According to TruckingInfo.com, the federal regulator of the trucking industry is getting ready to release new rules that are intended to track the safety performance of trucking companies. The website reported Sept. 3 that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is getting ready to release information on its crash accountability system, which has become “a lightning rod” for criticism from the trucking industry. The way the FMCSA calculates crash accountability is important to trucking interests, safety advocates and attorneys like me who work on semi truck accident lawsuits. The trucking industry is upset because the data in the FMCSA’s system doesn’t take fault for crashes into account, raising the risk that a lot of not-at-fault crashes could lead to a trucking company being called unsafe.
The change in rules is part of the CSA safety enforcement system introduced in 2010. The FMCSA collects crash data and uses it to calculate a Crash Indicator score. The Crash Indicator score will be used to prioritize enforcement action intended to prevent serious semi truck crashes. But in calculating that score, the agency doesn’t distinguish between at-fault accidents and not-at-fault accidents, which upsets trucking interests that don’t want to be held responsible for ordinary drivers’ mistakes. It’s not unusual for crashes between trucks and passenger cars to end in serious injuries to the people in the car, even when the car’s driver was at fault, just because trucks are so much larger. After complaints by both trucking interests and safety advocates, the FMCSA stopped short of a planned rule-making and undertook more analysis. That analysis is getting close to complete now.
TruckingInfo.com reported that the rules analysis asks three questions: Are police reports accurate enough to determine accountability? Will a system that includes accountability be better than one that doesn’t? And how should the agency take public input? A civilian advisory board is working on recommendations, at the FMCSA’s request, and is expected to say that the FMCSA should continue the rulemaking process. Safety advocates on that board are generally in favor of making more information public; trucking interests disagree. The board also acknowledged that it’s often difficult to determine fault from a police report. As a result, all members agreed, the FMCSA should also look at other paperwork generated by crashes, including tractor-trailer accident lawsuits and criminal investigations.
Because I represent clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of crashes with commercial trucks, I am in favor of more public information, not less. I believe it’s reasonable for trucking companies to ask not to be held liable for crashes that clearly were not their fault. But I am not so sure it’s reasonable to deny the public access to safety scores on driver drug/alcohol use, physical fitness and hazardous materials handling. These are all safety risks to the public; they can and have caused serious accidents. In a big rig accident lawsuit, information on, for example, a pattern of retaining drivers with multiple DUIs would be highly relevant—and the American public has every right to know about it. That’s why I hope the safety advocates on this committee continue to be heard.
Based in St. Louis, Carey, Danis & Lowe represents clients across Missouri and southern Illinois who have suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in a trucking accident that was no fault of their own. If you’d like to talk to us about your rights and your legal options, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
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