Training, Inspections and Maintenance are Keys to Achieving Top CSA Scores

happy truck driver

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program, vehicles and drivers accumulate points for violations. In 2019, the top three vehicle violations came in as inoperable required lamp, operating a commercial motor vehicle without proof of a periodic inspection, and clamp or roto type brake out of adjustment. The top three driver violations for 2019 were speeding 6-10 miles an hour over the speed limit, failure to obey a traffic device and failure to use a seatbelt. Many violations are easily preventable with the right maintenance and driver training.

“It is all about accountability for the drivers,” said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske Truck Leasing. “The key ingredient, like anything, is communication.”

Mike Hasinec, former vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, said that, for the most part, Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) violations are preventable. “Drivers, by Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, are supposed to perform a thorough inspection of their commercial vehicles before heading out each day and when they return. Timely identification of defects and working with their service providers should eliminate/mitigate these types of violations,” he said.

If drivers aren’t doing pre-trip inspections it means your dispatcher or supervisors aren’t doing their jobs, Pagesy said. “You live and die by your frontline supervisors,” he explained.

Pagesy said Penske works very hard to make sure customers’ preventive maintenance (PM) is current, and customers need to make time for maintenance. “If you have a full-service lease vehicle and you’re not running high miles and the truck is running well, sometimes they don’t want to drop the truck off for service,” Pagesy said.

Title Care

One of the top 10 vehicle violations in 2019 was tire tread depth less than 2/32 of an inch measured in a major tread groove. Penske has standards of 5/32 for steer and 3/32 for drive. “Our average tires get replaced at 6/32 and 4/32,” Hasinec said.

Pagesy noted that it takes time for tires to wear out. “If drivers get pulled over for inadequate tread on a tire, it is because they didn’t do a pre-trip,” he said, adding that regular safety meetings where you remind drivers of requirements can keep safety a top priority.

Vehicle Violations

Proper maintenance and proper pre- and post-trip inspections can mitigate a number of the top CSA violations, such as the missing periodic inspection, which is an external sticker, Hasinec said. A pre-trip would also help drivers identify other violations, such as a missing license plate, which can get knocked off by a liftgate, or a burned-out lightbulb.

Penske’s customer service representatives also check lights, along with other items, when vehicles fuel at Penske locations. Spec’ing LED lights can also mitigate the occurrence of lights burning out as they last much longer, Hasinec said. “Incandescent lights are prone to go out. You could look at it at 3:00, and an hour from now, it is burned out. The technology isn’t as reliable,” he explained.

To minimize the risk of a roto-type brake being out of adjustment, Hasinec advises drivers to apply the brakes several times at a high PSI level—90 or better—when pulling into a scale.


Training is the best angle to start with when emphasizing the importance of following speed limits, Hasinec said. “Some telematics systems can record this also when tied in with GPS. For example, as the system knows the posted speed versus the traveling speed of the vehicle.”

Pagesy said a lot of companies are combining telematics technology with electronic logging devices to monitor drivers’ speeding behavior. “Hopefully, they can do corrective counseling before they can get pulled over by the authorities,” he said.

Road and cruise speeds can be set or adjusted in vehicles today to what the customer wants as long as it fits inside guidelines pertaining to how it is spec’d, Hasinec said. “They can also set the over-speed one and two settings on vehicles that have engine brakes. If the vehicle has an engine brake and, for example, the road/cruise speed is set at 70 miles-per-hour, I can program a two miles-per-hour over-speed one setting so that the engine brake comes on at a stage one level to slow the unit down, “he said. “I can then set level two at four miles-per-hour, and all three stages of the engine brake will come on when the unit hits 74 miles-per-hour.”

Best Practices

Pagesy said it could be helpful to keep the same driver in the same truck all the time. “He gets used to the truck, and he is held accountable for the truck,” he said, adding that staying in the same truck can ensure drivers know where the insurance and registration are. “Make sure they keep the registration and insurance in the same place in every truck, so if you do move them around, they’re not at a loss where to locate something,” he said.

Hasinec said people respect what they expect you’re going to inspect. “If you don’t have a regular cadence where you validate what is going on, some people get slack,” he said. “They have to be reminded periodically.”

The key ingredient to a successful driver and vehicle safety is communication,” Hasinec said. “If you can get people to understand the why’s, you typically have a better chance of them buying into what you’re asking.”

Pagesy recommends Penske customers have regular safety meetings and daily driver huddles. “You need to continually make safety a priority, remind them to do thorough pre-trip inspections, and make sure they have the appropriate paperwork, such as their CDL, proof of insurance and registration,” he said. “It is really about being a prepared driver when you exit the yard.”

March 2020