Fleet Management

Crashing Against Common Sense

November 10, 2015

By David Cullen

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No one who owns a car would expect their insurance rate to go up because of damage inflicted by a deer jumping in front of it or by someone slamming into it when running a light or by someone causing a few other types of accidents that can only be classified as non-preventable.

Perhaps that common sense expectation is what led the American Transportation Research Institute to analyze how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calculates motor-carrier safety performance via CSA Crash Indicator BASIC measures.

ATRI said on Nov. 10 that its latest CSA research piece, Assessing the Impact of Non-Preventable Crashes on CSA Scores, reveals that excluding “non-preventable crashes” from that data decreased the Crash Indicator BASIC by nearly 15 percent among over a dozen carriers studied.

Specifically, ATRI analyzed carrier crash records, mapped to FMCSA's Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) database, to identify “a small and non-controversial subset of non-preventable crashes” with these five primary causes:

  1. Animal collision
  2. Other vehicle hits legally parked truck
  3. Other vehicle runs a stop light/sign and hits a truck
  4. Driver of other vehicle was DUI
  5. Truck-assisted suicide

Those crashes were removed to allow recalculating the Crash Indicator BASIC measure, which yielded the drop ATRI recorded in the Crash Indicator BASIC for the carrier studied. ATRI noted that it estimates the non-preventable crash costs for the 15 carriers in the study exceed $68 million.

"The trucking industry has identified a number of flaws in FMCSA's calculation of carrier safety performance through the CSA BASICs and perhaps none is more egregious than the inclusion of non-preventable crashes in the Crash Indicator BASIC,” said Scott Mugno, a member of ATRI's Research Advisory Committee and vice president of Safety and Maintenance for FedEx Ground.

“ATRI's latest analysis, using a very conservative definition of non-preventable crashes, demonstrates just how skewed FMCSA's BASIC calculations can be," he added.

The study’s authors, ATRI Research Analyst Caroline Boris and ATRI Vice President, Research Dan Murray, contend that the results “demonstrate that even a conservative approach to defining and assessing preventability can impact a carrier’s Crash BASIC measure significantly.”

They also stated that the analysis found that:

  • Non-preventable crashes comprise the majority of the sample. “Therefore, a broader definition of preventability than the five primary causes used in this report, such as the one utilized by the FMCSA, would likely result in dramatic changes to Crash BASIC measures.
  • Small differences in Crash BASIC measures result in significantly different percentile rankings, with our sample having a maximum range of 11 percentage points for the same FMCSA-provided score.
  • The composition of preventable and non-preventable crashes varies across carriers. A Crash BASIC that only considers preventable crashes would affect carriers differently.
  • Small changes in Crash BASIC measures result in significant changes to Crash BASIC percentile rankings, given the range of percentile rankings resulting from a single FMCSA-reported score and the varied composition of preventable and non-preventable crashes across carriers.
  • Assigning preventability could also rectify issues beyond the Crash BASIC, such as carrier costs, insurance premiums and driver safety records.

The authors added that ATRI, to better quantify the impact of non-preventable crashes on the trucking industry, will continue its work with trucking and insurance industry stakeholders “to identify and mine additional crash and financial data sources. This Phase 2 activity will attempt to develop a cost/benefit analysis on an expanded population of non-preventable crash types.”

A copy of the report is available from ATRI.

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