Crash Indicator BASIC: Stay Safe on America’s Busy Highways

With over 250 million registered vehicles in this country, you might think vehicle crashes are an inevitability. And to a degree they are. But the US Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract shows a steady decline in accidents and fatalities over the last ten years–and that’s even with a rise in the number of four-wheel vehicles on our roadways. By contrast, FMCSA statistics show a slight increase in accidents and fatalities for large trucks and buses, though the numbers seem to be consistent with the increase in large trucks and buses on the roads.

Of course, accidents occur for a wide variety of reasons, and examining the many factors that may lead to or surround a crash is the goal of the FMCSA’s Crash Indicator BASIC. As the final post in our series on the seven BASICs, we’re going to dig into Crash Indicator and let you know what you can do to keep your BASIC Score as low as possible.

What is Crash Indicator BASIC?

The Crash Indicator BASIC collects information from state-reported crashes (only if they meet reportable crash standards) and examines them for histories or patterns of high crash involvement. Instead of seeing accidents as unique, individual situations, this BASIC looks at crash history as the consequence of a behavior or set of behaviors.

In practice, any time a collision occurs and the officer on the scene determines it’s DOT recordable, the crash is reported and that information is collected by the FMCSA. In order to be DOT recordable, a crash must involve these factors:
●    A fatality
●    An injury requiring treatment away from the scene, and/or
●    A vehicle being towed from the scene due to disabling damage

Drivers and motor carriers should keep in mind that factors like “fault” and “preventability” are not considered in the scoring here, and many drivers feel that the system unfairly discriminates against safe drivers by reporting crashes they couldn’t possibly avoid.

How does it work?

Like nearly all the other BASIC categories, Crash Indicator scores are weighted for severity and time. Crashes that occur within the last 6 months are weighted at 3 points, crashes 6 to 12 months old are weighted at 2 points, and any crash more than a year old is weighted at 1 point. Crashes that are severe (resulting in an injury or fatality) are given a severity ranking of 2 points, while minor accidents are rated at 1 point. A motor carrier’s BASIC score in this category is found by multiplying the severity ranking with the time weighting.

Motor carriers’ scores in this area are examined in comparison with their peers, which is based on the number of trucks in a carrier’s fleet. So a motor carrier that has between 5 and 15 trucks is stacked up against a carrier of similar size. This normalizing of scores allows the FMCSA to highlight carriers with abnormally high crash histories, and then dig in to determine how to address the problems.

Stay safe on the road

Motor carriers can minimize their exposure to an investigation or warning from the FMCSA by keeping their score as low as possible. But keep in mind that this isn’t simply the number of crashes that have occurred; rather, it’s a factor of the number of crashes as compared to a carrier’s peers.

Accidents on our roadways are an inevitability, and the best thing motor carriers can do is work with their drivers to avoid all preventable crashes. Making sure drivers have the training they need to avoid dangerous situations and use defensive driving techniques goes a long way toward eliminating preventable crashes.

If a crash does happen with your firm, Black Box event reporting can give second-by-second pictures of driver behavior and vehicle status before, during, and after an accident. This can be utilized by in-house staff to understand what happened, as well as by legal counsel for litigation support (or a settlement).

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Crash Indicator BASIC can only be seen by enforcement personnel or by a motor carrier that is logged into its own safety profile; it is not publicly available at this time. Unlike many of the other BASIC scores, this one is not accessible to the public.

A new direction for the Crash Indicator BASIC

Due to a number of complaints from drivers and motor carriers, the FMCSA is looking at a revision to the BASIC that would incorporate a review process to allow drivers and carriers to appeal the accidents on their record. FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro discussed the coming changes at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, announcing that a review was underway and that the results would be released soon. We’ll keep you updated as this develops.

Thank you for following along on our BASIC series. As a final bonus, we’re going to look next week at what motor carriers and drivers can do when they’re being investigated by the FMCSA.