Is There a Magic Wand to Fix CSA Scores? No.

How too many carriers are reactive to FMCSA regulations.

Everything you were never told when starting and running a trucking company regarding CSA Scores.

We get a lot of phone calls from new and long-standing carriers calling in not understanding the regulations.

They are calling us because we are middlemen for both FMCSA regulators and carriers. We are support staff for both sides.

Many times, they call in after a roadside inspection and want us to look at the violations and see what we can do. Honestly, it’s nothing! At least, not until we know what violations they have issue with.

Can we help them? Well, it depends as the problem lies with reactive versus proactive safety management.

How too many carriers are reactive to FMCSA regulations.

Let’s be real, at the end of the day FMCSA regulations are there to save lives.

While many long-standing carriers have been running their fleets safely for decades, when a new issue arises, they are too often behind the curve on understanding the newer regulation changes that are now affecting their fleet.

For owner operators, it is even harder as there is not a structured program that lays out all the rules and guidelines when they first start a business. They can literally apply for a DOT number and start driving the next day.

While they have CDL experience, they often do not have driver management, safety, maintenance, or HR experience that the regulations cover. Who is at fault when they violate a rule?

There is the New Entrant Audit, but that might happen after twelve months of already being in business. They could have hired a couple drivers already and have multiple trucks going down the road and not truly understanding the safety requirements they need to follow.

Now, they react surprised when violations occur and ask us for help to lower their safety scores.

Sometimes we get calls saying, “My broker won’t give me loads anymore. My scores are bad. Can you look and see what you can do?”

Unfortunately, there was a legitimate reason for the violation, and they must live with that until the violation falls off after a few years. But this is usually a death sentence for small and new carriers.

While we can educate them and try to help them, we want all carriers to be proactive in their approach to the CSA scores.

The benefits of being proactive with CSA Scores.

Look, CSA scores are important and there is data to prove it:

  • Companies who get into crashes are going to get into more crashes.
  • Companies who get unsafe driving violations will get more and will lead to a crash down the road because the number one crash indicator is speed.
  • Companies who are over-dispatching drivers and pushing the Hours-of-Service limits are going to get into crashes because their drivers are tired.
  • Companies with defective equipment and bad maintenance scores are going to cause a crash because a brake goes bad due to no preventative maintenance program.

So, how do you counteract that?

All fleets should be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to DOT compliance and safety management

As a carrier governed by FMCSA regulations, it is not good practice to wait until you get audited by the FMCSA, but rather to be ready at all times.

Proactive safety management means you and your company are working hard to be safe, compliant and stay ahead of the FMCSA.

So, what are the benefits?

  • Carriers being proactive will put them in a better position to mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and spend more time with their drivers in an effort to manage a safe and compliant fleet. 
  • With proactive safety, carriers will be more organized and will have a measured plan to lower motor carrier Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores.
  • When partnering with a third-party program, your fleet has a team of experts that costs much less than hiring a safety director or team and can receive constant monitoring to keep your operation FMCSA compliant. Driver management will be simplified and the driver hiring process will shorten.
  • While data and paper management can be crucial, using a third-party partner will help you be prepared for audit representation, provide document storage, and offer up-to-date company policies and handbook of FMCSA rules and regulation changes.
  • Not only will proactive safety help your fleet with DOT compliance, but it is proven to lower insurance premiums as you will have documented ways to show a reduction in risk.

Changes may be coming to help new carriers be proactive with a “safety proficiency test.”

We all understand that we can’t throw a new driver on the road hauling freight without a commercial driver’s license. The safety risk would be too high.

Similarly, we need to train the companies too.

The trucking industry can’t assume that a new carrier just checking a box that they agree to comply with the regulations will be safe and knowledgeable. Now the government is acting reactively, there to punish instead of to guide new businesses.

While the government may wish to audit these companies in the first month, there are too many new DOT numbers being created and they don’t have the capacity to audit all of them effectively.

Well, the government is looking at a solution to be proactive before the New Entrant Audit.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a New Entrant Safety Assurance Process rule is scheduled for August.

“We’re very pleased this has moved off the long-term actions list,” Peter Kurdock, Advocates’ general counsel, told FreightWaves.

“New carriers need to take a standardized test to make sure they’re aware of and comply with federal safety regulations. A member of the public would be astounded that the agency in charge of safe truck operations has not put into place measures enacted by Congress to make sure they’re doing everything they can to make sure drivers are compliant with the laws.

Related: what will the safety proficiency test look like?

We at CNS agree that this is a good idea.

According to Michael Kauffman at CNS, “Honestly that’s an excellent idea. As you know, and in my opinion, the standard online FMCSA safety audits (new entrants) are a joke, they don’t generally even contact the carrier to explain anything regarding 49 CFR or safety, etc.”

On the other hand, “the on-site new entrant audits, are much more educational in nature and officers require all documentation available just like a ‘real’ audit, and the officer actually explains the requirements and WHY they are needed,” said Kaufman.

Are you ready to be proactive?

Our safety management programs are perfect for combining multiple services and can be tailored to fit your needs, whether you are a new owner operator or a seasoned trucker or business owner.

At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM), a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • CSA score management
  • Driver Qualification File Management
  • New driver on-boarding
  • Driver safety meetings
  • ELD management
  • Policies and handbooks
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • and more

For more information, call (888) 260-9448 or email us at

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