This is the final post in my series on the new ISS Scores.  Links to previous parts below:

In this final post, I will discuss how to lower your ISS score.

How To Improve Your ISS Score

In a nutshell, to lower your ISS score, simply do the following:

Have sufficient data,
don’t have serious violations, and

keep your BASICs below threshold.

In other words, simply reverse engineer the ISS methodology.  Now, is that advice particularly helpful?  I didn’t think so.  It’s similar to encouraging a student to get better grades by getting better test scores.  A response from a typical teenager to that advice would no doubt be “duh!”  So let’s get to the real question…How best to ensure (1) I have sufficient data, (2) avoid serious violations, and (3) keep my BASICs below threshold? Now you’re talking!  (I said to myself)  Let’s take it piece by piece.

(1) How Do I Ensure My Motor Carrier has Sufficient Data?

As a quick reminder, if your motor carrier has insufficient data, your carrier will automatically be in the yellow zone (50-74) or red zone (75-100).  See Part 3 for more details.  With insufficient data, an ISS score in the desired green zone (1-49) is not even possible.

So, to have a chance at an ISS in the 1-49 range, you would need more inspections.  Generally speaking, it is difficult for a carrier to initiate additional inspections – especially clean inspections.  I have had a few fascinating conversations with safety directors about how to increase inspections – since so much of the conventional safety wisdom is focused on reducing inspections.   Before we leave this item, there is one other point to consider:

Maybe a high ISS score due to insufficient data is not such a problem.

First, a carrier’s ISS score is private.  Second, the basis for recommendation is listed, meaning a high ISS score due to insufficient data simply indicates that the carrier has not had a lot of inspections.  It indicates very little if anything about safety.  Moving on…

(2) How Does My Motor Carrier Avoid Serious Violations?

See Part 2 of this series for the technical definition and list of these serious violations.  A serious violation, in this specific sense, can only be found by a Safety Inspector during an FMCSA investigation.  So, the ways to avoid getting marked for a serious violation are twofold: (a) do your best to ensure your carrier is not committing any of the 100+ possible serious violations, and (b) avoid triggering an FMCSA investigation.  Let’s take these both in turn:

  • Make sure your carrier is not committing serious violations

Review the list of 100+ serious violations and do your best to ensure that your carrier is not committing these offenses.  One serious violation example: Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substance testing program.  Due to the definitions, however, the Safety Inspector has a lot of leeway in his or her subjective judgment.  That being the case, you also want to pursue the second piece of strategy…

  • Avoid triggering an FMCSA investigation

You see, a serious violation, by definition, can only be detected during an FMCSA investigation by a Safety Inspector.  So, if you don’t have an FMCSA inspection, you cannot have serious violations.  Seems simple enough, right?  Well, the good news is that one of the main triggers of FMCSA investigations is CSA BASICs over threshold – which is the last piece of the puzzle discussed below.

By the way – what to do if your carrier is marked with a serious violation?  Unfortunately, only time will take care of it because once a carrier is marked with a serious violation, they are stuck with that designation for a full 12 months – which is why you strongly want to avoid them in the first place.

(3) How Does My Motor Carrier Keep Our BASICs Below Threshold?

This is really the key question of the bunch.  There are 7 BASICs under the CSA Methodology – each calculated differently from the others.  What each BASIC has in common is that a BASIC measure is computed using points accumulated from past violations or, in the case of the Crash BASIC, crashes.  So, again, the simple answer is reduce your points and your BASIC percentile score, which triggers the alert when over threshold, will also fall.  Unfortunately, the simple answer is also simply not helpful.

Since points take 24 months to roll off, you can’t do much about the points already accumulated.  Much of this blog – and Vigillo’s products and service – are dedicated to helping carriers identify, analyze, monitor, and correct situations that are detrimental to a carrier’s safety rating.  Here is a starter list of actions a carrier can take:

Ultimately, the ISS is based on driver safety and roadside performance – so safe, professional drivers are the key to avoiding trouble with CSA and your ISS score.  Good luck and keep safe!

I hope this information about the ISS-2010 is helpful to motor carriers, drivers, and safety professionals.  Please let me know what you’ve seen out there on the road or have questions or advice for readers.