Three years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began a demonstration project to identify whether certain commercial motor vehicle-involved crashes could be determined as not preventable. FMCSA started with eight categories of crashes, expanding that to 15 categories in 2019 when it solicited public comments on making the program permanent.

Now, FMCSA has announced the completion of the Crash Preventability Demonstration Project and the beginning of the Crash Preventability Determination Program (CPDP).

Motor carriers and drivers may submit crashes that occurred on or after Aug. 1, 2019 for review under the CPDP by sending a Request for Data Review (RDR) to the national data correction system, better known as DataQs. Under the finalized program, all RDRs must include the police accident report for that crash. Fleets and drivers are also encouraged to submit supplemental documents, photos and videos to help demonstrate that the crash fits one of the categories eligible for review and affirm that the crash was not preventable.

The following categories of crashes are eligible for CPDP review:

  • CMV struck in the rear
  • CMV struck by another vehicle traveling in wrong direction or making illegal turn
  • CMV struck while parked or legally stopped
  • CMV struck by failure of the other vehicle to stop at traffic control device
  • CMV struck by other driver under the influence or by another vehicle forced into CMV by a drunk driver
  • CMV struck by other driver with medical issues, or who was admittedly falling asleep or was engaged in distracted driving
  • CMV struck by falling cargo/equipment/debris or by an infrastructure failure
  • CMV strikes an animal
  • CMV struck in an attempted suicide
  • CMV struck in a rare or unusual manner (real-life example: truck hit by skydiver)

FMCSA provides detailed guidance on the CPDP, as well as graphics depicting crashes that are eligible for review and those that are not.

Previously, FMCSA used all crashes, regardless of preventability, in calculating a motor carrier’s Crash Indicator BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) as part of its Safety Measurement System (SMS). Poor scores in the BASICs could lead FMCSA to categorize the motor carrier as high risk for investigation and enforcement purposes.

Now, FMCSA will exclude from the Crash Indicator BASIC calculation any crashes determined to be not preventable. While the motor carrier’s list of crashes will remain visible to the public on the SMS website, FMCSA will now separately list those crashes with a “not preventable” determination, with a notation to that effect. FMCSA will also note crashes considered not preventable in the driver’s record in Pre-Employment Screening Program.

FMCSA emphasizes that the CPDP determination relates to the “preventability” of a crash and is not a finding as to the legal “fault,” liability, or negligence of any party involved in the crash. That is the realm of the judicial system in each jurisdiction. Under 49 U.S.C. (United States Code) section 504(f), the CPDP determinations are not admissible in a civil action for damages.

The CPDP determinations also have no effect on a motor carrier’s safety rating or ability to operate, and will not result in FMCSA penalties against the motor carrier or driver. The CPDP determinations go only to the SMS to help determine how or whether to prioritize motor carriers for further monitoring. FMCSA expects a CPDP review to take two to three months.

Motor carriers and drivers should welcome the potential to improve their SMS scores and to receive public recognition that they could not have prevented certain crashes.