities on the road. 

Every driver violation is associated with CSA points. These points also directly affect the carrier. A driver may not be hired if their CSA points are too high, and their safety clearance may be suspended if they get too many points while driving for a carrier. 

This data from every driver in the carrier’s fleet is plugged into an algorithm that gives the carrier a score. The score is presented as a percentage. Carriers need to keep their percentages low. A high percentage can subject the carrier and driver to FMCSA safety intervention. 

Intervention may include additional roadside inspections, audits, fines and potentially being placed out of service permanently.

You may receive CSA points at roadside stops or at weigh stations.

There are seven Driver Fitness Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) categories, sometimes called buckets, that your CSA score is tied to. They include: 

  1. Unsafe
  2. Vehicle Maintenance 
  3. Hours of Service
  4. Driver Fitness
  5. Drugs and Alcohol
  6. Hazmat
  7. Crash

I’ll break each of these down further so you can understand how to be compliant with each of these categories. 



Violations in the unsafe category relate to general unsafe driving practices. This includes following too closely, using your phone while driving, failing to wear a seatbelt, driving in unauthorized lanes, late lane changes, failure to use turn signals and so on. 

Vehicle Maintenance 

Drivers can receive a violation for failing to maintain their trucks. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to do your pre-trip inspections. Not only are inspections regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), but they will help you catch any issues with your truck. 

Drivers regularly encounter issues with their brakes, tires and lights. Do a thorough inspection and walk around your truck and trailer to make sure your tires and lights look good. Check to see that your securements are holding tightly. 

If something doesn’t look right, get it fixed. Failing to do so can not only result in a violation and fine but a serious accident. 

Hours of Service

You should always be following your Hours of Service (HOS). Part of staying legal includes having your required paperwork in your truck at all times. 

You need to make sure you have the following four things handy in your truck: user manual, instruction sheet regarding electronic logging device (ELD) malfunctions, instruction sheet showing steps to transfer logs to an officer and a supply of blank paper logs.

If you get stopped and don’t have one of these four things, you may have a violation on your hands. 

You will get a violation if you aren’t within your HOS. For instance, if you’re driving even a few minutes past your allotted hours for the day, you will get a violation and likely be placed out of service.

Driver Fitness

What is the health of your CDL? Do you have any suspensions on it? Is it close to expiring? Did you move and fail to transfer your CDL to the correct state? Some drivers don’t remember that they have 30 days to transfer their CDL to a new state after moving. 

This category also applies to your DOT medical card. You should always be sure you are renewing it on time. 

Drugs and Alcohol

This category applies to possessing drugs or alcohol. If you are pulled over at a roadside inspection and you have drugs or alcohol in your truck, you will receive a violation. You will also receive a violation if you are intoxicated. 



This relates to all hazmat regulations. This includes leaking containers or improper packaging. 


Any crash that you are part of that is declared recordable is seen as a crash — it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. 

The DOT declares a crash recordable if a vehicle was towed from the scene, there was an injury and the victim was taken from the scene for treatment or there was a fatality at the site.

Do your best to prevent crashes by following at a safe distance and driving a few miles under the speed limit. Let other motorists pass you; there’s no need to rush.

There is a new crash preventability program that came out in August 2019 where drivers and carriers can question the preventability of certain accidents. If it is questioned and proven to be non-preventable, the points can be removed from the carrier’s score and the driver’s record will show that the crash was ruled not preventable.  

There are very specific circumstances where this works. For example, a few circumstances where crash events may be removed from your CSA score include being struck by a vehicle going the wrong direction, being struck while legally stopped, being struck by a motorist experiencing a medical issue or being struck by an individual under the influence.

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When Do I Get Points? 

Drivers can get points in several ways, including during roadside inspections at weigh stations or after crash reports or investigation reports are reviewed. Points can only be given by individuals trained to give DOT inspections. 

When you are pulled over at a weigh station, officers will not only check to make sure that your load isn’t too heavy, but they will also ensure you are operating safely by reviewing your HOS, inspecting your truck and ensuring your CDL is healthy. 

Carriers with high CSA scores are more likely to be frequently pulled over at weigh stations.

There are also “blitzes” during the year when every weigh scale is open and all drivers are pulled over. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) does a three-day blitz every year, and they usually target various elements of vehicle and driver safety.

Getting stopped isn’t always a bad thing, though. As long as you’re doing everything right, a clean inspection can help the carrier’s CSA score.


How Long Do Points Stay on My Record? 

Each violation carries a different score. The points are then multiplied. For instance, a violation may be worth five points, but the score is multiplied depending on how long it’s been since the incident. 

For a driver, the score is tripled for the first year following the incident. It is doubled for the second year after the incident. The score is face value for the third year after the incident, and then it drops from your record. For instance, if you have a violation worth five points, for the first year it will show as 15 points on your record, then 10 in the second year, then 5 in the third year before it drops to zero. 

For carriers, within the first six months following an incident, the score triples. For the next six months, the score is doubled. For the final year, the points are at face value. 

The points drop from a carrier’s score after two years and a driver’s score after three. 

Scores are updated each month.

How CSA Scores Affect the Carrier

Trucking carrier CSA scores are private, but enough safety information is released publicly for customers to determine which carriers they feel comfortable working with. They may choose not to work with a carrier because their CSA score is too high and will put their freight at risk. 

A low CSA score gives carriers better access to high-profile clients, great freight lanes and an increased freight rate. Trucking carriers with a low CSA score can demand higher prices to haul freight.

High CSA scores can lead to audits. During an audit, the DOT looks at everything, from driver files,  applications and training to maintenance, annual inspections and HOS. Each violation can subject the carrier to fines. If the violations are severe enough, a carrier could even be placed out of service.

Keep On Trucking!

Keep these tips in mind to stay compliant and safe on the road. Your carrier and fellow motorists will thank you for it! 

When you’re safe on the road, it helps everyone else stay safe, too.

If safety isn’t your primary focus on the road, you may be making other mistakes too. Check out how you can prevent these common mistakes truck drivers make.

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