FMCSA and its Program
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), established a program to record the performance of commercial motor vehicles in December of 2010.
Known as CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability), its purpose is to collect intricate data such as safety violations and crash reports in order to determine a commercial carrier’s safety performance.
The FMCSA measures this data into five Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories or (BASICs) which are, unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, drugs/alcohol use, and vehicle maintenance. The data is then used to compare individual trucking companies, in which they’re provided a percentile from the aforementioned categories describing how safe each company is. Through this data, FMCSA prioritizes each company for interventions such as warning letters and investigation if needed.
Even though this data proves extremely valuable, there are many arguments against its admissibility.
Proving FMCSA Data is Reliable
An argument that opponents often use is that the FMCSA scores and ratings are unreliable, misleading, and incomplete.
A 2004 report from the Inspector General found there were four faults with the data, which include: Poor Carrier Census Data, Poor Crash Data, Poor Data on Moving Traffic Violations, and Poor and Inaccurate Data Records. However, the faults of the data found by the Inspector General appeared to be flawed in favor of the trucking companies. In general, the faults consisted of data that was under reported or not reported at all.
In 2012, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) analyzed the five public Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). They concluded that “analysis showed with high levels of confidence that BASIC scores are positively related to crashes in Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving and Vehicle Maintenance.”
Acquiring admissions from key employees about the reliability of the data can also defeat objections in the courtroom.
FMCSA Data in Court
The opposition against FMCSA data can and will argue the fact that courts throughout the country have routinely precluded this evidence. The cases of FCCI Ins. Group v. Rodgers Metal Craft, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81894 (M.D.Ga. Sept. 9, 2008), Frederick V. Swift Transp. Co., 591 F. Supp. 2d 1156 (D. Kan. 2008), and Kemper Ins. Cos. v. J.B. Hunt Logistics, Inc., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27574 (N.D.Ga. June 17, 2003) support this preclusions.
The proponents of the FMCSA data can prove admissibility in court with the evidence. The cases of McLane v. Rich Transport, Inc. 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127777 (E.D. Ark, 2012), Vanderuser V. Purdy Brothers Trucking, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122039 (D. Va. 2011) and Schramm V. Foster, 341 F.Supp.2d 536 (D.Md. 2004) support its use.
The opposition cases won primarily because the FMCSA data was non applicable at the time of the infraction. The proponent cases won due to the FMCSA data directly correlating with the infraction.
FMCSA Potential Outcomes
The FMCSA data can be beneficial or unfavorable against trucking companies. Understanding the current and relevant case law and obtaining important admissions will put the outcome in your favor. Anyone hoping to make the data admissible must prepare for known objections and having a skilled truck accident attorney is paramount.