In FMCSA's eyes, you must blame the carrier

March 21, 2012

The news that FMCSA will not remove truck crashes from carriers’ CSA scores, even in instances where the truck driver was not at fault, is troubling but certainly not surprising in our modern society.

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) led a call to adjust CSA ratings – which are publically available – when a truck-involved crash is scored. The issue, ATA and others claim, is that carriers are being unfairly burdened with responsibility for accidents that their drivers have no control over. A car slams into the rear of a stopped trailer or a car crossing the center line and hitting a truck are just two examples.

In both cases, the driver of the truck would not have been at fault, but the CSA report notes the “violation” just the same. In fact, according to the FMCSA’s own Large Truck Crash Causation study, more than 72% of accidents involving large trucks with a death resulting were not the fault of the truck driver, yet under CSA’s scoring, the public would never know that. And the public, including shippers, sees that the carrier has a “history” of incidents. That could lead to a loss of business, loss of goodwill, and ultimately, a loss of jobs.

For no sane reason.

“With FMCSA moving ahead with its CSA carrier oversight system, it is more important than ever that the agency uses not only the best data, but also common sense to ensure it is targeting the right carriers and drivers for oversight,” ATA president & CEO Bill Graves said in a statement. “By backtracking on their commitment to implement a crash accountability determination process in early 2012 to hold carriers accountable for crashes clearly caused by the actions or inactions of a truck driver, FMCSA has bowed to anti-industry interest groups and unfairly called into question the integrity of police accident reports prepared by America’s law enforcement community.”

I understand the logic of including the information in the CSA data – I think- but there doesn’t seem to be any rational explanation for it. There’s the old saying that “trouble just seems to find certain people,” but otherwise safe individuals and companies should not be penalized for the actions of others.

If this policy must continue, than perhaps it’s time for state Dept. of Transportations to require two hours of instruction on how to drive safely around big rigs for all drivers requesting a license as a condition of being approved.

Where this will eventually end, of course, is in the courts. A company somewhere that loses business as a result of an unavoidable accident that appears on their record is going to sue the automobile driver who caused the accident. It’s inevitable. And that will cost more than simply removing crash data from a file.

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