Commercial Trucking News: Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Administration to Look Into Truck Accident Accountability

The FMVCSA (Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Administration) appears to be taking the first steps toward determining if police accident reports covering commercial trucking collisions are truly sufficient to prove conclusively who or what caused any particular traffic accident. To support this effort, the FMVCSA would reportedly set aside approximately three million dollars annually to cover the costs of such an endeavor.

According to news reports, FMVCSA Administrator, Anne Ferro, described the proposed effort in a meeting of trucking executives yesterday out west. Part of that meeting included discussions on how the federal agency has been approaching the issue of commercial truck crash accountability determination over the years. Based on the history of the issue, according to news reports, this has been a major point of contention between the trucking industry and the government for some time.

As Maryland auto accident lawyers and personal injury attorneys, I and my staff have seen our share of commercial truck wrecks; and we know the extensive damage and serious injury that these events can inflict on people and property. Fatal crashes are not uncommon in this category of highway accident statistics, which makes the question of accountability all the more important to the families of those who have lost their lives in such horrendous accidents.

Based on news coming out of Utah, where the aforementioned meeting took place, one of the primary concerns voiced by the trucking industry pertains to the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which the FMVCSA uses to grade trucking companies and other commercial carriers through the federal CSA enforcement program. According to experts, the SMS does not actually assign fault when reporting on traffic accidents involving commercial motor vehicles.

What the SMS does do is provide comparative data between trucking companies, essentially rating each carrier against the others based on the number of crashes over time. What this means is that a trucking carrier crash history alone is weighed against the rest of the industry, and this is the industry’s gripe, without consideration as to who was at fault in each of those accidents. The SMS, it has been stated, assumes an average degree of fault throughout the industry when comparing accident rates between carriers.

The industry likely has a fair sized bone to pick with the FMVCSA in that the overall accident rating of a particular company may not truly show the true percentage of at-fault accidents. In a way, by assuming an equal percentage of fault for the entire industry, particularly safe trucking companies may appear more accident prone than carriers with consistently poor accident histories, in terms of who was at fault.

The trucking industry has long argued that the statistical blending at-fault and not-at-fault commercial trucking collisions is a major flaw in the way the SMS rates commercial carriers. Apparently the FMVCSA is in agreement with the industry. In fact, only a few months ago, the agency was on the verge of introducing a way of differentiating the at-fault and not-at-fault accidents. However the effort at that time was canceled due to worries that it would not be sufficient to cure the inadequacies of the SMS rating system. Hence the latest announcement.

It should be interesting to see what the FMVCSA comes up with in their future research into this area. Although it will not change the severity of trucking-related accidents when they actually do happen, we can only hope that it helps the regulators to zero in more accurately on the more trouble-prone carriers and, ultimately, make our roadways safer in the long run.

Ferro Announces Crash Accountability Research Plans,, July 24, 2012

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