Department of Transportation Needs Better Assurance That Transit Systems Are Maintaining Buses

RCED-83-67: Published: Mar 25, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1983.

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GAO examined the preventive maintenance activities of six major transit systems to determine whether the substantial federal investment in transit buses is adequately protected through proper maintenance.

GAO found that, although the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) requires grantees to maintain buses purchased with federal assistance, it has no policy or guidelines explaining the criteria for adequate maintenance. In addition, it has not systematically evaluated how well vehicles purchased with federal assistance are maintained. The scope and severity of maintenance problems nationwide is largely unknown. However, in its study of six major transit systems, GAO found that buses did not always receive timely preventive maintenance which could affect their reliability and useful life. In one system, over one-third of the year's scheduled maintenance activities were performed when the vehicles' mileage exceeded that prescribed for maintenance by at least 1,000 miles. Although climate and terrain can also affect bus performance, GAO believes that some of the decline in the reliability of many transit systems' vehicles may be attributed to untimely or inadequate maintenance. GAO also found: (1) that many transit operators lack the resources to carry out preventive maintenance programs despite the availability of federal operating assistance; and (2) inadequate mechanic training and maintenance facilities, a lack of mechanics, and more sophisticated vehicles requiring more maintenance.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: UMTA will not issue a regulation on bus maintenance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to require that federal capital grant assistance for bus purchases be subject to maintenance certification and independent audit provisions similar to those required for block grants. The amount of future federal grant assistance should be dependent on correction of maintenance program deficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: UMTA will not issue bus maintenance regulations. It will provide guidance and recommend bus maintenance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to work with the transit industry and develop a federal bus maintenance policy with flexible guidelines on what constitutes an adequate maintenance program and criteria to evaluate these programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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