WASHINGTON — Preliminary data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveals a steady rise in crashes involving large trucks among companies that entered the industry since 2018.
The data was presented by FMCSA statistician Dan Burrill during the agency’s annual Analysis, Research, and Technology Forum on Wednesday.
The data was presented as a supplement to an analysis of the surge in new common-carrier registrations since just before and during the pandemic. In 2021, for example, FMCSA data found that new registrations for motor carrier authority averaged 17,000 per month, compared with 8,500 per month in 2019. New entrants with one power unit accounted for most of the surge.
Starting with crash data for carriers that entered the industry in 2018, “we found that there’s a general tendency among the new carriers to be in a small number of crashes in their first year of operation, and then for the number of crashes to increase over time,” Burrill said.
In 2018, for example, new entrants were involved in about 1.3% of all crashes involving a large bus or truck. By 2021, the crash rate for those 2018 entrants rose to about 3.5%.
“We do plan to do additional analysis of this data, according to Burrill. “A lot will be assessing new carriers and comparing them to a more well-established group to see if there are differences in safety performance.”
Burrill also noted that while the average number of new registrations has started to fall from a peak in 2021, “it’s still much higher than pre-COVID.”
Other presentations during the forum included a briefing on Level 8 commercial vehicle inspections, a new type of safety inspection that is done electronically while vehicles are at highway speed with no direct interaction with an enforcement officer.
“The vision for the Level 8 inspections is that they collect more data about the carrier, vehicle and driver, including CDL status, hours-of-service compliance information, which is electronically checked against national compliance databases in real time,” said FMCSA Transportation Specialist Tom Kelly.
The information is then used “not only to make a bypass decision [whether or not to conduct a more intensive safety check], but also to record the results electronically without human interaction.”
FMCSA estimates it can conduct as many as 10 times more inspections through Level 8 inspections, which can help the agency better monitor the growing number of trucks on the road, Kelly said. The agency is designing an operational test model for the inspections.
The agency is also developing a model operational safety plan as a template for carriers operating automated driving systems.
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