Truck Safety:

Improvements Needed in FHwA's Motor Carrier Safety Program

RCED-91-30: Published: Jan 9, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA) efforts to promote the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles, focusing on the progress FHwA made in: (1) rating motor carriers' safety fitness; and (2) ensuring that motor carriers with less than satisfactory safety fitness ratings correct their deficiencies.

GAO found that FHwA: (1) by May 1990, rated the safety fitness of about 84,300 of the approximately 213,000 active interstate carriers; (2) did not expect to meet its September 30, 1992 deadline for rating all carriers because of a constantly changing motor carrier universe and a limited number of safety investigators; (3) assigned less than satisfactory ratings to 70 percent of the carriers it evaluated; and (4) did not sufficiently ensure that motor carriers corrected deficiencies, failed to ensure that carriers submitted certification letters of corrected deficiencies, and performed limited and untimely follow-up compliance reviews of only 17 percent of carriers. GAO believes that legislation enacted in 1990, if properly implemented, would encourage carriers to improve their safety management controls and correct their deficiencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FHwA issued an interim final rule in August 1991 that eliminated the requirement for a certification letter. FHwA will require motor carriers to submit within 45 days of receiving an unsatisfactory safety rating documentation of corrective actions which may be used to change the rating. After 45 days, the carrier will be prohibited from transporting hazardous cargo or 15 or more passengers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to require division offices to follow up on carriers that do not submit certification letters to FHwA within 30 days of receiving a safety rating and to take enforcement actions when necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FHwA issued an interim final rule in August 1991 that eliminated the requirement for a certification letter. FHwA will require motor carriers to submit within 45 days of receiving an unsatisfactory safety rating documentation of corrective actions which may be used to change the rating. After 45 days, the carrier will be prohibited from transporting hazardous cargo or 15 or more passengers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to issue additional guidance and procedures, as necessary, to help the divisions effectively follow up on certification letters and enforce federal safety regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FHwA established a safety fitness rating group in June 1992. FHwA has developed an action plan for improving the timeliness of compliance reviews. Implementation of the plan began in March 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to develop an action plan for improving the timeliness of compliance reviews, especially those for carriers rated as unsatisfactory.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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