Division administrators and state directors of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have been authorized to review the preventability of accidents affecting carrier ratings, according to a memorandum from Julie Cirillo, FMCSA assistant administrator and chief safety officer.
"This policy is effective immediately and will be incorporated into the next release of the Field Operations Training Manual," the December 10, 2001, memo states.
During a compliance review, the safety investigator is to take into consideration a protest from a carrier arguing that an accident under review was unpreventable, and refer the carrier to the division administrator or state director. The carrier will be given seven calendar days (for an unsatisfactory rating) and 10 calendar days (for a conditional rating) to provide the necessary documentation related to the accident, according to the memorandum.
Documentation will be limited to official police accident reports and official insurance accident investigation reports.
If during this review the division administrator or state director determine that the accident was not preventable, the accident will be removed from the calculation of the carrier accident rate, according to the memo.
The carrier making the protest will be required to produce "compelling evidence" that the accident was not preventable. Cirillo notes that "Police and accident reports often fall short of this standard."
Examples of accidents considered to be not preventable include: (1) when another vehicle runs a red light and crashes into the commercial motor vehicle (CMV); (2) when the CMV is rear-ended by another vehicle; and (3) when the CMV is stopped in traffic or legally parked and is struck by another vehicle, according to the memo.
When the accident rate on a compliance review is changed as a result of the FMCSA official decision, the safety investigator is to correct the rate and ensure the compliance review is re-signed by the motor carrier official, or sent via certified mail to the carrier. A note explaining the facts concerning the change in the accident rate will be made in the comment section of Part C on the compliance review.
If the proceedings are not conducted as stated, the carrier may request an administrative review consistent with 49 CFR Part 383.15.
For more information, contact Michael Lamm at FMCSA, 202-366-6093, or Neill L Thomas, American Trucking Associations, 703-838-1848.