CVSA’s new working committee on crash data and investigations aims to establishment fairness, uniform practice

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Small fleet owner Thomas Blake of Kansas wrote in recently about a fatality crash appearing in the data tied to his public profile in the Safety Measurement System of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability system. The crash is one that could fit parameters for the agency’s test program to weed out clearly not-at-fault crashes, but Blake had not gone down that route as yet.

The circumstances behind just why it appeared in Blake’s record at all is what most irked him.

Small fleet owner-operator Thomas BlakeSmall fleet owner-operator Thomas Blake

His driver was “off for the weekend in Kansas City, Mo.,” Blake says. “He had the truck parked on a lot a few miles from his house” when, on a Friday night, a “kid hot-rodding down the road lost control, took out a telephone pole, and flipped his car. The car came to rest next to the container chassis” that was hooked to the trucker’s parked power unit. The driver’s body was under the chassis, and “there was not even a scratch on the equipment.” 

It’s carrier accountability for situations like these that has driven the high concern around crash accounting over the last near decade since the advent of the CSA program and its Crash Indicator BASIC category, which includes all recorded crashes involving a carrier’s trucks, regardless of ultimate responsibility/fault.

The annual workshop of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance of commercial vehicle industry participants and law enforcement took place in Portland, Ore., earlier in the month. And according to Scott Hernandez, recently retired from the Colorado State Patrol and current CVSA director of crash standards and analysis, a new working committee was inaugurated there to tackle the bedrock issue. The Crash Data and Investigative Standards Committee’s ultimate goal is something of a monumental task in an area that’s certainly gained in prominence in the truck safety and enforcement conversation nationally through these last several years, as the CSA program foregrounded the lack of any reliably significant accounting for crash responsibility in the data collected on most crashes.

CVSA committees are where the work gets done to establish policies and procedures as they relate to commercial motor vehicle enforcement in North America, with a goal toward achieving as much uniformity across jurisdictions as possible and to share information about best practices.

The goal of the new crash committee is of a piece with others, to work toward uniform reporting and investigative practice in order to “basically establish a standard protocol and reporting system” for crashes, to “help everyone with better data – to do better investigations, and to be more consistent” in all facets of crash investigation and reporting.

Hernandez notes new committee chair Thomas Fitzgerald, a CVSA member and truck-and-bus-focused lieutenant out of Massachusetts, has driven some of the conversation around the establishment of the committee, noting CVSA “needs to step up and take a lead on this issue,” Hernandez says. “This is something that we should strive to do, but we have to start with the basics. … We’ll start with the training [among state jurisdictions on crashes] being consistent.”

The CVSA website has been recently updated to reflect the stated mission of the new committee, outlining these goals:

  • Establish and maintain a uniform commercial motor vehicle/large vehicle crash reporting protocol.
  • Establish and maintain a uniform commercial motor vehicle/large vehicle crash investigation protocol.
  • Report authorized crash information/data in a uniform manner that allows for stakeholder analysis.
  • Establish and maintain uniform commercial motor vehicle/large vehicle crash training for stakeholders.
  • Work cooperatively with all stakeholders to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes.
  • Establish accredited training curriculum.

Membership within it is open to all CVSA members, the organization notes.

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