The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a responsibility to prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities related to the use of commercial motor vehicles. To accomplish this, the FMCSA uses an enforcement program called Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA).

The CSA program is designed to hold motor carriers and drivers responsible for their role in road safety by collecting performance data and identifying organizations with safety issues. Essentially, CSA is a monitoring and evaluation system that allows the FMCSA to intervene when safety regulations are not being followed by carriers or their drivers.

Every motor carrier’s performance data appears online in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). Data in this system—most of which is available to the public—is updated once a month to include the latest information related to driver and vehicle violations, crash reports from the last two years and investigation results.

The FMCSA organizes SMS data into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs):

  1. Unsafe Driving
  2. Crash Indicator
  3. Hours-of-service Compliance
  4. Vehicle Maintenance
  5. Controlled Substances/Alcohol
  6. Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Compliance
  7. Driver Fitness

The FMCSA then measures a motor carrier’s performance under each one of these BASICs, assigning them a score and prioritizing riskier fleets for interventions (e.g., warning letters, investigations and fines).

Maintaining BASIC scores below the intervention threshold is crucial to motor carriers. Not only does this demonstrate to the FMCSA that the fleet is operating safety, it also can help them avoid fines and business interruptions from being placed out of service.

Keeping the Score Low

The Unsafe Driving BASIC aims to prevent the dangerous and careless operation of commercial motor vehicles. There are more than 40 potential violations under the Unsafe Driving BASIC, with speeding, reckless driving, improper lane changes, inattentiveness and failing to wear a seat belt being some of the most severe infractions.

The Unsafe Driving BASIC is one of the heaviest weighted categories under the CSA program. In fact, just two violations—whether it be a ticket or warning—over the course of a year could put a driver, and their employer, above the intervention threshold.

There are major benefits to keeping the Unsafe Driving BASIC score low. It can help save a motor carrier both time and money. In fact, low scores may lead to fewer accidents, safer drivers and lower insurance costs. Keeping this score down takes the combined effort of both the company and its drivers and can be accomplished through specific fleet safety initiatives.

Educate Drivers on the Unsafe Driving BASIC

Employees need to understand the BASIC program if they are to help keep scores low. Driver behavior has a direct impact on how each fleet ranks in the program, making it all the more important to educate employees on:

  1. How violations impact BASIC scores

    Drivers should understand how violations not only harm their personal record, but also contribute to the business’s score. Specifically, employees should be aware of what violations carry more points and have the greatest impact on the Unsafe Driving BASIC. For instance, cellphone usage and failing to wear a seat belt carry a heavier point value than speeding six to ten miles per hour over the speed limit. Making drivers aware of these sorts of distinctions can reinforce simple safety precautions—precautions that can go a long way toward lowering the BASIC score.
  2. How long violations stay with the company

    Drivers may not be aware of how long violations impact the business’s BASIC score. Just one violation can affect a company’s standing for up to two years. What’s more, violations may remain on a driver’s record for three years. It’s also important to educate employees on how recent violations have a greater impact than those that occurred in the past.
  3. How warnings impact BASIC scores

    Drivers need to be aware that even if they don’t get a ticket, their organization can still be affected. In fact, warnings can impact BASIC scores just as much as a ticket, making it crucial for drivers to operate with the highest levels of care and safety when out on the road.

Create a Fleet Safety Policy

To establish a culture of safety across the fleet, it’s critical to set expectations upfront. Creating a fleet safety policy can help educate drivers on their responsibilities and even outline disciplinary actions the organization will take should safety issues occur.

The policy should cover specific violations and topics that affect the Unsafe Driving BASIC (e.g., distracted driving and wearing seat belts) and include a progressive disciplinary system. The policy should be specific about what actions the company will take for each type of violation. Actions, like warnings, can be used for less severe safety concerns while more severe issues like reckless driving should not be tolerated.

Use Technology to Proactively Address Driver Behaviors

More than ever before, carriers have access to tools and resources they can use to monitor drivers and improve safety throughout their fleet.

  • Telemetric and GPS systems

    Telemetric and GPS systems allow carriers to monitor things like driving speed, hard braking and other behaviors in real time. This allows flagging of potentially risky behavior for review. Provide employees with specific training resources to improve their driving. What’s more, these systems can increase efficiencies by simplifying recordkeeping practices, and giving drivers and carriers actionable data on things like fuel economy and vehicle diagnostics. Telemetric and GPS systems are often tied to electronic logging devices (ELDs) that may already be mandatory.
  • ELDs

    The basic purpose of ELDs is to allow truck drivers to track their hours of service, automating the process and making it easier for safety inspectors to spot violations. ELDs can also monitor hours driven, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information for even more consistent, accurate metrics. Again, these devices are required by law for many motor carriers.
  • Dashcams

    Dashcams provide both drivers and carriers footage they can review following a violation. Dashcams can be installed to cover a variety of angles, including the road, the cab or a combination of the two. These cameras are typically set up to record specific incidents, such as collisions, swerving or hard braking. They can even be used during driver performance reviews, encouraging positive driver behavior or providing one-on-one coaching following an incident.

When collecting data from these systems, it’s critical to take action whenever possible. Be sure to review the data collected and address driver concerns as they arise. Overlooking poor driving behavior can compound exposures for the business and increase the likelihood of preventable crashes and violations.

It should be noted that, while these systems are meant to benefit the driver and provide key insight into safety concerns, employees may be resistant to active monitoring. As such, it’s important to remind them that:

  1. Keeping BASIC scores under the intervention threshold can lead to fewer roadside inspections, protecting their record and allowing them to perform their job without interruption.
  2. If they are involved in an accident and are not at fault, the data can be used to back up their claims.
  3. The organization may get a break on insurance for staying below the intervention threshold, and savings may be passed on to them.

Use All Available Data to Make Informed Hiring Decisions

Because the BASIC score is directly tied to the performance of drivers, it’s important for companies to hire the best candidates possible. Do not tolerate drivers who rack up high scores and refuse to change their ways. CSA is not going anywhere, and it’s in the best interest of the company to hire drivers that buy into the system.

The best way to accomplish this is to consider a combination of motor vehicle records (MVRs) and information from the pre-employment screening program (PSP) when making hiring decisions. While MVRs are a great tool, they only show a portion of a driver’s history.

Information from the PSP gives the company access to a driver’s five-year crash history and three-year inspection history. What’s more, information from the PSP provides insight into violations that do not show up on an MVR, such as violations where a ticket was not issued (e.g., the driver received a warning for speeding).

Contact Loss Prevention for Assistance

When you are insured by Protective, we work with you to make sure the things within your control are maintained and monitored – here’s how:


Our experienced Loss Prevention experts conduct an onsite visit and access data sources such as the Central Analysis Bureau (CAB) to dive deeper into your statistics, identifying areas for improvement. Together, we document a plan to address issues.


In addition to your Loss Prevention expert, you have access to a multitude of discounted or no-cost safety resources. We’ll help identify the ones that make sense for your business. We schedule regular reviews to help keep you on track.


Using CAB, your Loss Prevention Specialist tracks your FMCSA compliance progress. We work with you on solutions to improve your compliance profile. These include our Loss Prevention Resource Library, Protective Marketplace and our Vendor Referral Network.


By following a comprehensive safety plan, you can expect to see improvements to your scores, save time and money, improve your reputation and extend the longevity of your business.

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