In July, the DOT Inspector General issued a report regarding FMCSA’s gaps and challenges in its oversight of State CDL programs. The report uncovered an alarming number of cases where States didn’t transmit disqualifying convictions quickly enough. In some cases, the convictions were not posted for over a year and, in at least one case, not at all. Sometimes, this is because several states are still transmitting this information in an envelope with a stamp. The problems don’t stop there. Eighteen states allow drivers to appeal convictions for offenses for which FMCSA requires minimum disqualifications periods or shorted the disqualification period through backdating, thereby reducing the effectiveness of FMCSA rules. Moreover, the report identified several shortcomings of FMCSA’s Annual Review Process oversight of State CDL Programs, which obscured these deficiencies. The IG offered seven recommendations to FMCSA, with which the agency agreed.
Over the years, there have been several IG and GAO Reports highlighting issues relating to CDL compliance and oversight problems. The disqualification issue was the subject of an IG report published back in 2000. Over the years, FMCSA, through its grant programs, has distributed millions of dollars to aid states in complying with the CDL oversight and administration requirements. But still, the problems persist.
By not properly and timely disqualifying unsafe drivers and removing them from the roadways, it presents significant risk to the motoring public. In fact, the American Transportation Research Institute’s most recent Crash Predictor study directly ties a number of driver disqualifying offenses to the higher future crash propensity for those drivers. It also is not lost on STC that the IG report was published during CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver Week, which is focused on tackling these exact unsafe driving behaviors. There are too many drivers slipping through the cracks and being allowed to continue to operate, and while there are many resources being applied to these efforts, it clearly looks to us that much more needs to be done.
Perhaps it’s time for FMCSA to take a more forceful stance in requiring compliance with Federal CDL rules and threaten highway funds for states who fail to fully commit to highway safety. Law enforcement is doing their jobs in taking action to cite drivers for violations, and motor carriers are doing their job by monitoring drivers’ motor vehicle records. Perhaps it’s time for the remainder of the players in the system to do theirs.