A tanker truck recently overturned and exploded in a huge fireball in Fall River recently, with state police reporting the vehicle carried some 11,000 gallons of gasoline as it rolled over near the exit ramp at Presidents Avenue.
Authorities say amazingly, no one but the driver sustained injuries, and she is expected to survive. The cause remains under investigation, but we do know that the company that owns this truck has had 14 wrecks in two years - including a fatal crash in New Hampshire.
Our truck accident attorneys in Boston know that often when large trucks are involved in collisions, the outcome tends to be far worse. Approximately 125,000 crashes in 2012 involved large trucks, according to transportation officials. This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2010 launched its Compliance Safety and Accountability Enforcement program. However, now two regulators - the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Transportation - have come forward to criticize the plan and its implementation.
How effective are FMCSA trucking safety programs?
The program's core mission is to enhance enforcement of truck safety for those carriers who have already been identified as having been at high-risk. Firms labeled high risk would be subject to such measures as random on-site reviews and roadside inspections.
However, a big part of the problem is that of the nation's approximately 525,000 active carriers, the FMCSA only had enough data to access the safety performance of about 200,000 - less than half of those. Congress has expressed concern that this isn't good enough.
This was the basis for the investigation by the GAO's office, which released its findings in February. The agency said that while the CSA has been successful in several respects, there were some clear areas that required improvement.
Chief among the GAO's complaints was that while the CSA had allowed the FMCSA to expand its reach, data shortcomings meant that the program was not as great of a crash risk predictor has it should be. The program's core Safety Measurement System, the GAO advised, should be totally revised. Meanwhile, the system's limitations should be taken into account by FMCSA officials when weighing the current safety profile of trucking firms.
The two main issues with the scoring system, the GAO determined were that:
- The regulations used to calculate the scores weren't violated often enough to strongly associate individual carriers for crash risks;
- There isn't enough information to reliably compare each carrier to the performance of its peers.
Smaller carriers appear to be hit the hardest by these ratings, while poorer performance by larger firms might not be properly showcased. In some cases, small companies with no crashes were labeled "high risk," while larger firms with multiple crashes were labeled "satisfactory."
The American Trucking Association came out in support of GAO's findings, saying that the safety scores produced by the FMCSA often don't accurately reflect the true level of safety that a company provides. The ATA's president called the safety scores "unreliable," and said they were harmful to businesses counting on third-party contracts.
The GAO proposed that the safety agency only score larger carriers who are more frequently inspected, so that there is more accurate data. This would result in fewer scores, the GAO conceded, but at least the prediction of risk would be more accurate.
Concerns over FMCSA regulations echoed by Department of Transportation
In addition, a report from the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation outlined similar concerns. The criticisms here are similar, noting a lack of accurate, reliable data, failure to timely respond to requests for correction of misinformation and underscoring the fact that only 10 states have fully implemented CSA enforcement interventions. The remaining 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, were awaiting technology from the FMSCA to enact the program.
The hope is that with the guidance from these two regulators, the FMCSA will be able to quickly and efficiently improve the program in a way that will ultimately bolster accountability for carriers with bad records, and improve overall road safety for everyone.
Boston accident victims may contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.