Crash Accountability Research

The trucking industry and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have apparently ironed out a deal where crash accountability ratings will be revised to more clearly assign fault. Carriers are concerned that the current process to assign fault to carriers does not distinguish fault on crash reports.

The agency presently relies on the Safety Measurement System to grade carriers as outlined under the CSA enforcement program. This program fails to distinguish fault.

This flawed reporting creates a system where it rates a carrier’s crash history against the history of other carriers. This results in a presumption of fault throughout the data. The entire process leads to conclusions that previous crashes are predictors of future crashes regardless of whom might be at fault.

The industry has questioned this intermingling of at-fault and no-fault data as a serious flaw in the system. Now, apparently, the agency agrees.

Agency Administrator Anne Ferro has scheduled a year-long process to address this matter. She announced this deal in a speech to the Trucking Association Executives Council (TAEC) in Park City, Utah, this week.

Ferro said the agency will take on and solve three questions that will address carrier’s concerns. They are:

  1. Is there sufficient reliability in police accident reports to determine accountability?
  2. Is determining accountability worth the cost, which is about $3 million annually.
  3. How can the agency better manage this process while also allowing public participation?

This past spring, the agency thought it could address the problem but pulled back after it saw the solution as inadequate. The agency will release a research schedule later this month.

That research will include looking at police accident reports to determine their reliability. The agency will also look at supplementing these reports with other data. Finally, Ferro said that the agency will make a decision on whether an accountability determination will show a better predictability of risk as opposed to the present system.

Ferro said she expects that these changes to the system can be moved through administratively rather than going through a cumbersome rule-making process.

Ferro said she had a good conversation with TAEC members and found their questions quite good. Each member is a seasoned professional with expertise in various areas, she said.

Ferro is a former president and CEO of the Maryland Motor Truck Association and a former member of TAEC.

Dave Osiecki, senior vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at ATA, expressed gratitude to the agency for approving a timeline for the analysis of crash accountability.

“In the near term, FMCSA can and should weight crashes for which little or no analysis is needed,” Osiecki said. “These crash types are well known and well understood by all involved.”

In an interview, Ferro said she was disappointed by the criticism of FMCSA for being unresponsive and not transparent. That created frustration in the trucking industry, she said. That frustration was probably due to her decision to study crash weighing before coming out with proposed solutions.

The agency plans to invite the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee to help make changes to the CSA, Ferro said. The committee will join other experts to form a CSA subcommittee later this month.

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