According to a new study published on Oct. 27, 2016, by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) must improve its evaluations of high-risk motor carriers. The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress to investigate how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. The GAO analyzed the agency’s data-driven Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program’s efforts from 2010 to 2015 to identify and intervene with at-risk motor carriers in an attempt to prevent problems before crashes occur.
From 2011 to 2015, fatalities involving motor carriers have increased and the GAO has recognized that interventions can play a critical role in reversing that trend; interventions that range from warning letters to on-site comprehensive investigations. While the FMCSA has transitioned to a range of more effective and efficient interventions, the GAO says “without improving the quality of information that FMCSA uses to evaluate its performance, the agency will continue to lack the information it needs to determine the extent to which it is achieving these fundamental programmatic improvements.” According to GAO, FMCSA did not consistently use a “comparison group design,” which considers outcomes among carriers that did and did not receive interventions, for its effectiveness evaluations.
Under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, FMCSA can select from a range of eight intervention types, giving the agency flexibility in addressing motor carriers’ specific safety problems. These new intervention tools supplement the former compliance reviews and better utilize the agency’s limited resources. CSA investigators are equipped to evaluate why safety problems are occurring, recommend remedies, encourage corrective action and invoke strong penalties or even issue out-of-service orders.
The FMCSA used only one investigation intervention type before the CSA program, the on-site compliance review. These compliance reviews required investigators to examine every part of a carrier’s operation and were very resource-intensive to conduct, therefore only about 3 percent of active carriers got investigated. The GAO report recommended that FMCSA evaluate the effectiveness of individual intervention types, update cost estimates so that they are current and representative of all states, and establish complete performance measures. The U.S. Department of Transportation concurred with the recommendations and is expected to provide a detailed response very soon.
If you would like more information, contact Chris Glover, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com. Chris handles big truck litigation for the firm.
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