The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the central agency governing commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), such as large tractor-trailers. They recently announced a new demonstration program, or “pilot” project, that involves how commercial truck crashes are classified. The initiative's purpose is to ultimately allow the agency to make better decisions about crash prevention.
The existing classification system has a broad-ranging category of crashes termed as “preventable”. Accidents deemed as preventable have a negative effect on a carrier's Compliance, Safety & Accountability (CSA) score. Carriers will now have the capability to initiate a request for data review (RDR), essentially an appeal, which reconsiders whether the truck accident was preventable. Submission will be processed via the organization's DataQs system and accommodates video files.
Current Tractor-Trailer Crash Reporting
Their Safety Measurement System (SMS) in conjunction with the Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) system gathers accident data so carriers exhibiting a pattern of high-risk vehicle operation are identified and subjected to safety evaluations and improvement programs. The agency requires all CMVs involved in collisions leading to injury, a fatality, or significant vehicle damage to be reported.
In this new proposed format, crashes deemed as “”not preventable” will have a reduced impact on a carrier's CSA score and be classified at a level less subject to regulatory scrutiny. Critics of the idea expressed concern about the interpretation that accidents deemed “not preventable” would indicate the carrier was “not at fault” in the crash. The agency responded saying that fault determinations are a separate legal issue and will have no influence on preventability.
Potential “Non-Preventable” Crash Scenarios
The types of crashes that will be considered for RDR include:
- The CMV was hit by a driver operating under the influence of alcohol/drugs
- The CMV was hit by a vehicle traveling the “wrong way”
- When a motorist or individual enters the CMV's path of travel in a suicide attempt
- Collisions where the vehicle is hit in the rear
- The CMV is hit by a motorist while it is legally parked or stopped
- Collisions where vehicle damage results from an animal in the road
- Crashes caused by trees, rocks, or fragments entering the road
- Collisions involving the CMV being struck by parts or cargo from another vehicle
Program Launch & Relationship to Fault Determination
Those submitting RDRs have the burden of proving the crash could not have been prevented. Determinations of preventability will remain separate and distinct from any assignment of fault or legal liability associated with the crash. The intent of the program is to continue allowing all crash data to be made publically available, regardless of whether the crash is deemed preventable or not. The FMCSA feels that the complete presentation of all crash-related data is needed to provide an assessment of a carrier's overall performance relating to safety. RDRs began being accepted in August 2017 and are solely for crashes the occurred on or after June 1, 2017.