Who’s at fault? FMCSA and ATA differ on crash report

Truck crash









FMCSA Study: Costs of crash accountability outweigh benefits


By Oliver Patton

Heavy Duty Trucking



The difficulty and cost of including crash fault in the CSA safety enforcement system appears to outweigh the benefits, according to an analysis by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

American Trucking Associations said it is disappointed by the findings.

The long-awaited report to the U.S. Congress, made public today, says that police accident reports probably don’t provide enough information to support determinations of fault.

It also says that incorporating fault does not consistently improve CSA’s ability to predict crash risk.

Further, the cost of a system that gives the public a chance to weigh in on crash fault determinations would be at least four times greater than the cost of the initial review of the police accident reports, the report says.

The initial review process itself would cost from about $4 million to $11 million, depending on the number of reports.

And, it would take a long time to complete the review process – more than two years from the initial report to completion of an appeal process, the report says.

The report is not the final word on the crash accountability issue. The agency said that these conclusions will inform its final decision, but they are not definitive, and it may have to do more analysis.

CSA (Compliance, Safety Accountability) uses roadside inspection and traffic enforcement data to find the carriers most in need of enforcement action.

The agency includes non-fault crashes in the CSA Safety Measurement System because its ability to distinguish fault is limited and there is a statistical probability that some of the crashes will be the carrier’s fault.

The agency and safety advocacy groups contend that past crashes are a predictor of future crash risk no matter who is at fault.

Carriers say it is illogical and wrong to include non-fault crashes in a system that measures safety performance.

ATA said the agency is delaying action on the issue. The association has repeatedly asked the agency to screen out crashes in which the truck driver is plainly not at fault, said ATA executive vice president Dave Osiecki in a statement.

“Instances where a truck is rear ended by a drunk driver, or hit head on by a motorist traveling in the wrong direction on the Interstate, or as happened just Monday when a truck was struck by a collapsing bridge are clearly not the fault of the professional driver,” Osiecki said.

“(They) certainly should not be used to target his or her carrier for potentially intrusive government oversight.”

FMCSA is asking for comments on the study, and suggestions on what to do next. Specifically, the agency wants ideas for how to improve the data in police accident reports, and if there is other information it should consider. Comments are due in about a month.


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