Crash preventability update: changes and lessons

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As previously noted, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is continuing the crash preventability demonstration program in which certain types of accidents can be designated “nonpreventable”.

However, in announcing the move, the FMCSA expanded the program. It also changed the impact on scoring and provided observations on the program to date.

Why should you care?

The FMCSA is going to remove “nonpreventable” crashes from the SMS Crash Indicator BASIC, otherwise known as the Crash Indicator Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category.

Removing your “nonpreventable” crashes will improve your score. If you don’t take advantage of this opportunity and peer trucking companies do, your score can go up without you having a crash.  This is because their crashes will be removed, improving their scoring in comparison to your company.

Additionally, “nonpreventable” crashes will be noted on your company’s SMS.  It will also be noted on your drivers’ Pre-employment Screening Program score, giving them an incentive to document the evidence necessary for the crash to qualify to be “nonpreventable.”

What types of crashes qualify?

When begun in 2017, there were eight types of accidents that you could submit to be determined “nonpreventable”.

These were for a CMV 1.) struck by a motorist under the influence; 2.) struck by a motorist driving the wrong direction; 3.) struck in the rear; 4.) struck while legally stopped or parked (even if unattended); 5.)  struck by a person trying to commit suicide; 6.) that struck an animal and was disabled; 7.)  involved in an accident as result of infrastructure failure, falling tree, rocks, or other debris; or 8.) struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle.

This list has been expanded to include the following:

  • CMV struck on the side in the rear – police accident report must indicate impact at the 5:00 or 7:00 point on the vehicle;
  • CMV struck by a vehicle that did not stop or slow in traffic – CMV is stopped in traffic; this can include being struck on the side;
  • CMV struck by a vehicle that failed to stop at a traffic control device – stop light, stop sign, yield sign;
  • CMV struck by a vehicle making a U-turn or an illegal turn;
  • CMV struck by a driver who admits falling asleep or being distracted;
  • Crash involved an individual under the influence – even if the drunk driver’s car did not contact the CMV;
  • Crash involving a driver going the wrong direction, even if the wrong-way car does not make contact with the CMV.

Anything else I should know?

You will need to submit a police accident report with every challenge.  This creates a need for you to review the reports to ensure they document the required facts to qualify and, if not, request an amended report.

The program requires you to submit “compelling evidence”.  Thus, evidence, such as photographs and statements, are important as well.

Impress upon your drivers how important this is for your company and for them.  Ensure your accident department reminds the drivers and any independent adjusters they assign to get this evidence.

An accident will not qualify as “nonpreventable” if the driver was operating under an “out of service” criteria at the time of the accident.  Make sure the driver meets all requirements, from license to med card.

So, when does this begin? 

Crashes meeting the revised criteria may be submitted on or after Oct. 1, 2019, for any crashes of those types that occurred on or after Aug. 1, 2019.

Bottom line

Take advantage of it to reduce crash score and prevent it from going up.  Let your drivers know it is to their benefit, and teach them the facts and evidence they need to document to support a claim.

Train your drivers and accident response team of the requirements. You have the opportunity to protect and improve your crash record.

Take advantage of it.


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Doug Marcello, a shareholder with the law firm of Saxton & Stump and chief legal officer of Bluewire, is a trucking defense attorney with a CDL. He had represented trucking clients across the country, having been specially admitted for cases in 35 states. Doug received the 2018 Leadership Award of the ATA Safety Council.

He has served on the advisory board of the American Trucking Research Institute. Doug is a member of numerous trucking organizations, including a board member of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and member of the American Trucking Associations Safety Council as well as trucking law organizations including TIDA and Transportation Lawyers. He has written numerous articles concerning trucking safety and defense which can be found at You can also find his interviews and presentation on his YouTube channel and podcast, “TransportCenter”, on iTunes.

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