FMCSA Releases Formal Request for Comments & Data for Large-Truck Crash Causation Study

Research to identify the factors and variables that contribute to crashes involving large truck accidents.

On January 14th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is requesting public comment to inform their new Large-Truck Crash Causation Study. The purpose of the study is to discover the best plan of action to design and conduct research to identify the factors and variables that contribute to crashes involving large truck accidents, from those that are fatal to those with minor injuries.

It has been 15 years since the agency conducted a crash causation study. Their request seeks information regarding best practices in balancing sample representatives, comprehensive data, cost efficiency and various ranges of crash types. 

The difference between the study conducted 15 years ago and now is that the study includes the use of On-Board Diagnostics (OBD’s). They want to incorporate the data on driver behaviors such as speeding, hard braking and lane departure as it relates to crash causation. The study will also seek to incorporate information to help the FMCSA, along with stakeholders in the trucking community, identify actions that will help reduce the frequency and severity of trucking accidents. 

“In the more than 15 years since the original study, many changes in technology, vehicle safety, driver behavior and roadway design have occurred that affect how a driver performs,” the announcement stated. “Since the study ended in 2003, fatal crashes involving large trucks decreased until 2009, when they hit their lowest point in recent years (2,893 fatal crashes). Since 2009, fatal crashes involving large trucks have steadily increased to 4,415 fatal crashes in 2018, a 52.6% increase when compared to 2009. Over the last three years (2016-2018), fatal crashes involving large trucks increased 5.7%.”

The request will be open for responses for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, expected by January 15th.

Bill Bannister, chief of FMCSA’s Analysis Division stated that, “we plan to integrate our data with other datasets. This will allow us to drill down into the types of circumstances surrounding crashes, the differences among the types of crashes, and whether it’s the vehicles involved or the roadway that’s involved. This sort of information might provide predictors of crashes.”

A major portion of this study will also be considering the impact and presence of drugs and alcohol on the causal factors regarding heavy-duty truck accidents. Ryan Smith, who works with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provided in a presentation to the FMCSA that “there is a lot of data out there that is not properly being discussed. The concern is that people are using data improperly and coming up with these conclusions that are not in journals but are in news reports. Some of the findings are being twisted and can actually be doing more harm.”

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