The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set up the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring system in 2010 to improve safety on the road and prevent collisions. This score can influence everything from job opportunities for drivers to the likelihood of seeing more roadside inspections.
A good score can help you prevent targeted roadside inspections from the Department of Transportation (DOT), which could result in even more points. You can use your score to demonstrate to clients, law enforcement, and the general public that your fleet takes safety seriously. A low score could help a fleet in liability proceedings if needed and enables you to uphold a higher quality of safe driving. It provides a goal or benchmark for you to compare your fleet to.
Many aspects of maintenance are easy for drivers to brush off as time consuming but driving for any period with these maintenance issues can be dangerous and earn your fleet unwanted points. Each category below contains different violations, each worth three to eight points. The CSA score is calculated with the BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories), which include the following:
- Controlled substances or alcohol
- Crash indicator
- Driver fitness
- Hazardous materials compliance
- House-of-service compliance
- Unsafe driving
- Vehicle maintenance
Did you know, severe violations that take your vehicle out of service will result in two additional points? In addition to the actual point value, your safety score is also relative to other fleets. You receive a percentage on how well you are doing compared to the rest of the industry, and a high enough percentage may earn you an intervention from the FMCSA, depending on the category.
One thing to note is that roadside vehicle violations are multiplied based on how much time has passed since the violation was received. For the vehicle fleet, the multipliers are as follows.
- If in the past six months, a violation is multiplied by three.
- If between six and 12 months prior, a violation is multiplied by two.
- If between a year and three years, there is no multiplier.
Vehicle Maintenance Violations
Vehicle maintenance violations are by far the most common for the FMCSA. These maintenance concerns include lights, brakes, and tire issues.
Tire violations fall specifically under the vehicle maintenance category. Though tire violations make up 11% of violations, they often carry the heaviest penalty — up to eight points. Three-point violations include:
- A regrooved tire on the front of a truck or tractor.
- A tire-load weight rating or underinflated tire.
- Weight carried exceeds the tire load limit.
- The tire is underinflated.
Eight-point violations include:
- A flat tire or exposed fabric.
- A tire with ply or belt material exposed.
- Tire sidewall or tread separation.
- A tire has an audible air leak or is flat.
- A tire has a cut exposing the belt material or ply.
- A front tire has a tread depth of less than 4/32 of an inch.
- Another tire has a tread depth of less than 2/32 of an inch.
Preventative maintenance is a crucial part of keeping a vehicle maintained and running smoothly. Many of these violations are preventable with careful pre-trip inspections and thorough logging.
Serious tire violations include problems with tread or sidewall separation and exposed fabric, ply, or belt material. Tread separation occurs when the tread separates from the casing of the tire, potentially causing blowouts. Separation could occur due to excessive wear or manufacturer defects. Watch for high vibrations while driving and splits in the sidewall.
FMCSA also prohibits driving with a tire that has body ply or belt material exposed. This exposure may occur through slashes in the sidewall. Underinflation, overload, and uneven wear are a few ways that this damage might occur.
These tire issues typically require a tire to be taken out of service and should not be taken lightly, as they can cause the potential for extremely hazardous conditions.
To keep an eye on these potential problems, it is important to conduct pre-trip inspections. During a pre-trip inspection, make sure to include a visual inspection for any worn parts. These include the wheel itself, bolt holes, and other hardware.
How to look for signs of damage to a tire:
- Tread separation
- Cuts and tears
- Exposed fabric including belt or body ply
- Tread tearing or chunking
- Bent, broken or torn beading
- Puncture damage
- Embedded objects
- Excessive cracking
Replace worn parts or damaged tires immediately.
Brake and light checks are also a good idea during a pre-trip inspection since those make up a significant portion of violations as well and can earn you up to six points apiece.
Tire Inflation Maintenance
According to the CSA, a tire with less than 50% of its maximum pressure is considered a flat tire. A flat tire is an eight-point deduction. Serious violations include a flat tire or one with an audible air leak, an underinflated tire, and an overloaded tire. Some fleets are using tire pressure monitoring systems or continuous tire inflation systems to stay on top of this issue. If your fleet isn’t currently utilizing a TPMS, make sure to always use a calibrated tire gauge and check the pressure daily — even on the inner tires in dual setups.
Considering your load weight with every trip is important to keeping your tires inflated properly. It may help to adjust the tire pressure for each change in weight. On an empty trailer, low-pressure tires may stave off irregular wear. A heavy container with low pressure, however, will likely flatten the tires. Many manufacturers offer pressure adjustment charts so you can appropriately judge how much to fill a tire.
Don’t forget that temperature and altitude can affect tire pressure, as well. Don’t check the pressure when the tires are still warm. Tires may lose pressure in colder temperatures.
Preventative Maintenance Tips to Help Your Fleet
The CSA score is not just a set of regulations that you have to meet. It is also a powerful approach to safety that can reduce the risk of hazardous driving conditions and make the roads safer for everyone. The scoring categories correlate with unsafe practices and can protect your drivers, other passengers, your reputation and your bottom line.
We can help you with preventative maintenance at your wheel end, keeping your fleet compliant and safe on the road. Download our guide today!