DOT to audit FMCSA’s oversight of CDL disqualifications

October 23, 2019

Tyson Fisher


On the same day the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released fatal crash numbers for 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General announced it will audit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s oversight of commercial driver disqualifications.

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, the U.S. DOT announced a self-initiated audit of FMCSA’s oversight of state driver’s licensing agencies’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted, according to a news release.

FMCSA is responsible for reviewing state CDL programs to determine whether they comply with regulations. The audit comes after a fatal crash in Massachusetts that led to an investigation.

According to the news release, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles launched an internal investigation after a fatal crash earlier this year involving a commercial driver. The investigation found that the department had not systematically processed out-of-state paper notifications of driver convictions in about five years. Massachusetts’ Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended thousands of CDLs this summer after reviewing unprocessed out-of-state notifications.

In the announcement, the U.S. DOT mentions that FMCSA’s “primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

“In recent years, the number of large trucks and buses on the roads has increased,” the U.S. DOT’s news release states. “Similarly, according to FMCSA data as of June 2019, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have grown from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018, an 11-percent increase.”

On Tuesday, NHTSA released final numbers regarding traffic fatalities in 2018. Although there was an overall reduction in traffic deaths, fatalities involving large trucks reached a 30-year high.

In related news, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report titled “Improved Reporting Could Clarify States’ Achievement of Fatality and Injury Targets.”

According to the report, from 2014 through 2017, states did not achieve most of the fatality-related targets.GAO audit

NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration each develop performance management frameworks that require states to use performance measures and targets in tracking traffic fatalities and serious injuries. This is done to ensure states are held accountable for $3 billion a year in traffic safety funding.

GAO made two recommendations:

  • NHTSA provide additional direction and clarification to ensure states assess and report progress in meeting fatality target.
  • NHTSA report on states’ final achievement of targets.

The U.S. DOT agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

According to the report, 26 states met their targets for all traffic fatalities in 2014. However, in 2017, that number plummeted to only nine states. Half states achieved their targets in motorcycle and speed-related fatalities in 2014. Only 17 met motorcycle fatality targets in 2017 and 19 states met targets for speed-related traffic deaths.