FMCSA to study how to determine crash fault

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. regulators are preparing a two-year demonstration program that will help determine which “less complex” crashes should be considered preventable for the purpose of a carrier’s safety rating.

It’s the latest step in an overhaul of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which scores violations under Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvements Categories (BASICS) including a “crash indicator”.

Carriers have for some time been asking how to remove scores for crashes that they don’t believe are their fault, Joe DeLorenzo, director – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance, said during a conference call. As it exists, the crash indicator does not specify a carrier’s role in the crash or whether it could have been prevented. But it does give added weight to crashes that involve injuries or fatalities. A recently completed Safety Measurement System (SMS) Effectiveness Test also shows that motor carriers with high crash indictor BASICs have crash rates that are 8% higher than the U.S. average.

While the crash indicator is not publicly available, the FMCSA reports that some customers are asking carriers to supply the scores before signing contracts.

“Since FMCSA began using crash history to rate motor carriers’ safety, ATA has argued that crashes a driver could not have prevented shouldn’t be counted on a carrier’s safety record,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “Today’s announced pilot project is a step toward that goal and we appreciate FMCSA adopting ATA’s call to provide a way for carriers to strike these tragic, but non-preventable crashes from their record.”

“ATA hopes this demonstration project is a step toward a more robust and complete system for carriers to dispute and ultimately strike crashes that were not the fault of the commercial driver,” he said. “By improving crash accountability and data, FMCSA can improve the performance and accuracy of the CSA monitoring system – a goal ATA wholeheartedly supports.”

Under the proposed demonstration program, carriers will use a data correction system known as DataQs to make their case under Requests for Data Reviews (RDRs), submitting everything from insurance reports to other relevant information. The FMCSA is trying to determine exactly what kind of information would be needed on top of Police Accident Reports (PARs). Dashcam videos could be an option.

Simply accepting police determinations of responsibility are “a little bit too nebulous for us”, DeLorenzo said, adding that every crash is different, even though states are required to supply specific data. “That’s something we’re all working with the states on.”

Through the study, crashes could be rated as “not preventable” if a truck is struck in the rear, while legally stopped, or by a motorist driving under the influence or in the wrong direction. An RDR can also be submitted through DataQs when a crash does not involve other vehicles, such as animal strikes, people committing suicide, or an infrastructure failure. But submitted information will still have to show that the truck driver took “reasonable action” to avoid a crash and didn’t contribute to it.

Speeding or using a cellphone at the time of an animal strike? That crash would be considered preventable.

The American Trucking Associations had presented a broader list, but FMCSA decided against proposals such as limiting crash indicators to carriers who are “found responsible by law enforcement for the crash.” Some of the presented scenarios were too broad and might not lead to convictions, the regulators say.

One potential outcome of the study could involve identifying specific categories of crashes that are automatically considered preventable or not, DeLorenzo said, responding to a question from Today’s Trucking.

During the study, original crash indicators will be reported alongside recalculated scores – referencing whether the finding is not preventable, preventable, or undecided — but it is still unknown exactly how that will be displayed.

While carriers need to record a minimum of two collisions before recording some sort of crash indicator today, the FMCSA is also looking at the possibility of raising that threshold to three crashes, DeLorenzo said.

For further information, contact Catterson Oh, Compliance Division, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, telephone 202-366-6160, or email

Comments can be submitted online at, referencing docket number FMCSA-2014-0177.




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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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