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How does the Safety Measurement System handle crashes where the motor carrier is NOT at fault?

On March 29, 2019, the secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) scores of commercial truck drivers would undergo a significant change starting in August 2019. According to Secretary Elaine Chao, points from a crash in which commercial drivers are not at fault will no longer count against them for CSA scoring purposes. Instead, the organization will classify the accident as non-preventable.

Actions leading up to the permanent change.

The DOT ran a two-year pilot program that started on August 1, 2017, and will expire on July 31, 2019. After receiving significant feedback from drivers, the DOT announced that it would become permanent after the pilot program expires. A spokesperson representing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that the agency could make the change a permanent one without having to undertake a formal rulemaking.

Currently, the pilot program labels a crash as non-preventable on the Safety Measurement System (SMS) if the driver is not at fault for causing it. Before this determination can be made permanent, the driver must submit a review request through the DataQs program. This includes the requirement for the driver to submit proof that he or she is not at fault and could not have avoided the crash.

Prior to this change, a fatal crash indicated on a driver’s safety profile did not specify whether he or she was at fault. If a driver is determined not at fault under the new demonstration project, the FMCSA will recalculate the Crash Indicator portion of the Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) without the crash included.

Factors necessary to consider a crash non-preventable.

A crash must meet these criteria for the FMCSA to consider it non-preventable under the new program:

  • The crash caused bodily injuries or fatality that required the injured or deceased person to be transported away from the scene of the crash immediately.
  • One or all vehicles involved required towing away from the scene of the crash.

The types of crashes immediately eligible for a review include:

  • A private motorist driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs strikes a commercial vehicle.
  • A private motorist traveling the wrong direction strikes the commercial vehicle.
  • A private motorist strikes the commercial vehicle from behind or when it is parked or stopped.
  • A person attempts to commit suicide by running in front of the commercial driver and he or she does not have adequate time to stop.
  • The commercial driver strikes an animal on the road and the vehicle sustains damage because of it.
  • A falling rock, tree branch, or other object strikes the commercial vehicle or equipment falls out of another vehicle and hits the truck.

Before the pilot phase expires, the FMCSA plans to consider expansions to the above reasons for triggering an automatic review.

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