FMCSA Announces Crash Accountability Study

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After months of furious arguments, FMCSA has announced a year-long study process to look at the best way to determine accountability for crashes listed publicly in the CSA system.

Over the last few months, the trucking industry has voiced outrage at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the display of crashes on a carrier’s CSA page. Currently, if a carrier has been involved in a crash, that incident is listed on the carrier’s public CSA report. Unfortunately, what is not listed is any description of the accident or a determination of fault.

Controversy Boiling Over

Understandably, there is a great deal of objection to this. As it currently stands, if you were hit by a drunk driver, you would have the same notification as if you yourself drove drunk and hit another vehicle. With brokers, insurers and customers reviewing the CSA scores more and more (and with more litigation aimed at those three parties), those notifications can prove deadly to carriers. Get hit by a drunk driver and there is a very real chance that your business will get hit a month or so down the line.

In March of this year, FMCSA Administrator, Anne Ferro, caused an outrage when she announced that a planned fix to this situation would be delayed. The plan had been to use the police reports of the crash as the bas is for fault. However, Ferro claimed that the agency had received criticism from unnamed Public Interest Groups saying that the police reports might be an unreliable determiner of fault. The decision was made to keep the CSA page in its current format and to come up with a solution at an unannounced future date.

Research Plan

Needless to say, this did not go over well with the motor carrier industry and, over past few months, pressure — including rare bipartisan criticism from Congress — has built and built for FMCSA to change what they are doing.

Finally, the Agency has released a plan of action to deal with the situation. The industry should not, however, take this as a sign that FMCSA is definitely going to change its system. In a press release regarding the plan, the agency wrote:

“Today, the crash reports submitted by the States do not include a determination of whether the motor carrier is responsible for causing the crash. Analysis shows that the current process of including all crashes a motor carrier is involved in is a good predictor of future crash risk."

Instead of out-right changing the system, FMCSA is planning on spending a year studying whether refining this information (by including fault) can help to predict future crashes.

Three Key Questions

The study will look to answer three key questions:

1. A broad study of PARs [Police Accident Reports] across the Nation will attempt to determine whether they provide sufficient, consistent, and reliable information that can be used to determine the carrier’s role in a given crash and what other information, including input from other entities in the outcome of a crash determination, should be used to supplement PARs for maximum reliability.

2. FMCSA will conduct analysis to determine if the carrier’s role in a given crash is a better indicator of future crash risk. If so, the analysis will determine the impact of weighting crashes differently in SMS.

3. Throughout this analysis, research will also be reviewed from similar programs in other countries (e.g., Canada) to understand their analysis, processes, and applicability to SMS.

Announcement Next Summer

While industry insiders may be happy to see some change (however grudgingly given), they may not be happy with the time frame. Results from the study are not due until the Summer of 2013. A plan of action will be developed from those results although Ferro herself has indicated that change will come via an administrative process, not via a public rulemaking session.

Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • • Vol. 112, No. 748 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2012