According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, its roadside inspection efforts in 2012 prevented 472 on-highway deaths that year. The FMCSA referred to that number as “lives saved” in its announcement February 29, 2016.
If these numbers are accurate, the agency and its inspection partners deserve praise for those nearly 500 lives, along with the estimated 7,000 lives it says its inspection efforts have saved since 2001.
However, the number of “lives saved” via FMCSA’s inspection efforts has been declining since 2006, as has the number of inspections resulting from traffic enforcement.
ATA’s head of regulatory affairs, Rob Abbott, says, “The drops in enforcement-related inspections and deaths prevented comes in spite of annual increases in funding for enforcement and inspections therefrom.”
According to FMCSA’s own data, the number of inspections resulting from enforcement in 2012 was 510,083 — nearly half of the 900,260 inspections performed from Oct. 2005 through September 2006.
2012 wasn’t an outlier, either. It was the continuation of a trend that began in 2007 and has continued each year since, aside from a small jump in inspections in 2008 from the year prior.
“We think it’s concerning,” says Abbott. “The [numbers] suggest a steady decline in traffic enforcement and a decline in the number of lives saved. Hopefully this picture is not an accurate one, but we’re fearful it might be.”
Had the agency’s enforcement numbers remained stable, another 169 deaths could have been prevented in 2012.
An estimated 360,000 enforcement inspections occurred in 2015. Extrapolating from available data and FMCSA’s methodology, the agency’s inspection efforts prevented 461 deaths in 2015. However, another 224 deaths could have been prevented had the traffic enforcement inspections remained at 2006 levels. This trend is disturbing if accurate.