Shooting at the right target, using the wrong ammo

OOIDA Foundation

FMCSA spends a considerable amount of money, which is channeled through various research programs, to gather and analyze data. It is important to note that many of these research programs and organizations are highly regarded and offer outstanding analysis. In addition, FMCSA has its own internal Department of Analysis, Research and Technology.

However, the problems become apparent in visiting FMCSA's website. The Research Division of FMCSA describes its mission: to reduce the number and severity of commercial motor vehicle-involved crashes and enhance the safety and efficiency of CMV operations.

The agency's mission statement is broad, vague, and has no grounding in practicality. Instead of implementing countermeasures to crash risk, FMCSA is looking at a "fuller scientific discovery, knowledge, or understanding." Rather than looking for innovative driver, carrier, vehicle roadside best practices and technologies, they should be looking at driving behaviors of good drivers who have millions of miles of driving without an accident. In fact, the average owner-operator has 2 million miles over the course of a career without a reportable accident.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, the agency should build on what is already available, and then expand technologies and best practices based on good drivers.

Instead of "expanding the knowledge and portfolio of deployable technologies and innovations," FMCSA needs to examine its own wealth of data to find countermeasures that may or may not be dependent upon a "portfolio of deployable technologies."

For example, FMCSA's own research shows that 70-80 percent or more of all crashes involve driver error and it even identifies specific errors. But instead of looking at preventive countermeasures to those errors, FMCSA looks to technology to solve the problems. If human errors are the problem in 70-80 percent of crashes, then there need to be countermeasures to those driver errors.

Instead of looking for countermeasures to lane change errors, which has the highest percentage of fatalities attributed to drivers (12 percent), FMCSA focuses on electronic logging devices to remove drowsy, asleep, sleepy and/or fatigued drivers (2 percent).

Tools do not create the road safety future. Trained professionals do. LL

Editor's note: The OOIDA Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit corporation organized to fund and sponsor research concerning economic and safety issues affecting the motor carrier industry. The Foundation is unique in that research and safety issues are viewed from the professional driver's perspective. The commentary above is an excerpt from a Foundation white paper titled "A New Direction Needed for FMCSA."