Trucker 742 Crash Lo

Not your fault, driver? FMCSA looks for 'doable' way to score crashes

July 8, 2016
Demonstration program would narrow scope to determine 'non-preventable'

Faced with persistent pressure from truckers—and a recent nudge from Congress—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is set to launch its latest attempt to incorporate crash preventability into the way it compiles and assesses trucking company performance data.

An outline of the demonstration program proposal is set to be published in the Federal Record within days, explained Joe DeLorenzo, director, FMCSA Office of Enforcement and Compliance, on a conference call with media. A pre-publication copy is available here.

“This is an issue we’ve worked on for quite some time now,” DeLorenzo said. “The concern here is, ‘these crashes are on my record and they weren’t my fault’—or they’re not preventable, to use [FMCSA] language—‘so they shouldn’t be counted against me.’ So we did a study couple of years ago to look at this. The new proposal tries to take a look at all of the issues that everybody’s brought up, and kind of get us down to something we can do.”

That study, published in January 2015, looked at:

  • whether police accident reports (PARs) provide sufficient, consistent, and reliable information to support crash-weighting determinations;
  • whether a crash-weighting determination process would offer an even stronger predictor of crash risk than overall crash involvement and how crash weighting would be implemented in the Agency's Safety Measurement System (SMS); and
  • how FMCSA might manage a process for making crash-weighting determination, including the acceptance of public input.

FMCSA now plans to accept requests for data reviews (RDRs) that seek to establish the non-preventability of certain crashes through its national data correction system known as DataQs. The agency would accept an RDR, as part of this program, when documentation established that the crash was not preventable by the motor carrier or commercial driver. The proposed minimum time period for this crash preventability demonstration program would be 24 months.

Under the proposal, a crash would be considered not preventable if the commercial vehicle was struck by a motorist  who was convicted of one of the four following offenses or a related offense:

  1. Driving under the influence;
  2. Driving the wrong direction;
  3. Striking the CMV in the rear; or
  4. Striking the CMV while it was legally stopped.

FMCSA is interested in information related specifically to these four crash scenarios that would be useful for this demonstration program, according to the notice. The agency will also consider single vehicle accidents involving an animal strike, suicide by truck or infrastructure failure.

DeLorenzo

While the Crash Indicator BASIC is not publicly available, some in the trucking industry have expressed concern that customers are requiring carriers to disclose their CSA scores in order to get shipping contracts, the proposal notes.

And FMCSA points out that its recently completed SMS Effectiveness Test shows that, as a group, carriers with a high Crash Indicator have crash rates that 85 percent higher than the national average. In the past, FMCSA has maintained that, in its analysis, crash accountability does not significantly impact the predictive nature of the BASIC—and, therefore, assessing fault would not be a worthwhile use of agency resources.

But the industry hasn’t taken ‘crash accountability doesn’t matter’ for an answer, and truckers have taken the concern to Congress. The FAST Act, the new highway bill, includes language directing FMCSA to continue to look into solutions.

“Since FMCSA began using crash history to rate motor carriers’ safety, ATA has argued that crashes a driver could not have prevented shouldn’t be counted on a carrier’s safety record,” said American Trucking Assns.  President and CEO Bill Graves. “Today’s announced pilot project is a step toward that goal and we appreciate FMCSA adopting ATA’s call to provide a way for carriers to strike these tragic, but non-preventable crashes from their record.”

However, as Lorenzo noted in the press call, the proposal does not include some types of crashes ATA had requested, such as determinations made by law enforcement on the scene. The issue, he noted, is that such determinations can be "nebulous" and difficult for FMCSA to track. However, the agency will remain open to public input on the types of crashes to be included in the demonstration program.

“We scoped this on a really limited basis to try to understand if this is something that really, truly can work,” DeLorenzo said. “We’ve decided that, at least in this scope, we’re going to dedicate the resources to try it out and see what happens.”

About the Author

Kevin Jones | Editor

Kevin has served as editor-in-chief of Trailer/Body Builders magazine since 2017—just the third editor in the magazine’s 60 years. He is also editorial director for Endeavor Business Media’s Commercial Vehicle group, which includes FleetOwner, Bulk Transporter, Refrigerated Transporter, American Trucker, and Fleet Maintenance magazines and websites.

Working from Little Rock, Kevin has covered trucking and manufacturing for 15 years. His writing and commentary about the trucking industry and, previously, business and government, has been recognized with numerous state, regional, and national journalism awards.

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