Safety Ratings Help Regulate Truck Drivers’ Adherence to Federal Laws

David Hodges
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David Hodges is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice on personal injury claims.
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Magnifying Glass Inspecting CSA ViolationsIn an effort to protect drivers and pedestrians, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has begun to crack down on risky behavior for truck drivers and their employers. The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program was created to help enforce the rules and regulations provided by the FMCSA and encourage adherence.

Among other things, the CSA program requires that drivers:

  • Use proper lighting
  • Use quality brakes and tires, as well as proper lighting
  • Log inspections
  • Meet minimum health requirements
  • Speak English at a minimum competency
  • Obtain proper training and certifications

How Does the CSA Safety Measurement System Work?

The Safety Measurement System (SMS) is a number-based system that electronically tracks a truck driver’s adherence to safety regulations. Using input regarding reported crashes, roadside inspections, Hours of Service compliance, maintenance records, and hazardous materials compliance, the organization quantifies a driver’s overall performance from a safety standpoint. These drivers are then compared with their peers to receive a percentile ranking, with 100 percent being the worst performance.

What Is Included in CSA Ratings?

As listed previously, there are many factors that influence a driver’s rating. These can include:

Instances of Unsafe Driving

Ratings can be affected when a driver has a history of negligent or dangerous behavior while behind the wheel. Examples include careless lane changes or turns—often without using turn signals, exceeding the speed limit, distracted driving and other reckless actions.

Use of Electronic Devices

Truck drivers are prohibited from searching the web, texting, inputting information in a GPS device, dialing phone numbers, reading or other activities typically performed on electronic devices. While they may not handle these devices, however, they are able to utilize hands-free technology while transporting cargo.

Hours of Service Adherence

The Hours of Service regulations limit the amount of time a driver can spend behind the wheel before taking breaks. For instance, drivers are required to take a minimum 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving—and drivers may not exceed 14 hours of driving in a day when breaks are also included. These rules are intended to prevent drowsy driving and promote alertness for drivers.

Alcohol or Drug Use

Use of alcohol or controlled substances while behind the wheel can be dangerous for everyone on the road. Any history of abusing these substances while driving is likely to be reflected in a driver’s rating.

Transportation of Hazardous Materials

Trucks must meet federal requirements for transporting hazardous materials, including proper marking and other safety measures related to a particular substance. During an inspection, law enforcement personnel typically check for adherence to these regulations.


Severe or frequent crashes—particularly those involving injuries or wrongful deaths—will be reflected in a driver’s history.

Vehicle Maintenance

Not only are drivers required to perform regular maintenance on their vehicles—they are also required to log these observations and address any issues that come up. This includes faulty or inadequate brakes, bad tires, missing lights or reflective gear, and other mechanical issues.

Driver Health

Certain health conditions, such as sleep apnea, may prevent a driver from returning to work until he or she is deemed safe to drive by a physician.

Vehicle Weight

A truck’s weight is measured regularly while on the road. Truckers who fail to adhere to maximum weight requirements may be unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. As such, overweight vehicles may affect drivers’ safety ratings.

English Competency

Drivers are expected to speak English at a minimum fluency, and must be able to provide information related to the vehicle’s contents, its destination and place of origin, the driver’s employer (if applicable), insurance information, certifications, medical history and maintenance logs.

Unsafe driving in the trucking industry can have consequences far more severe than in passenger vehicle collisions. The federal government is constantly working to address this issue and regulate truck drivers’ safety habits. Victims of truck driver negligence may seek compensation for property damage, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, disability and more. To get the most out of your claim, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.


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