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How Your Safety Scores and Compliance Program Affect Your Insurance

Since 2010, safety scores have helped trucking companies assess their overall operations. As a result, safety scores have a significant impact on insurance costs. Compliance programs help keep risk down to a minimum, further reducing insurance costs. Take a look at the nuts and bolts of safety scores and compliance programs.

What is a Safety Score?

Launched in 2010, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program aims to identify high- and low-risk drivers based on scores ranging from 0 to 100. The lower the score, the lower the risk. 

This score ensures that drivers and trucking companies comply with local and federal regulations to ensure the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. The CSA program consists of the system, the process and the rule by which crash data and inspection information serve to assess motor carriers.

How Are Safety Scores Used?

Trucking CSA scores assess driver risk (crash data) and company performance (vehicle inspection). The safety score reflects the risk associated with a commercial vehicle carrier. Insurance companies use this score to calculate insurance premiums. Companies and drivers with good scores can qualify for lower insurance premiums.

What is a Compliance Program?

Commercial motor vehicle carriers that want to improve their CSA scores can implement a compliance program. A compliance program aims to improve areas identified with low scores. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers five programs based on Proactive Safety Management (PSM):

  • PSM Motor Carrier Program
  • PSM Non-CDL Program
  • PSM Safety Director Program
  • PSM DOT Essentials Program
  • PSM Short-Haul Construction Program

Following these compliance programs allows trucking companies to improve their safety scores. Improving safety scores means reducing a trucking company’s overall risk level leading and provides potential insurance premium savings.

What Aspects of Compliance Affect Your Rates?

Insurance carriers use a number of aspects to calculate insurance premiums. These calculations revolve around risk level. Keeping risk levels lower ensures better insurance rates. Take a look at how these factors influence insurance premiums.

Drug Tests

Regular mandatory drug and alcohol testing ensures drivers do not operate commercial vehicles while impaired. Additionally, drivers failing drug and alcohol tests must undergo corrective actions to avoid becoming a safety risk. Effective drug and alcohol screening can also be used during recruitment to ensure risk reduction.

Safety Score

A high CSA score negatively impacts insurance premiums. Trucking companies with high CSA scores may have difficulty finding adequate insurance coverage so implementing a compliance program to reduce CSA scores can drastically reduce insurance premiums and boost coverage eligibility. 

Pretrip Inspections

Compliance programs focus heavily on pretrip inspections. Trucking companies and drivers must ensure they have processes in place to review the following: 

  • Broken headlights and taillights
  • Worn tires
  • Faulty brakes
  • Oil levels
  • Clean, unobstructed windows and mirrors

Drivers should report suspected maintenance issues. It is always best to sort out issues such as worn tires before they become the cause of an accident. Reducing road incidents and traffic violation fines can positively impact CSA scores.

How is a CSA Score Calculated?

CSA score calculation is based on various components. The calculation process is known as Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). 

Seven categories are used to determine safety scores:

  • Unsafe driving behavior 
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)-reportable crashes  
  • Hours-of-service (HOS) compliance 
  • Improper vehicle maintenance
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Hazardous materials compliance 
  • Driver fitness  

Failure to comply with any of these areas leads to points added to the score. You can accumulate 1 to 10 points per violation, depending on how serious it is. Ideally, trucking companies should strive to keep these scores as close to 0 as possible.

How Do Your CSA Scores Affect Your Insurance Rates?

CSA scores can greatly impact insurance premiums. A high CSA score is a reflection of a high level of risk. The scores help insurance companies determine the overall risk represented by the trucking company and driver. As a result, higher CSA scores mean higher insurance premiums. Insurance carriers value low-risk clients. 

The best thing trucking companies can do to reduce high insurance premiums is to lower CSA scores by implementing a compliance program. Once the CSA score has improved, trucking companies can renegotiate their insurance premiums to reflect the reduced risk level.

Where Can You Check Your CSA Scores?

Trucking companies can check their CSA score at the FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) website. The raw data for your company is public, but your score can only be seen if you have the following:

  • DOT number
  • DOT PIN number

Your PIN number is on the top left of the New Entrant Audit letter sent by the FMCSA. If you no longer have this letter, you may need to contact the FMCSA and retrieve your PIN from it for a small fee. This information allows you to check your score and receiving alerts if it surpasses the level that the FMCSA considers safe.

8 Ways to Improve Your CSA Score

Trucking companies have two years to dispute safety violations. It’s always best to work to improve CSA scores by being proactive. Take a look at eight practical ways trucking companies can proactively improve their overall CSA scores.

Always Remember ‘Safety First’

Prioritizing safety is the best thing trucking companies can do to ensure a low CSA score. Requiring a daily driver-vehicle inspection report (DVIR) encourages drivers and staff to conduct routine vehicle inspections.

Use FMCSA Free Resources to Educate Drivers

The FMCSA offers several free resources on its website. Trucking companies are encouraged to use these resources as part of driver retraining and refresher courses. Similarly, trucking companies can use these resources to train new drivers as part of their onboarding processes.

Update MCS-150 Carrier Registration

Trucking companies must make sure their Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150 Form) registration is current every two years. This registration includes:

  • Company information, including business operations such as motor carrier, broker and shipper
  • Carrier mileage — total mileage of all commercial vehicles rounded to the nearest 10,000
  • Current insurance information
  • USDOT number
  • Dun & Bradstreet number, if applicable
  • Motor carrier or Mexican motor carrier number if assigned for inter-state travel
  • IRS tax number

Failing to update MCS-150 information leads to a $1,000 penalty per each day of noncompliance with a $10,000 cap. 

Stay Updated on Regulation Changes

It’s a good rule of thumb to stay on top of any regulation changes. Regulations may change without prior notice. Keeping current on changes is a great way to ensure compliance. Check the FMCSA or subscribe to its newsletter to get the latest information.

Always Carry Your Medical Certificate

Driver fitness is vital to the CSA criteria. Ensuring that medical exams remain current is crucial to proving driver fitness. Also, ensuring drivers seek medical attention when needed can help avoid risk.

Stay on Top of ABS Braking Inspections

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Administration (CVSA) states that braking violations are responsible for nearly 40% of all vehicle out-of-service conditions. Ensuring that commercial vehicle brakes are in top condition ensures safe driving conditions. Trucking companies are encouraged to make braking inspections part of their DVIR.

Thoroughly Vet Your Drivers

Vetting drivers is crucial to ensuring safe commercial vehicle operations. In addition to conducting background checks, preemployment drug screening can help reduce potential violations. Implementing a thorough onboarding process for new drivers can help reduce issues before they emerge.

Use a Reliable ELD

Commercial vehicles are required to use an electronic logging device (ELD). ELDs are designed to record vehicle data, location and the driver’s service hours. These devices can prevent hours of service violations and also ensure that vehicles are operating under safe conditions.

It Pays to Prioritize Safety

Prioritizing safety reduces insurance premiums and the likelihood of road incidents. Taking proactive action to ensure driver and vehicle safety can go a long way toward ensuring safe and effective operations. Trucking companies with high CSA scores can implement a compliance program to ensure they stay on top of their CSA scores.


Does the CSA score affect insurance?

A high CSA score indicates a high-risk level. Trucking companies with a high CSA score pay higher insurance premiums. 

What is considered a good CSA score?

In general, a CSA score under 50 is considered a good score. Nevertheless, the closer the score to zero, the better.

How long do CSA points stay with you?

CSA points stay on record for 24 months.

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