CSA stands for Compliance, Safety, Accountability and refers to a safety initiative by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These new measures are designed to make our highways safer by identifying and addressing specific safety problems.
An earlier version of the same program was called Comprehensive Safety Analysis or CSA 2010, which in turn had replaced the SafeStat program. The updated CSA includes no new laws but does update safety reporting and enforcement requirements. The CSA applies to trucks over 10,000 pounds or any interstate shipping by truck and involves both drivers and their employers.
A central component is the CSA safety score, which applies to both drivers and their employers. CSA does not record the details of any driver’s individual safety problems. Instead, both the driver and his or her employer get points for each of the driver’s safety violations. The more severe a violation is, the more points it carries. The points are also time-weighted, meaning that they gradually expire over a period of three years. This way, a large number of points could indicate either occasional major violations or frequent minor violations.
While the number of points a driver has is not publically available, it is available to prospective employers, as well as to safety inspectors. Drivers or carriers who have a lot of points could find themselves investigated. If the investigation turns up severe, continuing violations, legal action could follow.
Because drivers and carriers each accrue points under CSA, drivers cannot escape the consequences of their mistakes by jumping to a new employer—and fleet managers cannot jettison points by firing unsafe drivers after the fact. Instead, employers must proactively work with their drivers to ensure safe operation to begin with.
Of course, fleet managers can forestall potential problems by only hiring safe drivers, but drivers can consider how many points a carrier has and choose employers who know how to run a safe fleet.
CSA is not likely to change much for carriers who already keep good records and require safe practices on the part of their drivers; the initiative does not add any new requirements. However, by making it easier for inspectors and shippers to spot safety problems (and potential liability concerns), CSA might well force less scrupulous carriers to change their practices or go out of business. The ripple effect throughout the shipping industry could be substantial. Shipping costs will likely go up overall, because it will no longer be possible to cut costs by cutting corners. This means that carriers who already do the right thing will have an easier time competing on price. It also means sharing the road with other trucks will be safer, and that is good for everybody.