A typical driver knows to watch out for other drivers, pedestrians, and animals. But if you’re a CDL truck driver, that list doubles. Beyond standard practices of safe driving, there are multiple things you handle inside and outside the truck. And, if you receive a violation on any of the 7 behavior categories from the CSA Score Chart below, your points will increase drastically. To help protect your CDL trucker score, make sure you know what behaviors accrue points and when.

What is the CSA Score?

Established in 2010, the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability score helps improve safety on roads for the millions of CDL truck drivers nationwide. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the safety standards, and the CSA serves as the administration’s compliance and enforcement program.

Carriers and drivers can examine their scores and other reports on the administration’s Safety Measurement System. The FMCSA updates this system once a month so drivers and carriers can review data such as safety violations and inspections, the number of trucks a carrier runs, and total miles traveled.

Why It Matters

A CSA score chart can help you be proactive and mindful when conducting your pre-trip inspections, maintaining your truck, and improving your score overall. A driver’s safety score can affect the carrier’s safety record. Points rank from 0 to 100 and the higher the score, the worse the rank. The CSA score chart below summarizes the violations most commonly received and their points. Keep in mind, the points may fluctuate based on load, severity, and time.

What are the 7 Behaviors?

The system organizes the data into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). When officers complete their official reports, they consider the behaviors and the severity of violation. See the CSA score chart below to find out more about the violations for each category.

Unsafe Driving — Points will increase for CDL speeding tickets, reckless or inattentive driving, and not wearing seatbelts.

Crash Indicator — This section reveals the history and severity of crashes.

Hours of Service Compliance — Maintaining compliance, not driving more hours than allowed, and not driving while tired.

Vehicle Maintenance — Make sure your lights are working, your tires are in good condition, and your truckload is safe.

Controlled Substances or Alcohol — Obviously, driving while impaired because of alcohol or drugs is against the law.

Hazardous Materials Compliance — Securely package hazardous materials and properly mark or label loads.

Driver Fitness — Equally important is driver safety. Drivers can fail safety tests because of a lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications.

Some of these categories score higher than others. For example, a driving violation for reckless driving is a 10-point violation, while following too close is a 5-point violation. The CSA score chart below details the basic violations.

Understanding the CSA Score Chart and Points

The criteria used to calculate points include violations over the past two years, the severity of a crash, and annual miles driven. The FMCSA updates the scores once a month on the SMS. Drivers and carriers need to monitor their scores in case of an error in which case they will need to fight the violation. While the CSA score chart gives you a glimpse of what not to do, things happen.

Fighting a ticket as a regular driver is hard enough, but for an over-the-road driver, it is substantially more difficult. Drivers are more likely to have success in getting a CDL ticket dismissal or at least a lower penalty by knowing exactly what they’re fighting by using a CSA score chart to determine the criteria of the violation, and by obtaining legal services from a benefit like the Open Road Driver’s Plan. The legal services provided by ORDP also cover your spouse and you’re able to get special discounts to a variety of services.

With a CDL driver protection plan, you have legal representation to get you back on the road, lower their level of infraction, and help with overall legal services. Using a truck driver benefit like ORDP is your best fight against unfair scores that can affect you, your carrier, and future opportunities. If you get a violation, get a copy to compare with a CSA score chart and be ready to discuss it with your legal representative.

The CSA Score Chart

The CSA Scores for truck drivers may change periodically. As new laws and standards come to light, new technology and maintenance requirements may adjust. The behavior criteria and point accrual system may change as well. It’s important that you keep up on those changes to help protect your CDL from infractions or worse, suspension. This CSA score chart helps you understand how points accrued, and it is current as of this publication date.

The score weighs the severity, time, and preventability of crashes, and that criteria can also factor in the scoring system. While the ranking is based at 0-100, the points will convert to a percentage. So if you have received seven 10-point infractions, a carrier may interpret that to mean there is a 70% chance you will receive another infraction. Use the CSA score chart to help you calculate your percentage.

Other factors for scores and severity include whether you have passengers, what you are transporting (like hazardous materials), and how many power units were involved (buses, engines, vehicles, etc.). This CSA score chart goes over some of the most common violations. You can learn more by downloading a copy of the SMS Methodology book that provides detailed information on the program and points tables.

Behavior, Violation, & Points

Behavior Type Violation Examples Points
Unsafe Driving & Controlled Substances Texting, phone use, reckless driving, speeding at 15 miles per hour or more over the limit, drug use, and speeding in a construction zone. 10
Vehicle Maintenance & Hazardous Materials Tire problems, proper marking on external components, improper material and load handling, and operating a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL. 8
Hours of Service & Driver Fitness Speeding 11-14 miles per hour over limit, violating federal hours of Service agreements, failing to use a seat belt properly, and falsifying log books. 7
Vehicle Maintenance Non-working or improper lamps, steering wheel issues, improper loading, and smoking while loading/unloading, 6
Unsafe Driving & Controlled Substances Inattentive driving, following too close, alcohol use, improper turns, use of radar detector, and incomplete or improper log book maintenance. 5
Vehicle Maintenance & Unsafe Driving Speeding 6-10 miles per hour over limit, failing to conduct pre-trip inspection, and brake issues. 4
Vehicle Maintenance Reflective sheeting issues, tires versus load, problems with coupling devices, and other vehicle defects. 3
Vehicle Maintenance Rear impact guard issues, lack of seatbelts, and lack of emergency equipment. 2
Vehicle Maintenance & Driver Fitness Operating hours violations, log/form issues, failing to secure cargo, windshield and glass scratches and markings, and fuel system issues. 1

When It Matters

There are several ways you, your truck, and your load can be in violation. Aside from being pulled over, your truck will undergo a pre-trip inspection and they might check you at weigh stations.

Pre-Trip Inspection

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough check of the vehicle’s interior and exterior, including the major systems and load security. The check needs to be performed before the trip, and every 24 hours thereafter.

Weigh Station Checks

These checkpoints sprinkle state highways everywhere. Trucks must pull off at weigh stations to ensure they are not traveling down a road that is not stable enough for them. The Department of Transportation or the state highway patrols perform the checks. Inspectors walk around the truck and check various parts of the vehicle and documentation for violations.

Learn More about CSA Score Charts

Remember, the CSA score chart is NOT all inclusive. There are several pages of information in the SMS Methodology book that cover the least severe to the most critical violations for CDL truck drivers. There are many ways a truck driver can receive points, so look through the book and take special note of the critical violations.

Improving Your Score

By now you should know that the lower the CSA score, the better. To help improve your score, consider the doing:

  1. Use electronic logging systems. That way, log violations don’t even exist!
  2. Print off or electronically check off everything in your pre-trip inspection report. Pay special attention to tires and broken lights.
  3. Talk to your manager about some of the more difficult pre-trip inspection jobs like brake adjustments and air leaks. They may have a better way than you know.
  4. At every stop, do another inspection spot check. Give yourself the added confidence that your truck is running smoothly, things are secure, and get all safety issues resolved.
  5. Finally, this goes without saying, but always be on the lookout for other drivers. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your next stop, avoid high-traffic areas with tight turns, and follow all safety protocols.

The CSA score can be your worst enemy or your best friend. We want it to be your best friend, but if something goes wrong, do something right! Use the CSA score chart above and refer to the SMS site for all the information you need to be safe on the road. And, if worse comes to worse, call ORDP and let’s set you up with a legal services plan to protect you and your spouse while you get back on the road in no time.

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