One small federal agency called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has responsibility for ensuring that each of the tens of thousands of interstate trucking and bussing companies across the United States operate in ways in protect employees, property and, most importantly, everyone else on the road.
Obviously, FMCSA staff and its contractors are overwhelmed. Nor are the agency's efforts made easier by companies that oppose even the seemingly most logical safety initiatives.
To cite just one recent instance of this, the FMCSA launched its Compliance, Safety and Accountability program in 2010 to target inspection and enforcement actions toward the most unsafe truck and bus companies. The heart of the CSA program is an updating score that takes into account the number of equipment, training and recordkeeping violations each company racks up, as well as how many accidents a company's vehicles and drivers have.
During a Capitol Hill hearing at the beginning of September 2012, representatives from truck and bus companies hammered the CSA program, calling it unfair for including every accident. Leading the chorus of naysayers was American Trucking Associations, a national organization that had already succeeded in getting FMCSA to water down CSA score by changing the definition of "fatigued driving."
The heart of ATA's new criticism is that ""too often, the system highlights violations that bear little direct — or even indirect — relationship to crash risk."
In other words, ATA does not think a CSA score is accurate simply because a dangerous truck or bus driver does not get into an accident every time the vehicle or the unsafe person takes to the road. Until the risk-to-crash ratio reaches 100 percent, ATA posits, no risk calculation is valid.
That, of course, is nonsense. How many deaths due to drowsy or sleeping bus drivers are acceptable? How many blown truck tire crashes can the country accept? Should we let truck and bus companies set those numbers for us?
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.