By Chris Parker and Nancy Ross-Anderson
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is bringing Accident Recordkeeping Requirements back to the future.
Retired after the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program was initiated over a decade ago, the FMCSA is hoping to revive the Accident Recordkeeping Requirements to help the Administration better assess the safety of on-the-road vehicles and potentially find avenues to prevent and reduce the severity of future accidents.
As an indication of what robust information-gathering can do for safety, the American Transportation Research Institute reports that crashes decreased by 7%, and hours-of-service violations went down by nearly 17%, between the 2018 introduction of the Electronic Log Device and 2022.
Comments on the new requirements will be accepted until October 10, 2023, but with the American Trucking Association and other industry stakeholders supporting its renewal, there is every indication Accident Recordkeeping Requirements will eventually become a rule.
Regardless of when the new Accident Recordkeeping Requirements become a rule, maintaining a robust accident tracking analysis tool is beneficial to all fleets, both large and small, as it:
- Offers a deeper understanding of the root causes of accidents and violations,
- Can determine costs,
- And drive insights on how best to prevent them
Building a simple accident tracking and analysis tool
Building a tool that goes beyond what is DOT-reportable to include all incidents, including near-misses, can help fleets identify behavior that drives losses or potential losses, and other contributing factors, including cargo and worker’s compensation claims.
For example, a fleet might notice a lot of lane-change and merging accidents, which might mean it’s worth equipping existing trucks with lane-departure warning systems or purchasing new vehicles that have them.
Building a tool doesn’t require an investment in new software. Fleets can use a spreadsheet or digital tracking tools to capture and organize all pertinent information. Consider including the following data points in your trending and analysis report, much of which are already being collected by fleets:
- A brief description of the incident. Develop your scenario of the accident, and what the contributing factors could be.
- Consider whether the accident is DOT-recordable. That would include if there were a fatality (regardless of fault), if the insured driver is cited for the accident, if someone goes to the hospital, or if the vehicle is towed and the driver is cited. Also, use this to ensure you’re in compliance with drug and alcohol testing.
- Contributing factors. Record anything that could have had an impact on the incident such as driver fatigue, driver was lost, the driver was over hours, the driver was impaired, weather conditions, time of day, day of the week, visibility, traffic level, road conditions, location, inspection details. To expedite the collection of the data, a fleet can download the SMS (safety measurement system) that feeds into CSA.
- Costs associated with the accident. Track any costs that the fleet and/or its insurers bore because of an accident, including insurance deductibles, uninsured costs, training and hiring, offboarding associated with having to dismiss a driver, rental to replace a truck while it’s being repaired, or any money that changed hands because of the accident.
- Track preventable accidents and non-preventable accidents. This goes beyond who the insurer says was at fault. Note whether there were reasonable actions that could have been taken, such as honking the horn or more quickly applying the brakes, to prevent an accident.
- Post-accident, consequential actions. The goal of gathering this information is to provide insights into post-accident, consequential actions that would reduce the risk of further incidents. Is a certain driver the issue? Should the maintenance program be enhanced? Should a certain customer be dropped because their requirements have led to more accidents?
The importance of gathering data is not merely in the information itself, but the stories it tells you about what is happening with your fleet. Together they will hopefully help you run a safer operation — and perhaps a more cost-effective one, too.
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 Transport Topics, “FMCSA to Renew Plans for Carriers to Keep Accident Records,” Aug. 8, 2023