Hazardous Materials Serious Crash Analysis:
First Phase Final Report
2.0 Data and Stakeholder Assessment
2.1 Data Assessment
An initial focus of the project was to evaluate HM-related safety information being collected by DOT. This evaluation was accomplished by examining DOT databases that include HM truck crashes, reviewing analysis reports, and interviewing DOT staff and members of external organizations who have a stake in improving HM transportation safety and the quality of HM crash data.
The primary focus of database review was the two DOT databases that include HM truck crashes. These are the Hazardous Materials Information System (HMIS) database compiled by the DOT F 5800.1 form and the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) databases. The HMIS database contains about 300,000 records. Approximately 85% of these records involve highway incidents. MCMIS is a system of databases maintained by FMCSA. The accident file within FMCSA's MCMIS consists of extracts from police accident reports (PAR) collected by the states utilizing the National Governors Association's twenty-two truck accident elements, and possibly an accident investigation report if one was conducted.
Although other databases were examined, they did not provide critical information for the project. These included the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) Marine Safety Information System (MSIS) and the Aviation Airline Information Reporting System maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The Battelle team also reviewed a number of research studies on HM crash data quality that had been sponsored by DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) and other DOT agencies, most notably the FAA and FMSCA as well as its predecessor agency, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Motor Carriers. In addition, a number of HM crash studies were reviewed that have been conducted over the past 15 years, some appearing in transportation journals and others published as special reports. For example, the Office of Technology Assessment published an extensive study on HM in 1986 that contains a detailed chapter on crash data. The GAO also released a number of reports on HM crash data systems during the 1990's. Transportation Research Board's Special Report # 239 and several papers discussing HM crash data were also reviewed. Other sources included RSPA's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety annual/biennial reports, containing extensive discussions of HM incident data, and the DOT's Office of Inspector General review of incident data in its report on DOT's hazardous materials program.
The results of this review indicated that there are a number of critical areas related to the reporting of serious HM crashes that need improvement. Of particular concern is the difficulty in relating HM crashes recorded in different databases. This is especially true when comparing MCMIS with HMIS. There is also a problem with the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of the data. Much of this is attributed to the reporting chain. In the current reporting system, many different individuals must transfer information from one reporting form to another. Since there is not a one-to-one correspondence between fields in the successive reports, the translation process introduces many of the inconsistencies that were identified. Finally, information on causation is often lacking or incomplete. Recommendations for overcoming these problems include developing:
- common fields so crash information in various databases can be easily compared
- common definitions across databases to enhance compatibility
- an effective method to use carrier records for verifying and supplementing data
- quality control protocols to check the accuracy of database information
- a method to add additional information about causation to serious crash descriptions
- more comprehensive crash descriptions to better capture information routinely contained in PARs that may provide additional insight into ways to improve HM truck transport safety.
2.2 Questionnaire Process
A major resource for determining how data related to HM serious crashes could be improved was the results of a questionnaire distributed to stakeholders in the HM truck transportation community.
Selected participants represented a cross section of data users and producers at the federal and state levels, as well as those in the private sector. Although there are many government agencies concerned with hazardous materials crashes, the first priority was the FMCSA. Key FMCSA staff members were interviewed at headquarters and in the field to identify their data needs and gather feedback on suggestions for improvement. As a second priority, representatives of the other modal administrations within DOT were contacted, including the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), FAA and the USCG.
State government representatives in Michigan, Illinois, and West Virginia, as experienced users of hazardous materials crash data, were also included among the stakeholders. Other participants included industry groups represented by the National Tank Truck Carriers, Inc. (NTTC) and the Institute of Explosives, as well as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). Consultants and academicians are frequent users of hazardous materials transportation crash data. As the Battelle team consists of a diverse group of leaders in the hazardous materials consulting arena and academia, these stakeholder needs were also represented.
Information obtained through this process enabled the Battelle team to determine what needed to be included in a serious HM crash database. Valuable information was also obtained concerning potential information sources, collection/analysis methods, and how to monitor safety performance over time.
2.3 Questionnaire Results
Tables A-1 to A-9 in Appendix A summarize the results of the questionnaires completed by 21 respondents. The participants hold a wide range of HM transportation responsibilities, including:
- Oversight and responsibility for enforcement and inspections
- Internal consulting in risk management and safety issues
- Setting policy
- Regulatory monitoring, advocacy, interpretation and communication
- Product classification, shipping papers, marking, labeling and placarding
- Emergency response & crash investigation
- Compliance reviews
- Development and evaluation for HM security
- HM data development
- HM risk assessment
- Permitting and registration of HM transporters
- Developing government regulations and safety programs for HM transportation by highway.
Respondents indicated that, although they use all the major HM transportation databases, they rely mostly on HMIS and MCMIS. There is also substantial use of the U.S. Census and DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) Commodity Flow Survey.
In general, the respondents feel that current data systems include much credible data and information. However, there appear to be considerable opportunities for improvement, particularly in the following areas:
- Lack of thorough and accurate data on crashes
- Lack of quality data on package failures and successes
- No common repository for HM data
- No reliable denominator/commodity flow data available to calculate HM risk
- Lack of timeliness for some data due to long reporting and recording times
- Additional data needs and approaches
- Improved crash rate data from carriers
- Exposure data for HM shipments, including mileage and shipment quantities
- HMIS data for all crashes involving HM regardless if there was a spill
- Verification of current data before new data is added
- Limit data to collect significant information only
- Improve user friendliness of the databases
- Enhance data on performance of bulk packages in actual crashes, both failures and successes
- Record age and type of package involved in each HM crash
- Establish unique identifiers for crashes found in all databases
- Maintain a central database for all permit information.