The FMCSA Crash Preventability Demonstration Program

Collisions happen. A deer pops in front of your vehicle. A car drives down the road in the wrong direction. A drunken motorist veers into your lane. When these types of incidents happen, federally regulated carriers often are required to report them to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Reportable collisions go on the carrier’s record as part of its Compliance Safety and Accountability report (CSA), and for years there was little carriers could do about that—until recently.

Now, there is something you can do. Thanks to a program called the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program, a carrier can request the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) review a collision if the carrier felt the event was unavoidable. Lytx has been active in advocating for this demonstration program and in particular for the ability to submit video evidence to the FMCSA to establish the collision was unavoidable.

The results of an FMCSA review won’t affect your safety rating, at least not yet. The results of the demonstration program could, however, eventually lead to changes in how or whether unavoidable collisions are included or not in CSA scores. In the meantime, the program would let others see what percentage of your collisions were unavoidable, providing important context to your safety record.

This sample screenshot from the FMCSA shows results for a fictitious carrier with metrics for all crashes regardless of avoidability in the left column. The right column shows results with unavoidable crashes removed. The crash ratio drops from 0.18 to 0.17 once unavoidable collisions were removed. The percentile metric also improves from 44 percent to 39 percent. (With both metrics, lower is better.)

FMCSA Crash Preventability Demonstration Program

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

This additional data gives the public — and regulators — a potentially more accurate snapshot of the carrier’s safety record, one that can now take into account the fact that some collisions are not the carrier’s fault.


What types of collisions qualify for an FMCSA Crash Preventability Program review?

The FMCSA set out eight conditions for collisions that can qualify for a review under the Crash Preventability Demonstration program. They include when the commercial vehicle:

  1. Was hit by a motorist found to be driving under the influence 
  2. Was struck by a motorist that was driving the wrong direction after having completely   crossed the median or center line
  3. Was struck in the rear
  4. Was hit while legally stopped or parked
  5. Struck an individual committing or attempting to commit suicide
  6. Sustained disabling damage after colliding with an animal in the roadway
  7. Crashed as the result of an infrastructure failure, falling trees, rocks, or other debris
  8. Was struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle

In addition, the collision must have occurred on or after June 1, 2017.

If you believe a collision in your fleet meets one or more of the eight conditions, you should consider asking the FMCSA to review the event under the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program, particularly if you have video evidence that supports your claim.


How to submit a request for data review

It’s easy to submit a request with the FMCSA to review a collision. You just need to gather materials beforehand that will help support your case. That includes video footage as well as other materials such as photos, police accident reports, insurance claim information, hearing transcripts, or affidavits. Video footage, in particular, can be particularly powerful as evidence for exoneration. Most of these items are often already gathered during the aftermath of a collision.

Then head over to the FMCSA’s portal, DataQs, to submit a crash preventability request for data review (RDR). The 4-step process is outlined in this graphic:

Source: “Crash Preventability Demonstration Program Fact Sheet,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Why is the FMCSA conducting the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program?

Currently, collision data reported to FMCSA doesn’t specify a motor carrier’s role in crashes or whether the crash was preventable. Many in the industry argued that including all crashes without an indication of preventability may give an inaccurate impression about the risk posed by a company. Industry stakeholders have long advocated for a system that can take preventability into account.

The FMCSA said that goal of the program is to examine the feasibility, costs, and benefits of determining and displaying the preventability of certain crash types. The agency indicated it will evaluate if these preventability determinations improve its ability to identify high-risk motor carriers. In other words, the agency is seeing if removing collisions that were not preventable would filter out carriers with effective safety programs and better surface carriers that pose the highest risk. The agency said it would continue the demonstration program at least through June 2019.


Most frequent types of unavoidable collisions

After a year of running the program, the FMCSA released some interesting quarterly data this June. The agency reported receiving 5,228 requests for review under the program and issuing 2,790 determinations during the period ended June 29. The vast majority of the 2,790 collisions reviewed by the agency were deemed not preventable, which was good news for carriers.

FMCSA Determinations

The most frequent collision type reviewed by far was commercial vehicles that were hit from behind (69.5%). The next three most frequent were: struck while legally stopped or parked (7.8%), struck by a motorist driving under the influence (7.7%), and struck by a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction (6.8%).

Given the early successful results of the demonstration program, Lytx will continue to advocate and work with the FMCSA on expanding this demonstration program with the goal of including more collision types and ultimately removing unavoidable collisions from a carrier’s CSA score.

So while collisions do happen, regulators are beginning to take into account the possibility that, in some cases, there may have been little carriers and their drivers could have done to prevent them. And that’s good news for carriers that have safety programs such as the Lytx Driver Safety Program in place to both gather the necessary video evidence and proactively manage risk.


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