Right now, there is a big fight down in Washington, D.C., over a bill moving through Congress that deals with transportation issues, and specifically the American trucking industry. The bill itself is over 1000 pages long. The big deal here is funding. The goal here is to pass a massive law that will fund over $300 Billion for the highways, etc., that cross our nation.
However, inserted within all those provisions about highways and the cost of repair and build are major changes for trucking companies. Things that help the trucking industry but are of great concern to those worried about the safety of American roads where huge and heavy big rig semi trucks drive alongside sedans, SUVs, minivans, and motorcycles.
- Lowering the minimum age for someone to be a commercial truck driver who drives cargo across state lines from 21 to 18.
- Keeping safety rankings given to trucking companies by FMCSA private and not accessible to the American public.
Knowing these safety rankings is a big deal.
Think about it from the trucking company’s perspective: if no one can see the FMCSA logs of your dangerous drivers, then are you as likely to keep them off the roads — particularly when there’s a shortage of commercial truck drivers available to move that freight?
It’s not like those FMCSA safety logs are considered all that reliable, anyway. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin just asked for an audit of the federal agency by the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, and the audit is going forward.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability program identifies high risk motor carriers for intervention such as targeted roadside inspections and compliance reviews. However, high profile crashes have raised concerns about the timeliness and effectiveness of FMSCA’s reviews of these carriers. In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated 4 carriers involved in crashes that collectively resulted in 25 fatalities and 83 injuries. These investigations revealed that FMCSA conducted safety reviews of the carriers prior to their crashes—1 only 5 days before—but did not uncover certain pre-existing safety deficiencies or act on others until after the crashes.
In 2014, a motor carrier known to FMCSA as high-risk was involved in a fatal crash in Illinois. Despite the carrier’s risk status, FMSCA did not conduct an investigation. Following this crash, Senator Dick Durbin requested that we audit FMCSA’s investigative practices for high-risk motor carriers. The 2015 appropriations legislation also directed us to review FMCSA’s compliance review process. Accordingly, we are initiating this audit. Our audit objective is to assess FMCSA’s processes for ensuring that reviews of motor carriers flagged for investigation are timely and adequate.