FMCSA Fails Safe Truck Driver Policies

FMCSA Fails To Meet Its Safe Truck Driver Policies 

One accident led the Office of Inspector General to question what is “going on” on America’s roads. Commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) are issued by one State. But allows drivers to drive on roads in all states.  The FMCSA Fails Safe Truck Driver Policies and there are many examples of these issues.

This particular incident involves three states, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. 

This particular driver got his CDL in Massachusetts. In April or May of 2019, he had his driving privileges suspended by Connecticut. Six weeks later, in June 2019, he kills seven people in New Hampshire. 

How did this happen? Why was he allowed to drive on America’s roads? 

The Accident that Started an Inter-state Investigation

The Massachusetts driver was pulled over in Connecticut. The officer felt there was a problem. He refused to take a chemical drug test. Connecticut suspends his driving privileges and notifies Massachusetts of the fact. 

In New Hampshire six weeks later, in June 2019. The Massachusetts driver crosses the center line into an oncoming group of motorcyclists. Seven of whom he killed. Records show he had multiple drugs in his system.

So, why was he on the road in the first place? Why didn’t Massachusetts act on the information from Connecticut?

Massachusetts Investigates Itself

Upon learning of the accident, the State of Massachusetts conducts an investigation. They checked the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Procedures for processing out-of-state driver notifications were not being followed. The State did not process paper disqualifications notifications. These notices come from other states, letting them know they have a bad driver. 

Thus the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General looked into the matter. They reviewed how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles its job of oversight. It oversees state disqualifications of commercial licenses. 

FMCSA Has Gaps and Challenges in Its Oversight of CDL Disqualification Regulations

That is the title of a 58-page report by the Office of Inspector General. The report was published on July 14, 2021. It found several discrepancies in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) process. The IG’s office also made several recommendations to make its oversight more effective.

What the Inspector General Looked At How FMCSA Fails Safe Truck Driver Policies

  •  FMCSA’s primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Those involving large trucks and buses. 
  •  FMCSA regulates (CDL) holders involved in interstate commerce. 
  •  FMCSA regulates (CDL) holders involved in the transportation of hazardous materials. 
  •  In the last five years, fatalities involving large truck or bus crashes increased by 12.4 percent.
  •  Federal regulations for the CDL program outline minimum standards States must follow. 
  •  FMCSA must review each State CDL program to determine compliance.
  •  The IG assessed FMCSA’s oversight of States’ efforts to disqualify commercial drivers.

What the Inspector General Found

  •  Timely transmission of electronic conviction notifications – States failed 17% of the time.
  •  Timely transmission of electronic conviction notifications. – States where Convictions took place failed to send notices on 18% of the 2,182 significant offenses.
  •  Timely posts of electronic conviction notifications. – States failed to send notices on 17% of 23,628 for serious traffic violations.
  •  States did not post 11% of 2,182 major offenses on time.
  •  States did not post 2% of 23,628 serious traffic violations to driver records.
  •  States’ process to record and track mailed convictions was not well defined. So hampering FMCSA’s evaluation of paper conviction notifications.
  •  FMCSA’s review procedure lacks adequate quality control measures.
  •  FMCSA’s review process lacks standard operating procedures.
  •  FMCSA’s protocols did not address critical factors that impact CDL disqualifications. 
  •  FMCSA did not have a process to ensure States limited compliance issues on time. 
  •  FMCSA’s information system for tracking State compliance issues was not user-friendly.
  •  States not applying the Federal disqualification requirements poses challenges for FMCSA’s oversight. 
  •  Some States allow out-of-state drivers administrative appeals, negated disqualifications, and backdated disqualification timeframes.
  • Because of that, some drivers served shorter disqualification periods than Federal law required.

Inspector General Recommendations

The Inspector General’s Office recommended seven changes. These will make FMCSA’s oversight more effective. FMCSA will be ensuring States apply Federal requirements for disqualification of CDL drivers.

FMCSA concurred with all recommendations. These recommendations are considered resolved. Although planned actions still need to be completed. So they are coded as “open pending.”

The inspector general recommends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator:

  1. Incorporate standardized methods for States to collect and maintain paper-based convictions. So FMCSA can check the State’s performance. This is to improve States ability to record, track, and maintain paper-based convictions. Sent or received via mail.
  2. Complete and install standard operating procedures for conducting annual program reviews. And to provide supervisory quality control reviews of completed annual program audits.
  3. Change the annual program review checklist. Need auditors to address essential factors and determine whether: 

 – a. sampled out-of-State convictions were posted to driver records within the required ten days.

 – b. results from a review of in-State convictions were documented. And they recorded paper notifications of out-of-State convictions.

 – c. sample testing was conducted of – 1. the greater of two percent of electronic transactions in a month. 2. or a total of five transactions.

 – d. States to send convictions electronically or via mail but not both methods. 

 – e. States begin disqualification times after the date the out-of-State conviction is received. 

 – f. Identify states that offer administrative appeals for out-of-State disqualifications. And permit disqualifications to be overturned. 

  1. Complete and follow a procedure to determine if a State is not making an effort. States must mitigate compliance issues on time. Determine when to impose sanctions on non-compliant States. 
  2. Complete the Agency’s examination of the State Compliance Records Enterprise system. 

 To make sure the states follow through with enhancements. 

  1. Separate non-CDL holder convictions from CDL reports. Develop and install a workbook to check the State’s application of CDL regulations.
  2. Develop a plan to work with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. This is to limit risks when a state transfers to a new software system.

Summary of OIG’s Performance Audit

The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General conducted the audit. This was per generally accepted Government auditing standards. 

Organizations Visited or Contacted

 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

 State Driver’s Licensing Agencies in all States. 

 Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. 

 National Center for State Courts. 

 National Traffic Law Center.

Exhibits E and F1, F2, F3: 

These exhibits list disqualification convictions and their term limits for CDL drivers.

Minnesota had the most delays in conviction notifications for major offenses. This is shown in Exhibit G.

Our Mission: “OIG conducts audits and investigations on behalf of the American public to improve the performance and integrity of the DOT programs to ensure a safe, efficient, and effective national transportation system.”

Let us hope these changes will make our roads safer. And we will not see accidents like the one that led to this in-depth investigation.

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