During recent congressional hearings on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program (the CSA program), the trucking industry took aim at this important program, attempting to undermine this important safety program. In fact, the American Trucking Association, while claiming to support the safety goals of the CSA program, told a congressional panel that in order to achieve the program’s safety goals, some of its most important protections must be dismantled.
The CSA program, which was put in place two years ago, was designed to reduce accidents involving commercial motor vehicles, such as trucking accidents and bus crashes. The program provides scores for various commercial carriers, based on safety and accident data, as well as the number of maintenance, equipment, and driver regulation violations a company incurs. This allows the FMCSA to set priorities for enforcement and review, and allows potential clients to selects truck and bus lines based upon reliable safety ratings.
The trucking industry argues, however, that data weaknesses and problems in how scores are created render the program ineffective.
Chief among the industry’s concerns is that the CSA program includes all crashes in a company’s score, even if a police or other report has not found the company or its driver at fault, or has found that the crash was not preventable. As our experienced trucking accident attorneysknow, however, prior crashes are the single greatest predictor of future crashes, regardless of whether those prior accidents were preventable or the company was found to be at fault. In fact, regardless of fault or preventability, the American Transportation Research Institute has determined that a prior crash increases the likelihood of a future crash by 87 percent.
Likewise, police reports determining fault in a truck accident can be unreliable. Police officers at the scene of a crash have a myriad of duties, including providing medical care and ensuring the safety of other motorists on the roadways, which often prevent them from concentrating on determining fault. In addition, in many cases the only surviving or conscious victim of the crash is the truck driver, who has an obvious conscious and unconscious bias in reporting to the police on what occurred.
In fact, a review of police accident reports here in Chicago, by the Chicago Tribune, determined that at least 70 percent of police reports were missing data. And a whopping 30 percent of these reports contained errors.
The trucking industry’s focus on incorporating the “preventability” of crashes into CSA scores is also a red herring. No agency or report currently attempts to determine whether a truck accident was “preventable” – except the civil justice system. Neither police reports nor the FMCSA makes this determination because to do so would be prohibitively expensive, involving the use of witnesses, experts, and accident reconstruction.
The trucking accident attorneys of Passen & Powell fully support the CSA program and the step forward in safety which it represents. The trucking industry’s attempt to dismantle this important program, piece by piece, is no more than pure self-interested lobbying. We urge the FMCSA and Congress to stand firm, and keep this important program in place, with all the important protections it currently contains.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago trucking accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.