The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). MCMIS contains information relating to the safety of commercial motor carriers who are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
The information reported in the MCMIS is invaluable to monitor the safety of truck drivers and trucking companies. The information available to the public and the DOT includes the crash file which contains information from police reports and also contains other material essential to evaluate safety compliance, such as actions by the driver, condition of the vehicle and what caused the crash.
Crash Reporting Based on Police Reports
FMCSA implemented a crash reporting system by the motor carriers based on state police crash reports that are electronically transmitted from the states to the FMCSA.
Significant Underreporting of Accidents
A recent study by the US Department of Transportation found a significant amount of underreporting to the MCMIS crash files by carriers. A whopping 44% of crashes that should have been reported by the motor carriers had not been included in their reports, according to the study.
Some of the failure to report related to clerical errors such as having incorrect or missing US DOT numbers. A large percentage of those could be attributed to the reporting police officer failing to understand the need for that information or being unable to identify the correct DOT number on the 18-wheeler.
Another large part of the missing information related to the use of medium and heavy-duty trucks that were missed classified as light vehicles. Correctly categorizing the vehicle by gross weight rating is necessary to ensure compliance reporting. It is interesting that police officers did a much better job recognizing the correct categorization of out-of-state trucks than they did for trucks with in-state plates as reported.
Correct Information Needed from Local Officers
Finally, the study emphasized the need for correct information from the local police officers at the scene. It seems there could be some confusion regarding those vehicles that must comply with the federal motor carrier safety regulations and those that are not covered by the regulations. As in prior studies, failure to report necessary crashes and information became more prevalent with less severe accidents.
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