Federal regulators are moving ahead on transitioning into a long-term crash preventability determination program by seeking comment on expanding the types of crashes that carriers can have removed from a government database that evaluates their safety.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March plans to make permanent the 24-month “Crash Preventability Demonstration Program.” The demonstration program, launched by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) in August 2017, ended on July 30.
In moving to a permanent program, the agency announced today (July 31) a proposal to remove crashes found to be “not preventable” by the motor carrier involved in a crash from its Safety Measurement System. It also proposes modifying and expanding the set of crash types that can be evaluated for removal from the system.
“Data drives our agency’s decisions, and the information we’ve received and analyzed during the demonstration project informed our action today to expand and improve the crash preventability program,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. “We’ve listened to carriers, drivers and other commercial motor vehicle stakeholders throughout each step of this process, and strongly encourage all interested parties to submit comments on our proposed changes.”
The FMCSA’s safety programs use data from 3.5 million roadside inspections and 150,000 crashes each year to prioritize its enforcement resources on those motor carriers that pose the greatest safety risks. The agency has cited studies showing that crash involvement is a strong indicator of future crash risk.
But the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other groups have contended that company safety records can be evaluated unfairly for crashes that they could not have prevented. Without an indication of preventability, the listing of crashes on the FMCSA’s Safety Management System public website “can give an inaccurate impression about the risk posed by a company,” they argued to the FMCSA.
Between August 1, 2017 and May 31, 2019, individual carriers submitted 12,249 requests for data review (RDRs) to the FMCSA. Of those, 56 percent were confirmed as one of the eight original crash types eligible for evaluation, including those where a truck was rear-ended, struck by a motorist traveling in the opposite direction, or struck by a motorist under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Approximately 93 percent of the eligible RDRs were found to be not preventable crashes by the motor carrier, the agency found.
Trucking companies with the largest number of crashes found to be not preventable include large carriers such as FedEx Freight (NYSE: FDX), J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT), Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), Knight-Swift (NYSE: KNX) and Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN).
FMCSA pointed out that small carriers that had “not preventable” crashes removed through the demonstration program have the largest reductions in their crash indicator percentiles. “However, most of the small carrier population did not participate,” the agency stated. “To improve representation, small carriers could be encouraged to participate in the agency’s future program.”
In its latest proposal, the agency is considering two changes to the original crash types: combining those involving infrastructure failures and debris with vehicles struck by cargo and equipment; and changing “motorist under the influence” to “individual under the influence” to include crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
FMCSA is also proposing to test an additional eight crash types for eligibility as “not preventable,” including those where a truck is hit by a vehicle that did not stop or slow in traffic, struck by a vehicle making an illegal turn, and struck by a driver experiencing a medical issue.
Comments must be received 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly. Once comments are received and the changes evaluated, FreightWaves has been told there likely will not be a formal rulemaking process needed to make the program permanent.