The president of Collision Specialists Inc., Jeffrey Kidd, spoke to a Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) subcommittee of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) recently regarding whether or not police accident reports are reliable in determining fault in trucking accidents. According to the accident reconstruction specialist, “[p]olice accident reports are not reliable enough to determine who’s at fault in truck crashes.” Kidd went on to tell the panel that “even when the reports are 100% accurate, they are not reliable as a stand-alone source,” according to an article on the Truckinginfo website.
In addition, Kidd says the commercial truck workload is too excessive for the number of officers available and even those officers don’t have adequate training. Kidd would know as, prior to starting his accident investigation firm, he was a Georgia state trooper.
Reportedly, the subcommittee is developing recommendations for the MCSAC panel and then later this year the panel will report to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Though the agency is under no obligation to accept the committee’s recommendations, the group has reportedly become important in the agency’s process, as it is made up of representatives from safety enforcement, the safety advocacy community, and industry.
According to Kidd, not enough officers are certified North American Standard inspectors. Furthermore, he says that initial commercial vehicle crash training does not cover vehicle configurations, conspicuity, braking, licensing, or hours of service. This can lead to major problems in a fault investigation. For example, if an investigator has not received training on electronic control module technology, he or she could inadvertently erase critical data by moving the vehicle. A lack of funding means that some states don’t have enough money for measuring devices, cameras, or specialized training, which could also hamper an investigation. In addition, while a thorough investigation can take hours, state incentive programs encourage officers to expedite the clearing of the road.
It is for these reasons that motorists hurt in trucking accidents should contact an attorney who specializes in trucking accidents immediately. An investigation must begin as soon as possible so that crucial data about who was at fault can be collected before it is lost. The purpose of the CSA’s Safety Measurement System is to rate and compare crash histories of truck carriers, but currently the agency’s CSA data does not identify fault in trucking accidents. The agency, reportedly, wants to determine whether or not the benefits of determining accountability justify the costs of doing so. Until a decision is made, however, determining fault may be left to the diligence of a skilled trucking accident attorney.