WASHINGTON – For two years, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been conducting a crash preventability demonstration program to see if it could more accurately recognize possible safety risks on our nation’s roads. Of primary importance to truckers, the program aimed to examine the feasibility, costs, and benefits of determining and displaying the preventability of certain types of crashes.
It appears the agency has seen enough. Back in March, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, while speaking at the Mid-America Trucking Show, said that based on the data that had come in since the demonstration program began in August, FMCSA intended to create a permanent version of the program its Safety Measurement System (SMS).
On Wednesday, FMCSA released an announcement that a permanent version of the crash preventability determination program had been designed, and the intention is to make it a permanent part of SMS as of October 1. In the meantime, the agency wanted the public to have a 60-day window to take an early look at the program and give comments.
Ever since the FMCSA initiated its SMS, the trucking industry has complained about how the Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category, or BASIC, records all accidents without differentiating whether the accident was preventable. FMCSA began the demonstration program, accepting requests for data reviews (RDRs) to evaluate the preventability of certain categories of crashes through its national data correction system, called DataQs.
Based on input from the American Trucking Associations, FMCSA limited the RDR reviews to those that fell into one of eight categories of crash types:
- When the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) was struck by a motorist driving under the influence (or related offense);
- When the CMV was struck by a motorist driving the wrong direction;
- When the CMV was struck in the rear;
- When the CMV was struck while it was legally stopped or parked, including when the vehicle was unattended;
- When the CMV struck an individual committing, or attempting to commit, suicide by stepping or driving in front of the CMV;
- When the CMV sustained disabling damage after striking an animal in the roadway;
- When the crash was the result of an infrastructure failure, falling trees, rocks, or other debris; or
- When the CMV was struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle.
Between August 1, 2017, and May 31, 2019, a total of 12,249 RDRs from 3,558 carriers were submitted to FMCSA for review. Of those, 5,619 were determined to fit into one of the crash types.
After review, FMCSA reported, about 93% of the crashes were determined to have been “not preventable, which high percentages in all eight categories. For example, in the category, “When the CMV was struck in the rear,” 3,675 of 3,927 incidents were determined to be “not preventable.” In the category “When the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) was struck by a motorist driving under the influence (or related offense),” it was 386 out of 417.
Prior to starting the demonstration program, FMCSA specified that in cases in which it was determined the CMV operator was operating with an out-of-service condition at the time, that crash would automatically be deemed “Preventable.” According to FMCSA, the majority of incidents that were determined to be preventable were for that reason.
In its announcement Wednesday, FMCSA said with its revised crash preventability determination program, it plans to adjust and expand the categories of crashes that can be evaluated from eight to 15.
First, FMCSA would combine the crash type involving infrastructure failure and debris and involving CMVs struck by cargo and equipment into a single category. The “Motorist under the influence” category would be changed to “Individuals under the influence,” to include bicyclists and pedestrians.
Several new categories would also be added, based on RDRs that were submitted but did not meet the original categories. They are:
- When the CMV is struck on the side near the rear, when the other driver was in another lane before the impact,
- When the CMV is struck by a vehicle that did not slow or stop in traffic,
- When the CMV is struck by a vehicle that failed to stop at a traffic control device, such as a stop or yield sign or a red light,
- When the CMV is struck by a vehicle making a U-turn or illegal turn,
- When the CMV is struck by a driver experiencing a medical issue that causes the crash,
- When the CMV is struck by a driver who admits to falling asleep or to distracted driving,
- When the crash involved a person who was under the influence, even if the CMV was struck by another vehicle involved other than the one driven by the person who was under the influence, and
- When the crash involved a person driving in the wrong direction, even if the CMV was struck by a vehicle other than the one that was driving in the wrong direction.
FMCSA said it plans to review the results of these new categories for up to 24 months to determine their effectiveness.
Under the proposal, crashes on or after August 1 will continue to display in SMS, but with a notation of “Not Preventable,” “Preventable” or “Undecided.” Crashes deemed “Not Preventable will be removed from SMS Crash Indicator BASIC calculations.
“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 Raymond 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.”
For more information about the proposal, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, click here.
Learn more about FMCSA’s Crash Preventability Demonstration Program here.
Klint Lowry has been a journalist for over 20 years. Prior to that, he did all kinds work, including several that involved driving, though he never graduated to big rigs. He worked at newspapers in the Detroit, Tampa and Little Rock, Ark., areas before coming to The Trucker in 2017. Having experienced such constant change at home and at work, he felt a certain kinship to professional truck drivers. Because trucking is more than a career, it’s a way of life, Klint has always liked to focus on every aspect of the quality of truckers’ lives.