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Highlights

To reduce the number of crashes involving commercial motor carriers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) within the Department of Transportation orders unsafe carriers out of service. To help keep these carriers off the road, FMCSA's voluntary Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) grant program, a small program funded at $5 million per year, helps states establish information systems connections between state vehicle registration and FMCSA's safety databases. These connections provide states with up-to-date information on carriers' safety status when carriers try to register or renew registrations with the state. For states to deny, suspend, or revoke registrations to out-of service carriers, states must pass legislation enabling them to do so. As directed by a congressional committee, GAO examined (1) PRISM's effectiveness and (2) the potential to fully implement the program nationally. GAO reviewed FMCSA data and discussed PRISM with a wide variety of federal, state, industry, and safety stakeholders

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation In order to assess PRISM's effectiveness in keeping unsafe carriers ofroad, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FMCSA to measure PRISM program effectiveness when the number of states that have the ability to deny, suspend, or revoke registrations to out-of-service carriers is sufficient to make such measurements meaningful.
Closed - Implemented
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established the voluntary Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) grant program to help states establish information systems connections between state vehicle registration and FMCSA's safety databases. These connections provide states with up to-date information on carriers' safety status when carriers try to register or renew registrations with the state. For states to deny, suspend, or revoke registrations to out-of-service carriers, states must pass legislation enabling them to do so. In 2009, GAO reported that 25 states had implemented PRISM to the point where they are able to keep carriers that FMCSA has ordered out of service from obtaining or maintaining vehicle registrations. However, PRISM's safety impact was hard to measure. An evaluation of the program sponsored by FMCSA in 2007 concluded that PRISM states show some improved safety over time compared with other states, indicating PRISM could have contributed to lower crash rates. However, because all FMCSA programs were aimed at reducing crash rates, isolating PRISM's effect was difficult. Nonetheless, the evaluation recommended that FMCSA adopt program measures to assess PRISM's effectiveness. FMCSA had not adopted all of these measures for various reasons, including a lack of resources. In GAO's view, applying such measures, while ultimately useful, may have been premature since PRISM's success was undercut by the 25 states including states with the greatest numbers of registered commercial motor vehicles and the District of Columbia that did not yet have the ability to deny, suspend, or revoke vehicle registrations of out-of-service carriers. Therefore, GAO recommended that FMCSA measure PRISM program effectiveness when the number of states that have the ability to deny, suspend, or revoke registrations to out-of-service carriers is sufficient to make such measurements meaningful. In 2017, GAO confirmed that FMCSA completed a review and issued a subsequent report on the effectiveness of the PRISM program. The 2016 report indicated that 44 states were participating in PRISM, with 30 states fully participating (denying, suspending, or revoking the registration of out-of-service carriers) in the program, thereby contributing to improved carrier safety. As a result, the evaluation team concluded that PRISM improves safety by removing unsafe carriers from operating on the nation's highways.

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