This story appears in the July 18 print edition of Transport Topics.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration outlined plans for a two-year program allowing certain nonpreventable crashes to be removed from motor carriers’ public and private safety profiles.
The test run is intended to evaluate a process that could mitigate long-standing industry concerns over the agency’s current practice of listing for public view all carrier- reportable crashes, even when a driver or carrier is not at fault.
Motor carriers also have balked at the inclusion of all reportable crashes — especially when a carrier was not at fault — in calculating Compliance, Safety, Accountability program Crash Indicator BASIC percentiles used to predict a carrier’s crash risk.
Industry stakeholders agreed that the program is a promising first step to end what is perceived as a flaw in the CSA program.
“Our members in and of themselves are never afraid to be judged,” said David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Association. “They just want to be judged correctly.”
Under the program, when a crash is determined to not be preventable on a driver or carrier’s part, it would be removed.
The program was outlined in two separate Federal Register announcements July 12. A formal date for implementation has not been disclosed, the agency said.
FMCSA said the new crash- accountability review process would begin when a carrier files a request for a data review backed by a variety of documentation. That documentation could include proof of a conviction of the party causing the crash, law enforcement reports and insurance reports from all parties involved in a crash.
The agency is seeking public comment through Sept.12.
FMCSA said it wants to know what other documentation might assist the agency or a third-party contractor in making nonpreventable or preventable crash determinations.
Specifically, FMCSA said the demonstration program likely would allow the removal of crashes from a carrier’s safety record when a truck or bus was struck by a motorist convicted of driving under the influence, driving in the wrong direction, striking a commercial motor vehicle in the rear or striking it when it was legally stopped.
In addition, the agency said the pilot program could allow requests for data reviews of crashes in which a motor carrier struck an animal and those in which a motorist who struck a commercial motor vehicle was speeding or attempting to commit suicide, as well as crashes due to infrastructure failure.
The Crash Indicator BASIC percentiles are available only to motor carriers who log in to view their own data, as well as to FMCSA and law enforcement users.
When an accident is determined to be preventable, it still will be listed on the agency’s public website with a note that reads, “FMCSA reviewed this crash and determined that it was preventable.”
When a conclusive decision cannot be made by data reviewers, it still will be publicly listed on the agency website with a note that reads, “FMCSA reviewed this crash and could not make a preventability determination based on the evidence provided.”
“ATA hopes this demonstration project is a step toward a more robust and complete system for carriers to dispute and ultimately strike crashes that were not the fault of the commercial driver,” said American Trucking Associations’ Bill Graves, an adviser to the federation and formerly its president. “By improving crash accountability and data, FMCSA can improve the performance and accuracy of the CSA monitoring system — a goal ATA wholeheartedly supports.”
Joe DeLorenzo, director of FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, said the program is intended to “add meat” to a January 2015 FMCSA request for industry comment.
DeLorenzo said FMCSA incorporated some ATA recommendations filed in earlier public comments.
However, he said the agency did not agree with ATA’s suggestion that it use police reports as the standard of who “was found responsible by law enforcement for the crash.”
“Previous research by the agency showed that police accident reports do not generally provide a clear determination as the preventability of a crash,” the agency said in its written announcement. “Relying on a conviction related to one of the crash scenarios described ensures the agency will have a clear record on which to base its determination.”