Story by FreightWaves’ John Gallagher
A fatal crash involving a commercial driver has led to a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) oversight of state driver licensing agencies.
According to the DOT’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on October 22, the crash, which occurred earlier this year, led to an internal investigation by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) that found the agency “had not systematically processed out-of-state paper notifications of driver convictions” in roughly five years.
The OIG said the investigation also found a software flaw that hindered the state agency’s ability to timely process out-of-state electronic notifications. “Consequently, in summer 2019, RMV issued thousands of [commercial driver license] suspensions, based on previously unprocessed out-of-state notifications,” the OIG stated. “Accordingly, our objective for this self-initiated audit is to assess FMCSA’s oversight of State driver’s licensing agencies’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted.”
The OIG noted an increasing number of large trucks and buses on the roads. It cited FMCSA data as of June 2019, finding that fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have increased 11.1% in the last five years, from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018.
The audit was announced at the same time the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an oversight report revealing that from 2014 to 2017, states did not achieve fatality-related safety goals set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“While NHTSA has taken steps to improve its review of these reports, officials acknowledged states are not clear on which target years to assess,” the report states. “Further, NHTSA lacks a mechanism to report whether states eventually achieve these targets. As a result, NHTSA and other stakeholders have limited insight into the results states have achieved from their use of federal safety funds.”
GAO recommended NHTSA provide more clarification to ensure states assess and report progress in meeting fatality targets.