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FMCSA says it still intends to to develop crash accountability program

American Trucking Associations’ leaders expressed concern Tuesday over the what the leaders believed to be a recent decision to continue to hold the trucking industry responsible in its CSA program for every truck-involved crash, including those which the truck driver could not have prevented.

The Trucker News Services

3/21/2012

WASHINGTON — A spokesperson for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the agency still is planning to develop a crash accountability initiative that would examine the responsibility associated with crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, but has determined that several critical areas of such an initiative will require further study.

The agency commented on the initiative in response to American Trucking Associations’ leaders expressing a concern over the what the they believed to be a recent decision to continue to hold the trucking industry responsible in its CSA program for every truck-involved crash, including those which the truck driver could not have prevented.

The ATA cited pressure from anti-truck groups as the reason for the current status of the FMCSA’s crash accountability standards.

Before a crash accountability initiative could be implemented, the FMCSA said there needed to be a uniform process for making crash determinations and reviewing police accident reports. The agency also wants to ensure public input in the development process.

“As a result, FMCSA will continue to thoroughly examine these issues as it sharpens CSA as a safety enforcement tool,” an agency spokesperson said.

"We're hopeful FMCSA will live up to its words when it says they still intend to make changes to CSA to avoid blaming truck drivers first in all crashes, even those where the truck driver is clearly not at fault,” Sean McNally, vice president of communications and press secretary at the ATA, said. "However, they have said they have been working on an accountability model for years and recently relayed to ATA that that work would slow because of new 'concerns' following a meeting they had with several anti-industry groups.

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“FMCSA is serious about applying common sense solutions to CSA, then they should take immediate action to wipe carriers' records of crashes that are unambiguously not the fault of the truck driver and commit to a timeline for following through on their initial plans to post a list of their questions in the Federal Register to gather input from experts and stakeholders."

The FMCSA said it had been looking at various options within CSA and its Safety Management System (SMS) to identify carriers that have the greatest risk of future crashes.

As part of this effort, FMCSA has been pursuing the aforementioned initiative, called “crash accountability.” 

The premise of the program was to identify crashes for which a carrier had greater responsibility, and consider weighting them differently than other crashes in the SMS, the FMCSA said, adding that the purpose of the effort was to identify those carriers that are causing crashes, and prioritize them for intervention.

The agency spokesperson said the FMCSA would be undertaking during the coming months an effort to conduct additional research and analysis into these and other topics to determine the feasibility of a program that looks at the cause of crashes and the weighting of those crashes in the SMS.

“With FMCSA moving ahead with its CSA carrier oversight system, it is more important than ever that the agency uses not only the best data, but also common sense to ensure it is targeting the right carriers and drivers for oversight,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said, in a statement released Tuesday while claiming that the FMCSA had backtracked on its commitment to implement a crash accountability determination process in early 2012.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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