The numbers don't add up

When I reviewed state-by-state results from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Traffic Enforcement Program last April, I noted a huge disparity in reporting moving driver violations, such as speeding or following too close, to the federal truck safety enforcement database. Nearly 31% of all moving violations reported during the report's three-year time period (1998-2000) occurred

When I reviewed state-by-state results from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Traffic Enforcement Program last April, I noted a huge disparity in reporting moving driver violations, such as speeding or following too close, to the federal truck safety enforcement database. Nearly 31% of all moving violations reported during the report's three-year time period (1998-2000) occurred in only five states, while another group of five reported just 0.7% of all moving violations.

It turns out that reporting disparities don't stop there. We found a similar pattern for vehicle out-of-service violations, which may have implications for the outcome of the SafeStat national safety ranking system. These findings might also help you identify states with the most vigilant reporting efforts.

Arriving at this finding was not easy, since comparable state-by-state data for all roadside inspections is not readily available. With the cooperation of our insured partners, however, we were able to develop a representative sample of roadside inspection data.

First, we combined the electronic carrier profile information from 15 national trucking companies for a 24-mo. period (August 2000-July 2002). Then we removed any company and driver name information to protect identities. We were able to work with a data set that included 65,536 inspections, with 4,659 driver out-of-service violations, 6,389 vehicle out-of-service violations, and 6,514 moving violations.

We checked for the kind of violations that populate the SafeStat national safety ranking system. Our targeted driver out-of-service events included over-hours, false logs, and driving while disqualified; vehicle out-of-service events included defective lights, brakes and tires, as well as improper load securement.

Our findings indicate that ten states (CA, TX, MD, MO, WA, OR, OH, TN, MT and IA) represent nearly 49% of all reported driver out-of-service events. Not surprisingly, these same states represent nearly 49% of total inspections. The ten states reporting the fewest violations are ND, WV, MA, OK, NJ, AK, DE, RI, NH, and DC. As a group they make up less than 1% of reported violations and less than 2% of total inspections.

For vehicle out-of-service data, the “top ten” (CA, MO, OH, MD, TX, NY, PA, IL, NM and OR) are responsible for nearly 64% of all reported vehicle out-of-service events and 51% of total inspections. The “bottom ten” (ME, OK, DE, MA, WY, VT, NH, RI, DC and AK) represent about 1.2% of reported violations and about 2% of total inspections.

Our data review indicates that ID, TN, OR, NM and WA continue to lead the pack, with 43.4% of total reported violations. CA, IL, TX, VA and NJ once again ended up at the bottom, reporting only 55 violations, or 0.8% of the total.

These findings certainly indicate a disparity in the state-by-state reporting of critical driver and vehicle out of service events. Interestingly, CA, TX, MD and MO rank high in both driver and vehicle event reporting. Additional research is needed to verify whether these results can be replicated on a larger scale. We also need to compare state-specific violation reporting rates with exposure data — number of miles traveled, for example.

At a minimum, these preliminary findings reveal that carriers that travel many miles in “high reporting” states could end up with more negative safety data on record, aka higher SafeStat scores, than carriers that travel many miles in “low reporting” states. In addition, fleet managers should use this information to ensure increased hours-of-service and vehicle condition vigilance when their drivers are traveling in states where reporting records are high.

Finally, ask yourself this: Why do CA and TX end up on such extreme ends of the scale? Why do they have such high driver and vehicle out-of-service levels, yet such low moving violation levels?

Perhaps that's a question that FMCSA needs to look at more closely.




Jim York is the manager of Zurich North America's Risk Engineering Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.

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