While a number of trucking interests voiced some appreciation that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is trying to do something on the longstanding problem of carriers being held accountable for non-preventable crashes, most voiced serious concerns with the specifics of the program that FMCSA proposed in July to test a process for assessing crashes.
A coalition of seven organizations –Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association (AEMCA); Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation (ASECTT); American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA); Auto Haulers Association of America (AHAA); National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), The Expedite Alliance of North America (TEANA); and the Transportation Loss Prevention & Security Association (TLP&SA) – argued that any miniscule value the program would provide would be more than offset by prejudicial due process flaws and the damaging implication that the crashes not qualifying for removal are somehow a more reliable indicator of carrier safety.
The coalition noted that based on at least two analyses, only 8% to 14% of recordable accidents would be covered by FMCSA's proposed standard for challenging an accident. Given that 75% to 80% of crashes have been found to be the fault of the automobile driver, FMCSA’s proposed standard of review would mean that more than 50% of recordable crashes still should not be counted against the carrier.
These slight benefits are more than offset by serious due process problems, the Coalition stated. For starters, FMCSA's insistence on a conviction for the other driver creates a reverse burden of proof that inappropriately presumes that a crash is preventable unless the other driver is proven liable. Moreover, the mere existence of a process for removing accidents – even one that has such a limited impact – could bolster the incorrect notion among shippers, brokers and the public that the remaining crashes are preventable, the Coalition said. This is problematic for all carriers, but it is especially damaging for small carriers due to the “law of small numbers” – i.e., the potentially extreme volatility in rates when small numbers of trucks are involved.
The Coalition argued that one reason FMCSA undoubtedly resists a more robust scrubbing of crash data is that it would further highlight the data insufficiency problem inherent in the Safety Measurement System. Also, if FMCSA were to move forward with the safety fitness determination (SFD) rule, the existence of any program to remove non-preventable crashes might give the agency justification to consider the Crash Indicator BASIC in SFDs, a situation that would be unacceptable given the failings of FMCSA’s proposed program, the Coalition said.
To view all comments on FMCSA’s proposed crash preventability program, visit http://bit.ly/CrashComments.