The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to conduct an updated study into the factors in commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes. In a January 15 request for information, the agency asked for public comment on how best to design and conduct a study—the Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study (LTCCFS)—identifying factors contributing to reportable large truck crashes (85 Fed. Reg. 2,481).
The FMCSA last conducted a comprehensive Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) in 2001–2003, which provided the agency and safety research community valuable insight into the factors that contributed to crashes involving at least one CMV.
The original study used a nationally representative approach, collecting data on crashes at 24 sites of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System. The original study found that driver-related action or inaction was a factor in the vast majority of crashes where the critical reason for the crash was assigned to the large truck.
The FMCSA asked for responses to four specific questions about a new study:
- Should the FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
- What type of study are you recommending (nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
- How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original LTCCS?
- What other sources of data can enrich the new study? How can they be identified and included?
Comments are due March 16.
The original study collected up to 1,000 data elements on each crash in the study sample from driver, passenger, and witness interviews. Researchers used a 28-page truck driver interview form. Information collected included:
- Crash scene description, including roadway and weather;
- Vehicle rollover, fire, jackknife, cargo shift, and component problems with brakes, tires, steering, engine, and lights;
- Driver credentials, history, method of wage payment, physical condition, fatigue (sleep pattern, work schedule, recreational activities, etc.), inattention or distraction, perception, and decisions; and
- Trip information, including intended start time, purpose, intended length, and familiarity with the route.
Vehicle safety and technology, driver behavior, and roadway design all have changed in the more than 15 years since the original study. Fatal crashes involving large trucks decreased after the study ended in 2003, until 2009 when they hit their lowest point in years (2,893 fatal crashes). Fatal crashes involving large trucks have steadily increased since 2009, reaching 4,415 fatal crashes in 2018.
A new study would enable the FMCSA to identify factors in the growth in fatal large truck crashes, as well as, injury and property damage only crashes. Factors identified in a new study could drive new initiatives to reduce the number of large truck crashes.
Knowing more about driver behaviors also could identify areas where new driving automation systems could help reduce large truck crashes.