Law enforcement agencies have failed to correctly report major crashes involving Fedex Ground, one of the nation’s leading package delivery companies. The omissions raise questions about whether the public is getting a full picture of FedEx Ground's safety record, as well as the safety records of similar corporations.
“Just to be forgotten like that is not fair,” said Nelson Andino, a passenger on a bus that was hit by a FedEx Ground truck.
Andino was on his way to a beach in Miami in January 2012 when a FedEx Ground truck ran a red light and t-boned a metro bus, knocking more than a dozen passengers out of their seats. According to Miami city officials, 18 people, including Andino, were transported to local hospitals.
“A lot of paramedics,” Andino said. “People screaming in pain being treated right there because there were people who had injuries.”
When a traffic accident involving a motor carrier causes fatalities, serious injuries or requires vehicles to be towed from the road, law enforcement agencies are required by law to notify the Department of Transportation (DOT). All crashes that meet those criteria, regardless of who is found at fault, must be reported.
That safety data is monitored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). “Simply put,” the FMCSA states on its website, “past crashes are a good predictor of future crashes.”
The DOT lists 1,313 collisions involving FedEx Ground from January 2012 to May of this year. During that same time period, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit identified 15 major crashes across the nation missing from FedEx Ground’s safety record.
The Miami crash was never reported. The DOT confirms that it definitely should have been, meaning this accident never made it onto FedEx Ground’s “federal safety score.” That score is listed as “satisfactory.”
“If you don’t know all of the accidents, then you don’t have the safety record of the company,” said Rod Diridon, who runs the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose.
Diridon said all accidents involving motor carriers need to be reported to the FMCSA so the government can concentrate its intervention efforts on companies that have high rates of preventable crashes.
“When those major accidents don’t get reported it doesn’t reflect on their safety score,” Diridon said. “That safety score is what the feds utilize to evaluate the overall safety record of the company.”
The Investigative Unit found 15 crashes in the past two and a half years that were not reported to the federal government.
These crashes involved overturned vehicles, multiple injuries and fatalities. In one, a FedEx Ground driver died after colliding with a bus in Atlanta last November. Last December, a crash involving a car and a FedEx Ground truck in Texas killed one person and injured four more.
Two accidents in California went unreported. In one, a FedEx Ground driver hit and killed a motorcyclist in Brentwood. In Orange County, the driver of big rig died after colliding with a stalled FedEx truck on a freeway in Buena Park.
FedEx Ground declined an interview request but said that a motor carrier has no obligation to report accidents to the federal government.
The FMCSA says there are many reasons why these crashes were not included in FedEx Ground’s safety record. They cite possible mistakes such as miscoding the crash reports, recording the wrong DOT numbers or flat out failing to report at all.
“It all starts with that officer who investigates the collision,” said California Highway Patrol Capt. Brandon Johnson. “He is required to collect all that data.”
Johnson is the commander of the commercial vehicle unit of the CHP, the agency that investigated the crashes in Brentwood and Buena Park. He says in both cases officers failed to include FedEx Ground’s DOT number in crash reports.
“It was human error and what happened was probably a training issue,” Johnson said.
The CHP received more than $75 million in taxpayer money in the last five years for motor carrier oversight.
Since the Investigative Unit alerted CHP to the oversight, Johnson says the two major collisions involving FedEx Ground will now be part of the company’s safety record. He also plans to employ more training for officers who investigate motor carrier crashes.
“This is going to go out statewide to everyone that’s going to advise them on what kind of information needs to be on the accident report so this doesn’t happen again,” Johnson said.
In California, 70 crashes have been successfully reported to the FMCSA from 2012 through May of this year. The agency says it’s unclear whether the two California accidents or the 13 others across the country would significantly affect FedEx Ground’s safety score. Andino, who was struck in Miami, said every crash should count.
“They should list every accident they have and let everyone know,” he said.
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