Gaps in how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees state CDL programs threaten the agency’s ability to prevent large truck crashes, a federal watchdog agency warns.
A performance audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) between November 2019 and May 2021 revealed that a portion of state CDL agencies were not properly transmitting electronic notifications of truck driver convictions, the oversight of which is part of FMCSA’s responsibilities.
“Specifically, we estimate that States of Conviction [states in which a driving conviction occurred] did not timely transmit 18% of 2,182 major offenses and 17% of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe,” according to the report, which was made public on Thursday. “We also estimate that 11% of 2,182 major offenses were not timely posted and 2% of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe were not posted to driver records at all.”
The audit was initiated following a crash on June 21, 2019, in which a commercial driver licensed in Massachusetts killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire. According to the audit, the crash occurred less than six weeks after Connecticut suspended the truck driver’s driving privileges for refusing to take a chemical drug test.
“A subsequent internal investigation conducted by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) concluded the driver’s CDL would have been revoked before the crash if RMV had followed its own procedures for processing out-of-state driver notifications,” the report notes.
“Furthermore, RMV was not systematically processing paper notifications it received from other States. This tragic incident illustrates the importance of timeliness in processing driver convictions.”
The OIG audit also found that FMCSA’s annual program review (APR) process lacks the ability to adequately verify whether state CDL programs are meeting federal requirements. In addition, state noncompliance with federal CDL disqualification requirements “pose challenges for FMCSA’s oversight,” according to the audit.
“For example, some states offered administrative appeals to out-of-state drivers, overturned disqualifications, and backdated CDL disqualification periods. As a result, some drivers served shorter disqualification time periods than federal law requires.”
The OIG made seven recommendations to the FMCSA based on the audit, including putting in place standardized operating procedures for conducting annual program reviews and for determining when a state is “not making a good faith effort” to mitigate compliance issues.
In responding to the audit, FMCSA acknowledged that oversight of states’ actions to disqualify unsafe truckers “is critical to FMCSA achieving its mission to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses,” and was taking a list of actions, to be completed between March 2022 and December 2023, to improve its CDL program oversight.
Those actions include:
Reviewing the State Compliance Records Enterprise system and associated business rules and system requirements to identify and implement needed improvements.
Completing a rulemaking requiring state driver’s license agencies to exclusively use the Commercial Driver’s License Information System to electronically exchange driver history record information, including convictions and withdrawals.
Requiring FMCSA supervisory quality control reviews of completed APRs each fiscal year.
Issuing a noncompliance policy to improve FMCSA’s timeliness and consistency in addressing state compliance issues and imposing sanctions for substantial noncompliance.
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