Audit of FMCSA oversight of high-risk carriers launched

By Jami Jones, managing editor

Oversight of at-risk motor carriers will be put under the microscope with the launch of an audit by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General into how the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees companies with histories of violations.

The audit, announced in early May, will look into FMCSA’s investigative practices and compliance review process, as well as the agency’s processes for ensuring that reviews of motor carriers flagged for an investigation are timely and adequate.

The audit was spurred by a request from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and by language included in the 2015 appropriations legislation following a fatal crash on the Illinois Tollway in January 2014.

Since 2010, FMCSA has been implementing its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program to identify higher risk motor carriers for intervention, such as targeted roadside inspections and compliance reviews.

An investigation into the incident found that the motor carrier involved had been flagged as high-risk by FMCSA before the crash, but no investigation had been conducted.

Durbin not only called on the agency for a full investigation into the crash, but later also requested that it conduct an audit into FMCSA’s oversight.

In April 2014, Durbin asked the agency to audit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s investigative practices. In June 2014, Durbin included a provision in a bill to fund the Department of Transportation in 2015 that called for the audit. The provision also directed the OIG to recommend ways to ensure that the agency does not miss opportunities to take dangerous drivers or motor carriers off the road.

In announcing the audit, the Office of Inspector General stated that in 2013 the National Transportation Safety Board conducted investigations of four motor carriers involved in crashes that collectively resulted in 25 fatalities and 83 injuries.

The Office of Inspector General states that, unlike the Illinois crash, these carriers had been investigated by FMCSA before their respective crashes, with one motor carrier investigated five days before its crash. Those investigations, according to the OIG, “did not uncover or act on certain pre-existing safety deficiencies until after the crashes.”

The agency did not disclose a timeline for completion of the audit. LL