Trucking Groups Question FMCSA’s “Blame Truck Drivers First” Policy

On March 20, leaders of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) expressed serious concern over the recent decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), after pressure from anti-truck groups, to continue to hold the trucking industry responsible in its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program for every truck-involved crash, including those which the truck driver could not have prevented.
“With FMCSA moving ahead with its CSA carrier oversight system, it is more important than ever that the agency uses not only the best data, but also common sense to ensure it is targeting the right carriers and drivers for oversight,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “By backtracking on their commitment to implement a crash accountability determination process in early 2012 to hold carriers accountable for crashes clearly caused by the actions or inactions of a truck driver, FMCSA has bowed to anti-industry interest groups and unfairly called into question the integrity of police accident reports prepared by America’s law enforcement community.”
SC&RA was part of an ATA-led CSA working group that had requested a process in which police accident reports would be reviewed to determine crash accountability and remove non-preventable crashes from a carrier’s CSA profile. Having agreed to develop such a process, FMCSA shelved these plans after being pressured by groups that questioned the reliability of police accident reports.  
FMCSA’s research and data indicate that when driver actions are cited as a main reason for a car-truck collision, the driver of the smaller, non-commercial vehicle is cited in a majority of cases. Under FMCSA’s “blame truck drivers first” policy, carriers have had their CSA scores elevated for these crashes and many others like them:

  • A December 2011 crash where the driver of a stolen SUV being pursued by police crashed into the back of a tank truck
  • A January 2012 crash involving a Utah State student who was texting and Facebook messaging when she rear-ended a tank truck
  • A February 2012 crash in Pennsylvania where an SUV traveling the wrong way on Interstate 70 collided with a tractor-trailer traveling in the proper direction.
  • A February 2012 crash in Tennessee where an SUV crossed the median of Interstate 40 and struck a tractor-trailer traveling in the opposite direction.

Much of the discussion at SC&RA’s recent Specialized Transportation Symposium (STS) in Kansas City, Mo. involved concerns about inadequacy of the CSA measurement system. In his STS presentation, Jeff Davis, Principal of Fleet Services, LLC, examined how motor carriers were being judged unfairly by their customers, the legal system and  the press customers because of unfair CSA scores.

“Motor carriers are taking freight for lower rates because of CSA scores that did not reflect their true safety performance,” he said. “They can lose clients because of bad basic scores. They don’t want to give you their freight until they know how safe you are.”

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