Driver and Vehicle Data:

Federal Efforts and Stakeholders' Perspectives on Facilitating Data Sharing

GAO-18-98R: Published: Oct 26, 2017. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Justice (DOJ) have facilitated the sharing of states' driver and vehicle data through the development of three driver and vehicle data systems that are required by federal law. These systems include DOT's Commercial Driver's License Information System and the Problem Driver Pointer System and DOJ's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. GAO identified key steps that DOT and DOJ have taken to facilitate sharing states' driver and vehicle data:

  • Both DOT and DOJ entered into cooperative agreements with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)--a non-profit organization that represents state officials who administer and enforce motor vehicle laws--to perform various functions for these driver and vehicle data systems. While DOT and DOJ have oversight responsibilities for the systems, AAMVA has, for each system, various day-to-day responsibilities, such as providing technical support to states accessing the systems. 
  • DOT and DOJ have provided varying levels of funding for AAMVA's and states' efforts to connect states' driver and vehicle systems with the three data systems. For example, in fiscal year 2016, the most recent data available, DOT awarded $24 million to 33 states to improve state systems to be compatible with the modernized Commercial Driver's License Information System, among other things. 
  • Both agencies have communicated with states and industry stakeholders to obtain comments and suggestions for improving the systems through AAMVA's various working groups. For example, the Problem Driver Pointer System Working Group (also known as the National Driver Register Working Group) identified some data codes in the system that were associated with state penalties that did not relate to an individual's driving ability (e.g., underage smoking or library fines). As a result, DOT and AAMVA have efforts under way to remove those data codes.

With regard to stakeholders' perspectives on these data systems, selected stakeholders GAO spoke with identified benefits to using all three data systems and some data limitations facing the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. For example, licensing officials from one state reported that the Problem Driver Pointer System allows them to check information from other jurisdictions and keep those individuals who should not receive licenses from obtaining them. Stakeholders also commented that the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System helps in vehicle theft investigations, including identifying stolen vehicles that remain on the road with cloned identities (i.e., when a vehicle identification plate is replicated and placed on stolen vehicles, making them appear to have a valid identification number).

While stakeholders consider the National Motor Vehicle Title System to be a beneficial tool, they also noted that incomplete data reduce its usefulness. As of August 2017, 12 states and the District of Columbia were not fully participating in the system. Officials GAO spoke with from two of these states--California and Maryland--cited technical challenges and cost as barriers to full participation. These state officials also noted that barriers are best addressed at the state level and they are making progress towards full participation. Additionally, junk yards, scrap yards, and insurance companies are also required by law to report vehicle title data into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. However, some stakeholders GAO interviewed said that some junk yards, salvage yards, and insurance companies have not reported data into the system. While DOJ cannot address state barriers, it uses a variety of mechanisms to encourage or compel reporting. For example, since 2012, DOJ has levied $2.1 million in fines against eight non-reporting businesses and resolved hundreds of non-reporting cases without penalties.

Why GAO Did This Study

Consumers, federal and state agencies, and industry stakeholders, including auto dealers and insurance companies, rely on states' driver and vehicle data for a variety of purposes. While states and the District of Columbia collect and maintain driver and vehicle data for licensing and titling purposes, DOT and DOJ help states share and use state driver and vehicle information for various purposes, such as public safety and consumer protection, through three driver and vehicle data systems required by federal law. GAO was asked to provide information on how DOT and DOJ facilitate the sharing of state driver and vehicle data. This report describes: (1) steps DOT and DOJ have taken to facilitate efforts to share state driver and vehicle data among states and with consumers and (2) selected stakeholders' perspectives with regard to sharing state driver and vehicle data. To address these objectives, we focused on three data systems required by federal laws and reviewed relevant documents and interviewed DOT and DOJ officials and AAMVA representatives. We also interviewed officials from four states' licensing agencies and seven stakeholders, including associations and businesses that we selected to represent diverse circumstances and perspectives. The perspectives of the selected states and stakeholders are not generalizable, but they provide illustrations of how the systems work.

For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (213) 830-1011 or vonaha@gao.gov.

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