Roadside inspections saved 472 lives in 2012, FMCSA says; Firm contends figures should be higher

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Updated Mar 3, 2016

PBBT unit at GA scale house inspectionMore than 470 lives were saved in 2012 due to roadside inspections and traffic enforcement inspections of commercial vehicles, according to data released this week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, that number could have been higher, says TransComply, had FMCSA not heavily reduced the number of traffic enforcement inspections in the six years preceding 2012.

TransComply, a firm that helps small motor carriers with compliance and safety programs, says traffic enforcement inspections have decreased by more than 43 percent since their recent peak in 2006. The company says another 169 lives could have been saved if the number of inspections had not dropped.

FMCSA touts its inspection programs as having saved more than 7,000 lives since 2001. The agency’s annual Roadside Intervention Effectiveness Model (RIEM) analysis also estimates that these programs prevented nearly 9,000 injuries in more than 14,000 crashes involving commercial trucks and buses.

Traffic enforcement violations peaked at just over 900,000 in 2006 and have dropped 60 percent to just under 360,000 in 2015, according to TransComply.

TransComply adds that applying the RIEM to 2015 roadside and traffic enforcement interventions indicates that 461 lives were saved last year due to inspections, but another 224 lives could have been saved had the traffic enforcement inspections remained at 2006 levels.

“If FMCSA’s model is accurate, the trend is alarming, and the agency has only limited tools to do anything about it,” says Avery Vise, president of TransComply. “On the other hand, it is possible that traffic enforcement activities actually have improved motor carrier safety even while reported TE inspections have plummeted. Unfortunately, we don’t know because FMCSA currently captures no usable data on traffic enforcement that occurs without a reported inspection.”

The reduction in TE inspections has also “undermined the Unsafe Driving BASIC [in FMCSA’s CSA program], which affects the quality of FMCSA’s targeting of motor carriers for intervention today,” Vise adds.

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FMCSA developed RIEM as a tool to annually analyze and measure the effectiveness of roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcement programs and activities in terms of crashes avoided, injuries prevented and lives saved. In this model, roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcements are considered interventions.

“Over the last several decades, we’ve made tremendous strides  in reducing the number of traffic fatalities and injuries on our nation’s roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “The roadside safety inspection and traffic enforcement programs exemplify our commitment to continue to raise the bar on safety and build upon our progress.”