In late March, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is planning, in August, to make permanent a demonstration program that allows truck crashes in which the driver was not at fault to be listed as “not preventable” in Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program scores.
Currently, the program classifies a crash as “not preventable” on a carrier’s Safety Measurement System profile in instances where the carrier is not at fault. However, before that determination can be made, a carrier must submit a request for data review through the agency’s DataQs system, attaching documentation that establishes the carrier could not have avoided the crash.
The Department of Transportation had launched its Crash Preventability Demonstration Project on August 1, 2017, for a two-year run that will conclude at the end of July. Prior to the demonstration project, fatal crashes listed on a carrier’s safety profile did not contain information on whether the carrier was at fault in the crash. Under the demonstration program, if a crash is found to be not preventable, a carrier’s private Crash Indicator Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) score would be recalculated with the crash omitted. BASIC scores underpin carrier ratings in the CSA program.
Under the demonstration program, to be considered for a “not preventable” rating, a crash must have resulted in a fatality, bodily injuries requiring immediate medical treatment away from the scene of the crash or a vehicle being towed from the scene of a crash.
According to the FMCSA, the program was created when industry stakeholders expressed concerns that BASIC in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) would not identify who was at fault in crashes.
Crashes that would be eligible for review in the program include when a commercial motor vehicle (CMV): 1. Was struck by a motorist driving under the influence; 2. Was struck by a wrong-way driver; 3. Was struck in the rear; 4. Was struck while legally stopped or parked, including when the CMV was unattended; 5. Struck an individual committing or attempting to commit suicide when stepping out in front of or driving in front of the CMV; 6. Sustained disabling damage after striking an animal in the roadway; 7. Was struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle; 8. Crashed as a result of an infrastructure failure, falling trees, rocks or other debris.
Reports indicate that the FMCSA does not need to go through the formal rulemaking process to make the demonstration program permanent. Chao also said that additional crash scenarios could be included.
FMCSA’s safety programs use data from 3.5 million roadside inspections and 150,000 crashes annually to prioritize its enforcement resources on those motor carriers that pose the greatest safety risks. The agency points to studies showing that “crash involvement is a strong indicator of future crash risk.”
However, company safety records could be evaluated unfairly for crashes that couldn’t be prevented. Without an indication of preventability, the listing of crashes on the FMCSA’s Safety Management System website could give an inaccurate impression about a company’s record. Stakeholders hope the permanent demonstration program will clean up any confusion and provide carriers with the most productive path possible concerning safety and accountability.
Different types of preventable accidents which could be taken into account include those where a truck was rear-ended, struck by a motorist traveling in the opposite direction or struck by a motorist under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Through the end of 2018, there were close to 9,000 data-review requests submitted by commercial carriers and drivers over the last two years – seeking to confirm that an accident was not preventable, according to FMCSA. As of February 22, the agency had determined that over 4,700 were not preventable.
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