FMCSA needs more small carriers to participate in crash preventability study

November 30, 2018

Jami Jones


There isn’t much worse than working as a professional truck driver and being in a crash. The crash not being your fault seems to make it even worse since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration counts a crash as a crash – regardless of fault. That practice could be drawing to a close.

The agency is looking into nonpreventable crashes. The Crash Preventability Demonstration Program study launched in August 2017. The agency has reviewed more than 7,150 crash records as of September. The vast majority are determined non-preventable. The problem in the eyes of FMCSA leadership is that not enough small motor carriers are taking advantage of the program. In fact, less than 15 percent of the motor carriers submitting crashes for review have 15 trucks or less.

So what is the program?

The program allows motor carriers to request a review of a crash to determine if the motor carrier could have prevented the crash. The demonstration program is limited to eight specific types of crashes. They are when the trucks are struck:

  • By a motorist driving under the influence (or related offense).
  • By a motorist driving the wrong direction.
  • In the rear.
  • While legally stopped or parked, even if unattended.
  • By an individual committing or attempting to commit suicide by stepping or driving in front of the commercial motor vehicle.
  • By an animal in the roadway and sustains disabling damage.
  • By falling trees, rocks and debris or as a result of infrastructure failure.
  • By cargo or equipment from another vehicle.

The demonstration program also only accepts requests for review of crashes that happened after June 1, 2017.

The agency uses the DataQs system to accept requests for review. The DataQs system also fields challenges to CSA reported violations.

Minor bumps in the road

There were early hiccups with the crash preventability program. According to a notice that published in the Federal Register on Feb. 7, users are not always selecting the appropriate category in the DataQs system to have a crash reviewed under the demonstration program.

“For the crash preventability demonstration program, submitters should choose ‘Crash could not be prevented,’ ensure that the crash event date is on or after June 1, 2017, and select an eligible crash type,” the notice states.

Proof that a crash was not preventable by a motor carrier lies with the motor carrier. The agency, however, does not specify what documentation to submit with the review request.

“Because the burden is on the submitter to show by compelling evidence that the crash was not preventable, the submitter should submit all evidence in support of the preventability determination,” the notice states.

However, the agency can request additional information to ensure that the truck operated fully compliant at the time of the crash. Some of that additional information requested can be proof of a valid CDL and medical card.

Finally, if the review ends with the determination of preventable or undecided, motor carriers can reopen the request once. That’s only allowed when additional or new documentation is available.

The information gathered in the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program is not to be used in civil court cases. It is also not a determination of fault or negligence. The decisions also do not remove reportable crashes from the CSA reporting and scoring system. Rather, the information helps the agency’s focus on future crash risk assessments and the impact on CSA’s crash rates.

The program runs through August 2019.

More small motor carriers

During a recent visit to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, FMCSA leadership issued a plea. They want more small motor carriers to participate in the program.

FMCSA Director of Enforcement and Compliance Joe DeLorenzo explains that need is all about data samples.

“Since the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program began in August 2017, we’ve received more than 7,100 Requests for Data Review – with the vast majority submitted by carriers with 50 or more power units,” said FMCSA Director of Enforcement and Compliance Joe DeLorenzo. “It’s still our intention to wrap up the Program after 24 months, by August 2019. When it comes time to conduct the analysis that will determine the future of the program, it will be important to have as much as possible a representative cross-section of all sized carriers.”