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First step to reducing numbers of truck accidents is here

May 30, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

FMCSA makes commercial truck safety info available – on Smartphones – with QCMobile CSA app

QCmobile app

As an attorney, the “I didn’t know” defense is one I hear often in commercial motor vehicle accident litigation. The load brokers or shippers I depose say it to me when I ask them about the unsafe company they selected.

And on it goes.

Until now. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced it has developed and released a smart phone app that allows public access to Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) scores on trucking companies, commercial motor carriers and bus companies. These scores include safety ratings, insurance and most importantly, violations and numbers of accidents.

This means the FMCSA, which is the government body that makes federal trucking laws, is making safety performance information for commercial truck and bus companies available –  on Smartphones – for all of us.

Called Query Central or “QCMobile,”  the new app will primarily be used by law enforcement, insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders, and others interested in reviewing the Department of Transportation CSA scores, registration, and safety performance information of commercial motor vehicles. It’s available for free for the iPhone and Android.

Currently, the CSA information is available online. Law enforcement officers and safety inspectors use custom software to login to a national safety database while they’re roadside to obtain highly detailed safety information they need (although, as an attorney who practices in this area of law, they often don’t do this – unless the crash involves a fatality or serious injury).

The new QCMobile app does not require the user to login. It retrieves data from a number of FMCSA sources and provides a summary of the results, quickly revealing whether the federal operating status of the carrier is authorized.

Said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a recent press release:

“By making currently available safety information on interstate truck and bus companies more easily accessible for both law enforcement personnel and the general public, we are providing greater transparency while making our roadways safer for everyone.  Safety is our highest priority, so we are committed to using every resource available at our finger tips to ensure the safety of travelers.”

And as a truck accident attorney, let me add an amen. I believe the more information that’s readily available, the better.  If law enforcement can quickly decipher a motor carrier that shouldn’t be on the road and put a dangerous truck with serious mechanical issues out of service before it causes a deadly accident, then the FMSCA is doing its job of monitoring and preventing accidents.

And as I said in the beginning of this blog, this will also allow load brokers and other people to be accountable when they choose a clearly unsafe motor carrier over a much safer one. This is hugely important, because as I’ve written about many times before, the unsafe companies today have a competitive advantage because they can underbid the safer companies for jobs. After all, safety is an added cost for these dangerous companies that choose to undervalue safety and ignore their legal obligations under federal and state safety rules and regulations.

Yet some members of the truck lobby disagree

Once again, some members of the truck lobby are squawking. Shame on them.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) had harsh words for the FMCSA upon the release of the QCMobile, stating the CSA data is unreliable and urging the public “not to use this app given the serious flaws that have been identified by the General Accounting Office and others.”

The ATA didn’t specifically denounce the app, but rather the underlying data, referring to a GAO testimony before the U.S. Senate in March that contended the system suffers from a number of data quality and sufficiency issues and therefore ‘does not effectively identify high-risk carriers.’”

This is despite overwhelming evidence that the best predictor of future truck accidents are past violations and past crashes.

And it’s unfortunate that the ATA (and OOIDA) are once again on the side against of safer trucks. How they seem to forget their obligations to protect the safety of truck drivers in favor of protecting the profits of trucking owners – even if it’s at the expense of safe trucks on our roads and safe drivers.

And the public – well, based upon how the ATA and OOIDA are fighting these safety developments – who cares about them?

Related information:

Truck accident deaths spike in last 3 years, ATA criticizes data 

ATA sues over hours of service rules

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