Posted by : attorney stevelee

Ignoring Compliance, Safety, and Accountability Measures Increase Chances of Truck Accidents

Every year thousands of traffic accidents and injuries occur as a result of truck negligence or malfunctions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the unenviable job of collecting accident data and forming plans to reduce dangerous collisions. However, preventing truck accidents isn’t exactly an easy thing to do.

As with any problem, the first thing that needs to be done is to identify the problems—in this case, the frequency and common causes of truck accidents—and then figure out a way to eliminate these problems. In 2010, the FMCSA came up with a program to do just that: the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program.

Understanding the CSA Program

The CSA is essentially a system to keep trucks and truckers accountable for traffic safety. It identifies certain safety violations and then enforces penalties on violators in the form of severity points. It consists of three components—measurement, evaluation, and intervention—that together are meant to ensure that safety protocols are being upheld and that trucking companies and truck divers are being held accountable for their behavior.

  • Measurement. In order to track traffic threats, the CSA uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to evaluate past safety performance ratings, accident data, and traffic reports to identify behaviors and specific carriers that could potentially cause crashes. When a carrier violates safety protocol, he is penalized with CSA points that affect his overall safety rating—the higher the score, the lower the public safety rating.
  • Evaluation. Once the numbers are run and potential threats are identified, at-risk carriers are contacted, investigated, and rated on a deeper level to assess safety.
  • Intervention and Enforcement. During the evaluation, carriers acquire CSA violation points (which are attached to their SMS ratings) and are given safety instructions that are catered to their specific safety needs. For example, if the CSA program found evidence of repeated driver fatigue, the driver would be instructed on trucking Hours of Service rules and may receive anywhere from 1 to 10 violation points added to his SMS score.

CSA Violation Risks

Over the past five years, the CSA has identified five specific truck safety hazards that routinely cause catastrophic accidents. These include:

  • Broken or missing lights. Poor illumination, truckers being unable to see traffic, and drivers being unable to see trucks cause 28 percent of all trucking accidents. As a result, light violations can cost a carrier up to 60 CSA severity points for putting your family at risk.
  • Poorly maintained brakes. Nearly 25 percent of truck accidents occur as a result of malfunctioning brakes. Trucks can’t and won’t stop on a dime. When their brakes are working perfectly, they still need around 20 feet of stopping distance. However, malfunctioning or poorly adjusted brakes increase stopping time significantly, putting other vehicles dangerously at risk of collisions. Last year alone, one million brake violations were recorded, each carrying a penalty of 4 CSA severity points.
  • Shallow tire treads. Traction is extremely important in keeping a truck stable. As a result, steering tires are required to have at least 4/32 inch of tread depth, while other tires must have at least 2/32 inch depth. When the tread is worn, the traction greatly decreases, making it difficult for the driver to control the rig and increasing the chance of rollovers, jackknifes, and collisions. Even though checking a truck’s tires should be automatic for drivers, poorly defined treads account for nearly 11 percent of CSA violations, and are awarded 8 severity points per infraction.
  • Improper logging of drive times. Hours of service (HOS) rules have been a hot-button issue in the trucking industry for years. Although carriers want their drivers to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, this causes major traffic risks as drivers stay awake (and on the road) for 20 or more hours a day. Recent legislation has formally addressed truck driver fatigue and instigated new HOS guidelines. In order to mandate these new rules, truckers are required by federal and state laws to keep a journal of all of their activities—including rest periods and breaks. When these logs aren’t adequately updated, evidence of fatigue can’t be proven—victimizing accident sufferers even more. In order to prevent such problems, as well as keep drivers aware of their own behavior, log infractions are drastically enforced and account for a quarter of reported CSA violations. Penalties range from 1 to 6 points.
  • Ignoring diver health issues. It takes a lot of physical and mental strength to properly drive a truck. Not only is the driver responsible for 20,000 pound of metal and machinery, but he must also be ten times more alert than the average driver due to stopping speeds and rollover risks. As a result, truckers are obliged to keep up-to-date medical examiner certificates to validate that they’re medically competent to drive a truck. Unfortunately, one out of every eight truckers fail to do so. Although an invalid certificate only carries a penalty of one CSA point, driving while physically ill can award up to 10 points.

All of the above infractions are closely monitored within the CSA and FMCSA in order to keep you, your family, and the roads safe. However, no matter how hard they try, or how much they enforce penalties, violators can still cause catastrophic damage. Therefore, always use extra caution when driving near large trucks, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.

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