The mission statement of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” FMCSA undertakes that mission largely by identifying motor carriers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers with safety records that indicate they need attention or even intervention. FMCSA determines which carriers and drivers to target through the agency’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) as part of its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
Prior driver or carrier-involved crashes rank highly in SMS considerations. After all, logic says error-prone companies and people may repeat that behavior. FMCSA, to its credit, also recognizes that bad things can happen to good people. Since May 2020, FMCSA has accepted requests to review crashes in 16 different categories to determine if they were preventable by the motor carrier or the truck driver. This review process is the Crash Preventability Determination Program. Truck-involved crashes determined to be non-preventable are not used in the SMS calculations of motor carrier safety.
Motor carriers asking for a review must submit a Request for Data Review (RDR) under the FMCSA DataQs program. Between May 1, 2020, and Dec. 30, 2022, motor carriers did so 39,133 times. Approximately 72.5% of those crashes were eligible for the Crash Preventability Determination Program – they fell within one of the 16 crash categories. Of the eligible crashes, 96% were found to be non-preventable.
Where FMCSA has determined that a crash was preventable, a large portion of the time, either the truck had an unresolved out-of-service citation, the truck driver was not properly licensed, or the truck driver failed a post-crash drug and alcohol test. In other words, the truck or its driver should not have been on the road, regardless of the facts surrounding the crash.
Now FMCSA proposes to modify the description of 11 of the 16 crash categories and to add four new crash categories to the Crash Preventability Determination Program, according to a Federal Register notice. The agency says this should expand the number of eligible crash submissions and help FMCSA fine-tune the SMS process.
The modifications in 11 categories typically insert the word “because” to indicate causation. For example, instead of “CMV was struck by a motorist driving in the wrong direction,” the first Crash Preventability Determination Program category would now read “CMV was struck because another motorist was driving in the wrong direction.” Notably, the category where a crash was caused by another driver who was asleep or distracted at the time no longer would require that driver to “admit” their condition.
The four new crash categories are:
- CMV was struck on the side by a motorist operating in the same direction. Currently, eligible side strikes are limited to the very rear of the CMV.
- CMV was struck because another motorist was entering the roadway from a private driveway or parking lot.
- CMV was struck because another motorist lost control of their vehicle.
- Any other type of crash involving a CMV where a video demonstrates the sequence of events of the crash.
FMCSA reminds motor carriers that the burden of proof, including submission of the police accident report, remains on the carrier. But history shows that motor carriers are doing a good job of submitting eligible crashes which were not preventable by the carrier or its driver.
Comments on this FMCSA proposal are due by June 12, 2023. After reviewing the comments, FMCSA will make necessary adjustments to the DataQs program and announce a start date for the expanded Crash Preventability Determination Program.
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