Longer Combination Trucks:

Driver Controls and Equipment Inspection Should Be Improved

RCED-94-21: Published: Nov 23, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 23, 1993.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed states' regulation of longer combination vehicles (LCV), focusing on: (1) the availability of state data to monitor the safety of current LCV operations; (2) state requirements for special inspections of LCV equipment; and (3) whether state controls effectively ensure safe LCV operation.

GAO found that: (1) states do not have adequate information on LCV operations to identify existing or emerging highway safety problems because they do not compile sufficient data to monitor LCV safety and operation; (2) states do not collect sufficient LCV accident data to calculate accidents-per-mile, differentiate between LCV-trailer types, or monitor LCV-driver performance and compliance with permit requirements; (3) although three states perform special LCV equipment inspections before issuing permits, most states rely on trucking companies and drivers to ensure that LCV equipment meets state safety requirements; (4) although double and triple LCV are included in roadside inspections, these LCV are underrepresented and as likely to fail inspections as other types of combination trucks; (5) states that allow LCV operations have various controls and levels of enforcement; and (6) although eastern states have been able to achieve low accident rates by requiring LCV drivers to have good experience and safety records, western states have not taken sufficient actions to control LCV operations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 1994, FHwA awarded a contract for a special study to determine the accident rates of 100 motor carriers using LCV.

    Recommendation: To provide better and more complete information on the safety of LCV, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, Federal Highway Administration (FHwA), to further investigate the safety of LCV operations through the targeting of LCV for inspections or through special studies, such as the ongoing FHwA study of LCV accident rates, and encourage states to use inspection data to monitor the adequacy of companies' maintenance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Section 4019 of the recently enacted Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 105-178, June 9, 1998), requires that FHwA review and revise, if necessary, the procedures for testing and licensing commercial vehicle operators to ensure that they reflect the knowledge and skills an operator needs. This requirement for a comprehensive reassessment of FHwA procedures supersedes the need to implement the specific recommendation in the report.

    Recommendation: To provide better and more complete information on the safety of LCV, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, Federal Highway Administration (FHwA), to include in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations requirements concerning the driving experience and the past safety records of drivers assigned to LCV to help ensure that drivers are adequately qualified to operate them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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