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Driver qualification, detention among DOT 2020 priorities

FMCSA called out for safety challenges. Credit: Shutterstock

Management at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will be pressured to address several affecting commercial drivers and their companies in 2020 based on a set of priorities unveiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

DOT’s Fiscal Year 2020 Top Management Challenges,” released on October 23, calls on the agency to tackle truck driver qualification, driver detention, and high-risk motor carrier interventions.

“We considered several criteria in identifying DOT’s top management challenges for fiscal year 2020, including their impact on safety, documented vulnerabilities, large dollar implications, and the ability of the department to effect change,” according to DOT’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG’s priority report asserts that weaknesses in “timely information sharing” between FMCSA and state driver licensing agencies has led to unqualified commercial drivers remaining on roads, including those involved in fatal crashes after previously being arrested for operating a truck while under the influence. The OIG announced on October 22 that it would be auditing FMCSA oversight of state commercial driver’s license agencies.

FMCSA must also ensure that commercial drivers maintain valid medical certificates, the OIG states, as well as crack down on medical certification fraud. In addition, “our investigations have uncovered numerous instances of fraud committed by State Departments of Motor Vehicles’ examiners, driving schools, and third-party examiners.”

Last year the OIG estimated that driver detention is associated with reductions in annual earnings of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion for for-hire commercial motor vehicle drivers in the truckload sector. But without accurate and representative data, “FMCSA faces challenges in accurately describing how the diverse trucking industry experiences driver detention,” the OIG report contends.

“FMCSA concurred with our recommendation to collaborate with industry stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze reliable data on the frequency and severity of driver detention.”

The OIG also highlighted FMCSA’s “ongoing challenge” related to its Compliance, Safety, and Accountability program, which is used to identify and prioritize high-risk motor carriers for interventions. An action plan to address the issue “lacked details on improving its assessment of motor carrier safety rankings, such as the use of percentile rankings and relative and absolute measures, to support decisions regarding which carriers receive safety alerts.”

The management challenges at FMCSA were among eight other 2020 priorities for DOT management within the department’s agencies, which include: 

  • Railroad safety. Key challenges: reducing railroad grade crossing and trespassing fatalities and overseeing railroads’ implementation of positive train control systems.
  • Surface infrastructure investments. Key challenges: targeting oversight resources and managing risks, capitalizing on oversight support, and improving project delivery.
  • Air carrier safety oversight. Key challenges: balancing collaboration and enforcement and overseeing air carriers’ new systems for managing safety risks.
  • The future of transportation. Key challenges: preparing for emerging vehicle automation technologies, integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems [drones] and the commercial space industry, leveraging innovative financing, supporting R&D, reshaping the workplace.


  1. John Johnson

    Honestly it won’t help more cars more accidents period you people play to many games with you’re BS there no safer driver then a CDL holder with or without you’re enforcement’s

  2. Art Parrino

    I totallly agree that information needs to be better transmitted between the states and the DOT, Driver qualitication is equally impertant, but I beleive we are missing one important factor, what about the dispatcher and broker responsibility. I personally have experienced tht total lack of responsibility from both of these entitiy’s just get the load there, don;t care how you do it. Maybe a better look at these poeple and their responsibilty could truly make a difference in safety and quailty of driver Feds need some new people with better knowledge of transportation fo work with some of these problems.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.