Apr 2014

Massachusetts Trucking Accident Risks – FMCSA Falling Short

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyAccidents involving large trucks caused 697 deaths in 2012, which was an 8.9 percent increase over the number of deaths they caused in 2011.  Another 25,000 people were injured in large truck collisions over the same year. These thousands of injuries and deaths could be prevented in many cases if truckers were more careful and if trucking companies followed safety rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Truck accident lawyers in Fall River can represent victims injured because of the actions of a truck driver and help them to obtain compensation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration works in consultation with federal and state enforcement agencies to reduce the risk of truck accidents throughout the United States.  One recent change the FMCSA made was to institute a new enforcement program called Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA. Unfortunately, while CSA was intended to make it easier to monitor trucking companies and identify carriers at high risk of collisions, both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have raised some very serious concerns about the program.

CSA Program Has Serious Flaws

The FMCSA reportedly instituted the new CSA enforcement program because the former compliance review (CR) program was resource-intensive and only a small percentage of motor carriers were evaluated to determine if they were following safety rules. Each onsite compliance review required an average of around three to four days to complete and because of limited staff, a very small number of active interstate trucking companies were ever investigated by the FMCSA. Further, the former system for measuring the safety performance of carriers, SafeStat, reportedly did not focus on the behaviors that were known to cause collisions.

CSA, however, may have some of the same problems. The program aims to identify trucking companies that are considered “high-risk” so that they can face enhanced enforcement of truck safety rules. The problems with CSA identified by the GAO suggest that the CSA isn’t doing this for two primary reasons:

  • There is not enough data about carriers. There are around 525,000 active carriers, and the FMCSA can now access safety records for just around 200,000 of them as part of the CSA program. There is thus too little data for the FMCSA to actually effectively compare trucking companies with their peers.
  • The scoring system is flawed. The FMCSA used certain regulations in its scoring system to decide if a carrier was high risk. These regulations, however, weren’t rules that were violated often enough to actually be useful in determining if a trucking carrier should be subject to extra scrutiny. Not only that, there isn’t enough evidence to think that violations of these regulations is actually linked to an added danger of collisions.

The DOT had similar complaints about the FMCSA’s program, pointing out only 10 states had the technology to implement CSA while the rest were still waiting for the technology they needed from FMCSA.

These criticisms are serious and suggest a lot more work needs to be done to try to make the roads safer.

Contact a Fall River truck accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 to schedule your free consultation.

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