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Why are all crashes used regardless of a carrier’s accountability?

The Safety Measurement System might seem like quite the mystery – how does it calculate and figure out its rankings and numbers, anyway? For trucking businesses, these rankings, including the Crash Indicator, are a big deal. Why are all crashes used in these calculations, even the ones where carriers are not at fault? It doesn’t seem fair. But it’s not as dire as it seems, and there is a reason for it. We’ll explain the reasoning behind using all crashes in the Crash Indicator.

Why does the Crash Indicator use all crashes?

So, we’ve basically established that the SMS Crash Indicator encompasses all crashes that are reportable. (Meaning…all crashes, notwithstanding the carrier’s or driver’s part in the crash.) The SMS is concerned with the severity of crashes, although it does not take into account the driver’s or carrier’s role in the crash when it comes to weighting the crashes. To summarize – the SMS weights crashes based on severity, but it does not weight them any differently based on the driver or carrier’s role in the crash.

The Crash Indicator uses State-reported crash data to figure out crash involvement for motor carriers. And State-reported crash data does not have any information about fault. The SMS calculations rank motor carriers in relation to each other, so every carrier is subject to the same thing. No carrier is better or worse off than any other. A carrier’s crash rates are compared to those of other carriers, and the role of the carriers in the crashes is not taken into account. Therefore, all carriers are on an even playing field.

(In 2017, the SMS launched a Crash Preventability Demonstration Program. The point was that the data could shed some light on whether certain crashes are non-preventable and if taking these crashes out of the equation would actually be a better representation of a carrier’s future crash risk. It was also intended to have an impact on future policy about similar issues.)

Now, there are also steps to prevent this data from being misunderstood. Where data related to the Crash Indicator is shown, there’s a note stating that these values reflect that the motor carrier was involved in a crash, but not the role the carrier or driver played in the crashes. If the Crash Indicator level is very high, that means that the causes of the crashes should be investigated. (And, if there’s anything that can be done to correct the issues, those actions should be taken.) So, that way there should be no misunderstandings about what the data actually means and what it’s showing.)

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