FMCSA Plans for New Truck Crash Causation Study

The FMCSA Will Undertake a New Trucking Accident Causation Study With Aim of Reducing Crash Rate

Truck accidents are often deadly when they involve smaller passenger vehicles given the weight and size of 18-wheelers. To reduce trucking accident fatalities, safety experts emphasize the need to reduce the overall rate of collisions. According to a recent article in Freight Waves, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced plans to conduct a new truck crash causation study for the first time in over 15 years. The study is designed to provide new information about the causes of truck accidents, taking into account shifts in technology and driver behavior. In particular, the FMCSA wants to see how cell phone use has impacted truck crashes. 

The study is in its very early stages—the FMCSA is currently “seeking information on how best to design and conduct a study to identify factors contributing to all FMCSA-reportable crashes involved in tow-away, injury, and fatal accidents.” It released a formal proposal for the study in January 2020. The proposal indicated that the FMCSA plans to employ a methodology that addresses “the use of on-board electronic systems which can generate information about speeding, lane departure, and hard braking,” but it will also seek to identify other behaviors, activities, and conditions that play a role in truck accidents. Comments on the study will be due in March 2020.

In recent years, large truck accident rates have risen. Between 2009 and 2018, deadly trucking collisions rose by 52.6%. Back in 2003 when the FMCSA completed its initial truck crash causation study, it determined that driver error was the major cause of collisions. It will be looking to see whether that fact remains true in recent years and, in particular, whether a truck driver’s negligence is the primary reason for crashes in an era of increased technology.

In seeking comments on its proposal, the FMCSA requested responses to a series of questions. First, the FMCSA wants comments on whether it should create a nationally representative sample or can focus instead on “convenience sampling.” Next, the FMCSA seeks comments on those two approaches, including the pros and cons of each. Then, they want to know how important it is to conduct a study that looks comparatively to the study conducted in the early 2000s. And finally, the FMCSA is seeking additional information about new sources of data that it has not yet considered.

Learning More About Truck Accidents

While we wait to learn more about trucking collisions from the FMCSA study, the following facts and figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) help to show the severity of truck accidents:

  • 4,136 people were killed in truck accidents in 2018;
  • 67% of those killed in trucking collisions are occupants of passenger vehicles;
  • 16% of people who suffer fatal injuries in large truck collisions are large truck occupants;
  • 15% of people killed in large truck crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists;
  • Truck accident deaths have risen significantly between 2009-2018 (truck accident rates were at their lowest in 2009); and
  • Rate of truck occupant deaths has increased particularly significantly since 2009.

If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries in a truck crash, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer about your case.

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