No-fault crashes shouldn’t ding drivers’ CSA scores

By Greg Grisolano, associate editor

A proposed demonstration program that would remove certain types of non-preventable crashes from drivers' CSA scores is a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough to protect truckers who were not at fault, according to comments filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The Association filed comments in response to a July 7 request from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on a proposal to develop and implement a program to conduct preventability determinations on certain types of crashes.

"The proposed process has the potential to remove some accident records from a driver's or motor carrier's safety record at FMCSA, but it is not complete, evenhanded or reliable," wrote OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer, in OOIDA's comments. "Instead, this proposal highlights and continues to propagate the injustice that underlies FMCSA's blanket policy of assuming that truck drivers involved in crashes are always at fault."

The agency proposes to accept requests for data reviews that seek to establish the non-preventability of certain crashes through its national data correction system known as DataQs. FMCSA's notice proposes that the agency would accept a review request, as part of this program, when documentation established that the crash was not preventable by the motor carrier or commercial driver. The proposed minimum time period for this crash preventability demonstration program would be 24 months.

The demonstration program proffered by FMCSA cited four crash scenarios that would be classified as non-preventable if a commercial driver was struck by another motorist who was convicted of one or more of the following:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving the wrong direction
  • Striking the rear of the CMV; and/or
  • Striking the CMV while it was legally stopped.

The Association's comments also seek to prompt the agency to further expand both the types of crashes and the sufficient documentation used to determine crash preventability. As it stands now, the proposal "still puts the burden on the driver to prove he or she was not at fault."

"Accidents that are not the fault of the driver or motor carrier should not be counted against them nor should they be interpreted to predict the likelihood that the motor carrier will be involved in a future accident," OOIDA comments state.

OOIDA also asked that the agency consider including additional scenarios that would be classified as "non-preventable," including collisions with animals, tire blowouts and other mechanical failures.

The comments cite a 2015 study conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute on behalf of FMCSA, which analyzed crash data from 15 large motor carriers in order to evaluate the impact that crash responsibility has on CSA scores. The study identified five types of non-preventable crashes: animal collisions, truck-assisted suicide by pedestrian - or when the other driver hits a legally parked truck, runs a stop sign or red light, or is under the influence of alcohol.

The data from the 15 carriers included 2,707 total crashes, of which "61 percent were non-preventable," or determined to be the fault of the other vehicle, according to OOIDA's comments. Only 241 crashes fell into the five non-preventable crash scenarios presented above. Once these crashes were eliminated from the carriers' safety scores, ATRI recalculated the CSA Crash BASIC or category and found that the carriers' safety performance measure improved by 5.3 percent on average.

When it comes to drivers having to document their lack of fault, OOIDA also suggested that dash cam video, witness statements, pictures of the accident, court documentation of the dismissed citation, weather data at the time of the crash, and Google Street View or Google Satellite View of the crash site, "when possible, should be available during the crash determination investigation." LL