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Ready for the Road? (with related video)

 Understanding the federal CSA 2010 regulation.

The Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new regulation of drivers who are required to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), such as those who drive garbage and recycling trucks. This new regulation has struck fear in drivers, who worry that earning a poor CSA 2010 rating could lead to job loss, work suspension, unfair attention for being a problem driver, or just a substandard work evaluation — all the things that an employee wants to avoid in the current economic environment. Carriers fear warning letters, increased insurance rates, being labeled as a troubled carrier, and facing more scrutiny and auditing by FMCSA or their own insurance carriers.

This article will provide an overview of how CSA 2010 rates drivers and carriers as well as some general recommendations on how to optimize performance within the regulation. In short, be prepared to be aggressive, both in promoting sound driving practices at your waste firm and in contesting traffic citations.

CSA 2010 Explained

Within CSA 2010, points are assigned to carriers and drivers through the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which quantifies the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers. The goals are: 1) to identify candidates for interventions; 2) to determine the specific safety problems exhibited by a carrier or driver; and 3) to monitor whether safety problems are improving or worsening. SMS replaces SafeStat in the CSA system. SMS uses data that comes from roadside inspections, state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census to quantify performance in what are called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

It is important to know what CSA 2010 is targeting to be able to shape driver training and best practices to address those items. The BASICs that CSA 2010 focuses on are defined as follows:

Unsafe Driving — the operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in a dangerous or careless manner. Examples of relevant citations include speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change and inattention.

Fatigued Driving/Hours-Of-Service (HOS) — the operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the federal HOS regulations.

Driver Fitness — the operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience or medical qualifications.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol — the operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Vehicle Maintenance — the failure to properly maintain a CMV. Examples of relevant violations include issues with brakes, lights, and other mechanical defects, and failure to make required repairs.

Cargo-Related — the failure to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, and the failure to prevent unsafe handling of hazardous materials on a CMV. Examples of relevant citations include improper load securement, improper cargo retention and improper hazardous material handling.

Another Means of Evaluation

Additionally, SMS evaluates crash history to ascertain problems and patterns with a carrier. If there is a problem indicated by a carrier’s crash history, a federal “intervention” may occur, although what exactly an intervention may entail has yet to be determined.

CSA 2010 is not designed to take away a driver’s license or carrier authority, and the points it assigns are advisory in nature. CSA 2010 does not change the reality that drivers hold commercial driver licenses issued by states. However, CSA 2010 does provide an additional means of grading a driver besides the driver’s history report, which nearly all states maintain for their licensed drivers.

Additionally, CSA 2010 is yet another way that a carrier and driver can be evaluated by insurers and others with whom they do business, who are using safety data and related information to make business decisions. Ideally, CSA 2010 serves to alert a carrier to a problem driver and allows FMCSA to identify carriers with a history of problem drivers, problem maintenance issues, or other issues that affect overall highway safety and motor carrier safety.

Unfortunately, problems can arise when a driver or a carrier successfully secures an amendment to an initial citation, or successfully challenges a citation through the courts and receives a dismissal. As it is, a driver or carrier can submit documentation via an SQS portal to correct the CSA 2010 record. But usually by the time there is a disposition on a violation through the courts or a legal process, the citation has been on the CSA 2010 profile of the carrier and driver for months. Currently, there is not really a way for the carrier or driver to not be impacted by CSA 2010 points during the pendency of a challenge of a citation or violation.

Also, there are some carriers and drivers who are receiving CSA 2010 points just for warning tickets, which are not formal citations that can be challenged in a court. Therefore, when it comes to a warning ticket, CSA 2010 points may be assigned, but there is no effective way for the driver or carrier to challenge the receipt of those points. Warnings of FMCSA violations or traffic citations typically are not contested or adjudicated in a court.

Be Aggressive

CSA 2010 seeks to improve overall motor safety and to identify problems so they can be corrected and larger problems prevented. But in its implementation, there has been little discussion about creating a system in which a driver or carrier can present evidence to challenge a noted violation within a certain timeframe, before it becomes a part of the CSA 2010 record.

Therefore, as a carrier or driver, the approach has to be both aggressive and defensive. An aggressive approach entails having a regular maintenance program to identify vehicle safety issues, as well as regular best practice seminars for drivers to ensure that they drive in as safe a manner as possible. A defensive approach entails having a process by which as many citations and violations are challenged as possible. Carriers can sign their drivers up to participate in CDL legal defense programs, or drivers can be encouraged to sign up for CDL legal defense programs too if such a program is not offered through the carrier.

If you want to check on your carrier’s CSA 2010 ratings, you should sign into the SMS website. To login into the SMS website and see safety data, carriers will need an FMCSA-issued U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) personal identification number (PIN). If you do not know or have forgotten your PIN, you can request one by going to the SMS website and selecting “Click here to request your Docket Number PIN and/or USDOT Number PIN.” Be sure to request a U.S. DOT PIN and not a Docket PIN.

Drivers and carriers both can check and challenge CSA 2010 ratings and profiles via the Driver Safety Measurement Systems (DSMS) by going to FMCSA's DataQ website. Individual commercial drivers may file challenges to their commercial driver data at this site, and motor carriers also may file challenges to data found on their carrier profile at this site as well.

Typically, violations that fit within the BASIC categories are assigned points based on the severity of the violation and the length of time that has passed since the violation has occurred. Therefore, recent violations count more heavily than older ones. Some violation points are assigned to the driver, while others are assigned to the carrier. But typically, drivers who work for a carrier are impacted by the carrier’s maintenance and load issues, which they may not have any control over. Furthermore, carriers are impacted by their drivers’ profiles and points. Therefore, it is important for both carrier and driver to be proactive in preventing the kinds of violations listed on CSA 2010, and to be aggressive in defending and challenging violations that may appear on the CSA 2010 profile in error.

Evelyn Lecia Keaton is an Indianapolis-based transportation lawyer and consultant. She can be reached via email at


Dissecting CSA 2010 (courtesy of Fleet Owner's YouTube channel)

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