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The Safety Measurement System (SMS) & Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

Doesn’t it seem as if every time you get a coffee at the truck stop, there’s someone there talking about a new Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) change? And, what is SMS? Isn’t that some kind of chat or text message? It turns out, the US DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a new system of tracking commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders and motor carriers/fleet management driving, inspections, behavior, and safety records, which is known as the Safety Measurement System or SMS. 

This system is updated once a month to add new information to seven categories of crashes or safety violations reported about CDL holders and carriers. SMS is the Federal equivalent of what the state of CA is already using, the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program. Except that CA DMV assesses 1.5 or 3 Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points for violations and the CSA breaks it down into severity levels in assessing points from 1-10 points.

The Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICS) of CSA:

  1. Unsafe Driving 
  • Inattention
  • Reckless driving 
  • No Seatbelts
  • Speeding 
  • Improper/Unsafe lane change
  1. Crash Indicators
  • History of involvement in crashes
  1. Compliance with Hours of Service (HOS)
  • HOS noncompliance 
  • E-log violations and fraudulence or misrepresentation
  1. Vehicle Maintenance
  • Brakes 
  • Defects
  • Lights 
  • Failing to make the required repairs
  1. Alcohol & Drug-Related Incidents
  • Use or possession of a controlled substance
  • Failed a Pre-alcohol Screening (PAS) or chemical test
  • Refusing a Pre-alcohol Screening (PAS) or chemical test
  1. Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) Compliance
  • Leaking containers
  • Improper packaging 
  • Improper or incorrect placards
  • Routes & Maps
  1. Driver Fitness
  • Invalid license
  • Medical unfitness (CMV driver)

The FMCSA Wants You to “Get Road Smart” About the CSA

On the “Get Road Smart” website, they discuss the three methods used to assist in making America’s roads safer. These methods are: Measurement, Evaluation, and Intervention. 

With CSA, safety and compliance means America’s roadways are less dangerous for all drivers. The FMCSA “New Entrant Program” closely monitors the new motor carrier’s safety regulation compliance during the first year and a half of operation or registration in the program, which is probably the most vulnerable period for a CDL holder or any driver. During that period, new entrants are considered to have provisional authority status. The new entrant must pass a safety audit to attain permanent authority. However, the CSA, along with state partners, will continue to monitor the carrier throughout the lifetime of the carrier. The CSA monitors carriers through safety audits, investigations, accident reports, and roadside or business site inspections.   

The website explains how the program and requirements  help carriers operate safely on our roads. The New CSA Entrant websitegives an overview of the program and defines a “motor carrier” as:

  • A vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, and engages in interstate commerce,  
  • A vehicle that transports more than eight passengers  (including the driver) for which they were hired or receive compensation, 
  • transports greater than 15 riders/passengers  (including the driver) not hired or compensated, or
  • A vehicle that transports an amount of hazardous material (HAZMAT) that requires placards in accordance with CFR 49.

It also explains who are not required to participate in the program:

  • Private carriers,
  • Carriers that transport only nonregulated cargo or “For-hire" carriers, or
  • Carriers who only operate within the "commercial zones" exempted from the interstate authority statutes. These commercial zones are the geographic territories, which include multiple states that border major metropolitan areas, such as Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC

These audits include reports and other data for the previous 24 months and carriers can login and use their USDOT number to check their records online.

CSA Point Value Examples

These are just a few examples in each area, for more in-depth information, see the CSA website

10-Point Violations:

  • Speeding, 15 mph or more over the limit
  • Reckless driving 

8-Point Violations:

  • Non-qualified driver, no CDL

7-Point Violations:

  • Speeding, 11-14 mph over the limit
  • HOS violations

5-Point Violations:

  • Improper/unsafe turn
  • E-Log /EOBR violations

4-Point Violations:

  • speeding, six to ten mph over the limit
  • an interstate driver under 21

2-Point Violations:

  • Driver does not meet physical qualifications

1-Point Violations:

  • Unsafe operation of a bus
  • No medical card in possession

The CSA can assess the points to the driver’s or Carrier/Fleet SMS record or both. For instance, when the carrier or fleet management requires the driver to deliver a load in a time that would require the driver to exceed the speed limit, points would be assessed to the carrier, but if the driver receives a ticket for speeding, they also get assessed the appropriate points.

Traffic Ticket Attorneys in Mojave   

As many CDL holders know, the best method to stay off negligent operator lists is to obey traffic laws. However, even the best drivers make mistakes periodically. To avoid CSA violation points when you receive a traffic ticket, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Bigger & Harman have an excellent reputation among truckers and other CDL holders in SoCal and the Central Valley, and represent clients in Mojave on a monthly basis.  We’re the attorneys that the locals hire because we are based right here in Kern County.

Call or send an email today, You will receive a reply with a summary of your options when we return to the office.

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Se habla Español 661.349.9755.


The US DOT FMCSA “Get Road Smart” website

The US DOT CSA website

The US DOT New Entrant to CSA website

US DOT CFR 49 website
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