Photo: Ohio State Patrol

Photo: Ohio State Patrol

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will release its study on crash accountability in the next couple of weeks, said Jack Van Steenburg, the agency’s chief safety officer.

Van Steenburg was responding to a question at the Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The study is likely to reignite the long-simmering controversy over how the agency accounts for fault in crashes recorded in its Compliance, Safety Accountability safety enforcement system. CSA uses roadside inspection and traffic enforcement data to find the carriers most in need of enforcement action.

The agency includes non-fault crashes in the CSA Safety Measurement System because its ability to distinguish fault is limited and there is a statistical probability that some of the crashes will be the carrier’s fault.

The agency and safety advocacy groups contend that past crashes are a predictor of future crash risk no matter who is at fault. Carriers say it is illogical and wrong to include non-fault crashes in a system that measures safety performance.

The agency studied the issue and has drafted a report that is supposed to outline a possible solution. The study will address three core questions:

  • Are police accident reports reliable enough to determine accountability?
  • Will a system that includes accountability be a better predictor of future safety than one that does not?
  • And, how should the agency manage the process, giving the public a chance to participate?

An additional issue likely to surface in the report is the question of cost: Will the expense of determining fault be worth the value it achieves?