Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Program To Curtail Trucking Safety Violations Under Fire

Recently, this blog commented on a study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) to determine the effectiveness of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) new hours-of-service regulations designed to reduce the frequency of accidents caused by truck driver fatigue.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), 8.2 percent of all traffic fatalities occurring in 2011 involved large trucks. In Maryland, there were 692 motor vehicle accident fatalities, 38 of which were caused by crashes involving large trucks. The USDOT study concluded that the new HOS regulations would avoid approximately 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and 19 accident deaths will be avoided each year.

Despite this recent success in improving the safety of the trucking industry, the FMCSA is under fire as two other government agencies have questioned the efficacy of the FMSCA’s recently developed Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program (“Program”). The Program assigns to trucking carriers based on safety and is intended to heighten accountability for carriers that continually violate safety rules. Recently, however, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) and the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) have released the results of audits of the Program concluding that it suffers from several problems caused by inaccurate or incomplete data.

The OIG report determined that the Program had yet to complete development of several components designed to improve data accuracy and that only ten percent of states had fully executed enforcement of the Program.

The GAO audit maintained the Program assigned scores to some carriers that didn’t accurately their actual safety record, thereby increasing the likelihood that the Program would categorize certain carriers as high risk when they were not necessarily so. For example, the audit found that, due to the inaccurate data issue, a small carrier with no safety problems could receive a worse score than a large carrier with a number of accidents.

The audit further concluded that, in certain cases, data used to score carriers was inaccurate due to differences in enforcement and inspection agencies in each state and some of the data used to calculate scores was self-reported and therefore potentially unreliable. Further, the report found that a majority of scored violations didn’t occur with enough frequency to establish an association to higher risk of crashing (600 out of 750 regulations examined were violated by less than one percent of all carriers).

Fatigued truck drivers have been shown to have slower reaction times and exhibit an increased risk of causing an accident. Due to the immense weight and considerable size commercial trucks, proper operation of these vehicles is of particular importance. Negligence behind the wheel of such a vehicle can easily result in catastrophic accidents and severe injuries or death.

The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of commercial truck drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.