Potential gap looms for crash preventability proposal

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

On August 5, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) announcement of its intent to make the Crash Preventability Determination Program permanent brought many cheers from the trucking industry. 

Penalizing carriers for non-preventable crashes, particularly through Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores and publicizing those crashes on the Safety Measurement System (SMS) website, does not accurately represent the safety practices of that carrier and misdirects FMCSA’s resources toward carriers that are not truly high-risk, which is why the industry advocated for a change. The resulting Crash Preventability Demonstration Program has been wildly successful and resulted in approximately 94% of the crashes submitted by truck and bus companies to be designated as “not preventable” by the motor carrier or commercial driver.

Naturally, it is imperative for this demonstration program to continue past the July 31, 2019 expiration date to ensure fair crash data reporting, which is why FMCSA has decided to make it permanent. While the proposed permanent program will maintain most of the structure of the demonstration program, the Agency is planning to move forward with removing “not preventable” crashes from the SMS Crash Indicator Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) and expanding the types of crashes that can be evaluated from eight to fifteen.  

However, one point being overlooked as we celebrate the much-needed progress of this program is the large hole in time now exists between when the demonstration program ended and when the new permanent program will begin. FMCSA’s website explains that the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program was expected to last a minimum of 24 months, or from June 1, 2017 through July 31, 2019. Requests for Data Review (RDRs) on crashes which occurred during that date range will continue to be accepted through September 30, 2019. 

For crashes that occurred after August 1, 2019, carriers will have to wait until the rulemaking process to make this program permanent concludes in order to submit those RDRs to FMCSA. The Federal Register notice on the proposed changes indicates that public comments will be accepted through October 4. After this comment period closes, it is unclear how long it will take before the permanent program will be up and running, assuming the comments submitted are positive and FMCSA decides to continue moving forward. While an official rulemaking could take over a year, reports have stated that this proposal may not need to go through the formal rulemaking process.

Hopefully the reports are true, and the permanent program will go into effect shortly after the October 4 comment deadline so that carriers will not have to wait months and months before submitting their RDRs for accidents occurring after August 1. 

FMCSA has a laudable goal of data-driven policymaking, and truckload carriers need the data generated through the crash preventability program to help affect positive safety change for our industry.