Personal Injury

Commercial Carriers can Dispute Fault in FMCSA Pilot Program

trucks on highway Commercial Carriers can Dispute Fault in FMCSA Pilot ProgramCommercial drivers and carriers are now able to dispute fault in certain types of crashes that authorities deemed preventable on the commercial driver’s part and have these crashes removed from their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) ratings.

In a July 27 Federal Register notice, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that under a new pilot program that started Aug. 1, carriers may submit requests for data reviews under the agency’s Crash Preventability Demonstration Program. The FMCSA will then review and evaluate the preventability of crashes in certain circumstances.

As a crash indicator, the FMCSA uses a Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) rating to calculate a percentile for a motor carrier. The FMCAS’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) weighs crashes based on crash severity, with more weight given to crashes resulting in fatality and injury than to those that resulted in a vehicle being towed from the scene with no injuries or fatalities. Crashes are also time weighted, with more recent crashes having more weight. All reportable crashes are included in the Crash Indicator BASIC regardless of preventability.

The trucking industry has long maintained that this current system is unfair because all crashes, regardless of preventability, factor in a motor carrier’s safety ratings.

Crashes deemed to be non-preventable during the pilot program will still appear in the CSA SMS, but won’t count against the carrier, the FMCSA said in its notice. The agency added that it is important to display all crashes a carrier has been involved in, regardless of the preventability determination. This ensures “the most complete information regarding a motor carrier’s safety performance record.”

Crashes that occurred on or after June 1 are now open for review under the pilot program, which the FMCSA plans to operate for at least two years.

Carriers must dispute crashes by submitting the appropriate documentation to the FMCSA for review. The following eight types of commercial carrier crashes are open for review:

  • Trucks struck by a driver under the influence or a related offense;
  • Trucks struck by a motorist driving in the wrong direction;
  • Trucks struck in the rear;
  • Trucks struck while legally stopped or parked;
  • Trucks that strike a pedestrian or car engaged in suicide attempt;
  • Trucks that sustain disabling damage after hitting an animal in the road;
  • Trucks that crash as a result of infrastructure failure or by falling trees, rocks, or other debris;
  • Trucks struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle.

The FMCSA order said the agency will use the preventability standard in federal regulations that state: “If a driver, who exercises normal judgment and foresight could have foreseen the possibility of the accident that in fact occurred, and avoided it by taking steps within his/her control which would not have risked causing another kind of mishap, the accident was preventable.”