Truck Safety: Need to Better Ensure Correction of Serious Inspection Violations

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-28.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

(;Ao..                 ^_..-    I . “. “,,. ..^ . ..-..I”

-... ._.- ._..-_---___-“._~._ --_-.-.-     ~-_--_-
Svpl (~IIIIWI I !)!to
                                                            TRUCK SAFETY
                                                            Need to Better Ensure
                                                            Correction of Serious
                                                            Inspection Violations

                                                RESTRIm       --Not  to be released outside the
                                                General Accounting Offhe unless specifically
                                                approved by the Of&e of Congressional

--...-                   -               _.
(;A( I,/ IN :l~:1)-!M-202
I                                                                                       iiI\
I’                                                                                         i
     I”__.   ,..__. _”_.._-I   -   .._.-   - .._- --.--.-..-.” ..--..--.   .----~   -    I>
Resources, Community,   and
Economic Development    Division


September 28,199O

The Honorable Glenn M. Anderson
The Honorable John Paul Hammerschmidt
  Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Public Works and
House of Representatives

The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta
The Honorable Bud Shuster
  Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation
Committee on Public Works and
House of Representatives

In response to your request, this report evaluates federal and state efforts to improve truck
safety by keeping trucks and drivers with out-of-service violations off the nation’s

Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this
report for 7 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the
Secretary of Transportation; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration; and other interested parties.

This work was performed under the direction of Kenneth M. Mead, Director, Transportation
Issues, who can be reached at (202) 2751000. Other major contributors are listed in
appendix II.

Assistant Comptroller General
Executive Summary

                   In 1989 state personnel conducted 1.3 million commercial motor vehicle
Purpose            inspections as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program
                   (safety program) and ordered 474,000 vehicles and 92,000 drivers out
                   of service. Out-of-service orders record vehicle mechanical defects and
                   driver deficiencies deemed so serious that the truck and driver cannot
                   legally continue the trip until these problems are corrected. The House
                   Committee on Public Works and Transportation and its Subcommittee
                   on Surface Transportation asked GAO to determine if out-of-service vio-
                   lations are actually corrected before cited trucks and drivers return to
                   the nation’s highways. This report analyzes (1) the effectiveness of Fed-
                   eral Highway Administration (FHWA) and state efforts to determine the
                   extent to which out-of-service trucks and drivers may be returning to
                   the road without making required corrections; (2) FHWA and state actions
                   taken to ensure that serious violations are properly corrected; and (3)
                   other actions that can be taken to ensure serious violations are

                   In 1982 the Congress authorized the safety program to improve highway
Background         safety by detecting and correcting commercial motor vehicle and driver
                   violations through increased roadside inspections. These focus on
                   serious mechanical violations such as defective brakes and driver viola-
                   tions such as driving too many hours. Forty-seven states participate in
                   the safety program and funding has grown from $8 million in 1984 to
                   $47 million in 1990.

                   The states have three internal control procedures available to determine
                   if inspections are actually keeping potentially dangerous trucks and
                   drivers off the road. The first control (reinspection) is completed imme-
                   diately after violation correction to see if out-of-service violations were
                   properly corrected. The second (verification) is similar, except that the
                   correction is checked at a later time, usually at the motor carrier’s ter-
                   minal. The third (carrier certification) occurs when the carrier certifies
                   that corrections are properly made by signing and returning the inspec-
                   tion form to the inspecting state. FHWA regulations require that carriers
                   return the certified forms and that states monitor their return; states’
                   use of the other two controls is voluntary.

                   FHWA and the states do not know the extent of noncompliance with out-
Results in Brief   of-service orders. Preliminary results from FHWA-funded studies
                   involving 940 vehicles in five states showed an overall noncompliance
                   rate of 12 percent. Individual state rates varied from 9 to 53 percent.

                   Page   2                                          GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                        Executive   Summary

                        The studies also indicated that drivers left unattended at inspection
                        sites are more likely to continue their trips without correcting out-of-
                        service violations. GAO believes that detection of serious violations
                        means little unless they are properly corrected.

                        FHWA has limited ability to enforce the required carrier certification con-
                        trol because of the voluntary nature of the program. FHWA and state
                        emphasis has been primarily on increasing roadside inspections to detect
                        violations, with little follow-up to see that these violations are corrected.
                        GAO questionnaire results from 47 state safety program coordinators
                        indicated that most states did not make adequate use of the controls to
                        ensure compliance with out-of-service orders. Only five states had used
                        all three of the control procedures.

                        FHWA and the states can also take other actions to follow up on out-of-
                        service violations. For example, Safetynet, FHWA'S management informa-
                        tion system for nationwide inspection and accident data, has provided
                        only about 40 percent of the 1988 and 1989 inspection data available on
                        carriers because of software, hardware, and data-entry problems at both
                        the state and federal levels. State and federal officers need timely, com-
                        plete Safetynet data to better focus compliance efforts on carriers with
                        poor safety records. In addition, most visits to carriers by inspectors to
                        perform reviews rating overall safety of operations, and to do more in-
                        depth audits, do not include verification to ensure violation corrections.
                        Using verification during safety reviews and other carrier visits would
                        better utilize program resources and could improve compliance with out-
                        of-service orders.

Principal Findings

Little Is Known About   FHWA funded small studies in five states-Idaho,     Maine, Michigan,
Noncompliance Rates     Oklahoma, and Wisconsin-to determine how often drivers continue
                        their trips without correcting out-of-service violations. The highest non-
                        compliance rate (53 percent) was found in Maine, which concentrated on
                        drivers left unattended after the inspection facility closed. Similarly,
                        Michigan’s study found a 16 percent noncompliance rate for drivers left
                        unattended compared to a 2 percent rate for those at open facilities. The
                        Idaho study, based on a larger percentage of inspections at facilities
                        staffed around the clock (where drivers were under some scrutiny),

                        Page   3                                           GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                            Executive   Summary                                                              .

                            showed the lowest overall noncompliance rate (9 percent). GAO'S ques-
                            tionnaire results showed that up to 74 percent of inspections occur at
                            facilities not staffed around the clock, which increases the number of
                            drivers left unattended and the potential for noncompliance.

Limited State Compliance    FHWA has emphasized conducting inspections to detect vehicle defects
                            and driver violations but has done little to encourage states to use rein-
Efforts                     spection and verification compliance controls and has not enforced the
                            required carrier certification control. FHWA officials stated that uncer-
                            tainty over the extent of noncompliance, large increases in the number
                            of inspections, and lack of state personnel were the primary reasons for
                            not enforcing carrier certification or encouraging use of the other two

                            Questionnaire results also showed that while most states used at least
                            one control, such efforts were sporadic and limited in numbers. As of
                            December 1989, 27 states had performed limited reinspections, but only
                            9 of them classified their efforts as continuous. Fifteen states verified
                            correction at the terminals on a limited basis, and 17 states consistently
                            tracked carrier certification and notified those not certifying as required
                            by FHWA. Only five states had used all three controls; six others had not
                            used any of them.

                            States have limited resources and cannot reinspect all out-of-service vio-
                            lations. FHWA is limited in what it can require of states since the safety
                            program is voluntary. However, GAO believes that greater use of the con-
                            trols would help states identify noncompliance, the conditions under
                            which it most often occurs, and the control(s) that will most effectively
                            discourage it.

Other Actions to Increase   FHWA and states need to complete Safetynet. Only about 40 percent of
Compliance                  the 1988 and 1989 inspection data are available to FHWA and state offi-
                            cials because of multiple problems at both levels. As a result, inspection
                            data to help identify unsafe trucking firms and to effectively deploy
                            enforcement personnel are not available from all states. FHWA could
                            enhance Safetynet development by assisting the states that do not pro-
                            vide complete and timely inspection data.

                            Also, 31 states perform safety reviews at carrier terminals, but usually
                            do not perform verification of out-of-service violations during these
                            reviews. FHWA prefers that safety reviews be primarily educational.

                            Page    4                                         GAO/RCRD-90-202   Truck   Safety
                      Executive   Sumnwy

                      However, program resources could be more effectively used by com-
                      bining these activities- even though it could mean enforcement actions
                      for violations of out-of-service orders discovered during verification.
                      States currently have widely varying monetary penalties for noncompli-
                      ance and know little about penalty enforcement. All states, however,
                      must adopt Commercial Drivers License provisions disqualifying an
                      operator’s license for certain offenses. GAO believes adding out-of-service
                      order violations to these provisions would provide a more uniform pen-
                      alty and an additional incentive for compliance.

                      GAO recommends that the Secretary of Transportation       direct the Admin-
Recommendations       istrator, FHWA, to take the following actions:

                  .   Encourage greater state use of the control procedures, including using
                      reinspection and verification on a sample of out-of-service violations
                      and carrier certification for all of these violations, by setting aside pro-
                      gram funds for this purpose or withholding funds for states failing to do
                      so within a reasonable time frame.
                      Require FHWA inspectors and encourage state inspectors to make verifi-
                      cation of a sample of out-of-service orders a standard part of all carrier
                      terminal visits.
                      Work with states not transmitting reasonably complete and timely
                      Safetynet inspection data to overcome implementation problems.
                      Add noncompliance with out-of-service orders to offenses listed in fed-
                      eral regulations that require driver’s license disqualification.

                      Other recommendations are made in chapter 3.

                      As requested, GAO did not obtain official agency comments on a draft of
Agency Comments       this report. However, GAO discussed the report’s contents with FHWA offi-
                      cials and they generally agreed. GAO incorporated clarifying comments
                      as appropriate. FHWA officials provided GAO a March 1990 memo
                      describing Safetynet actions they are taking, including possible loss of
                      safety program funding and additional reporting requirements, to
                      encourage full Safetynet participation. GAO'S recommendation reflects
                      FHWA actions.

                      Page   5                                          GAO/WED-PO-202       Truck   Safety

Executive Summary                                                                                         2

Chapter 1                                                                                             8
Introduction             Trucking Industry and Federal Safety Regulations
                         MCSAP Developed to Improve Truck Safety
                         Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                          16

Chapter 2                                                                                            18
FHWA and the States      FHWA and States Do Not Know How Many Out-Of-Service                         19
                             Violations Are Properly Corrected
Need to Ensure That      Most States Do Not Use Controls to Reasonably Ensure                        24
Serious Violations Are       Compliance
Properly Corrected       Federal and State Priority Is on Roadside Inspections                       30
                         Conclusions                                                                 31
                         Recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation                          32
                         Agency Views                                                                33

Chapter 3                                                                                            34
Other Actions to         Nationwide Safetynet Inspection Information Is Not Yet                      35
Increase Compliance      Penalties Needed to Ensure Compliance                                       38
                         Inspection Form Changes Can Enhance Compliance                              41
                         Conclusions                                                                 42
                         Recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation                          42
                         Agency Views and Our Response                                               43

Appendixes               Appendix I: Control Procedures Used by the States as                        46
                             Noted on Questionnaires, December 1989
                         Appendix II: Major Contributors to This Report                              48

Tables                   Table 1.1: Number of Reported Federal and State
                             Roadside Vehicle Inspections (1981-89)
                         Table 1.2: MCSAP Inspection and Out-Of-Service Rates                        14
                         Table 2.1: Overview of Study Results                                        22
                         Table 22: Overview of State Compliance Efforts                              25
                         Table 3.1: Information on State Monetary Penalties                          39

                         Page   6                                      GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety

Figures   Figure     1.1: A Driver Records Check                                              11
          Figure     1.2: A Tire Tread Check                                                  11
          Figure     1.3: A Lug Nuts Check                                                    12
          Figure     1.4: An Out-Of-Service Decal for Serious Violations                      12


          CDL          Commercial Driver’s License
          CVSA         Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
          Dor          Department of Transportation
          FHWA         Federal Highway Administration
          GAO          General Accounting Office
          MCSAP        Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program

          Page 7                                               GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   safety
Chapter 1


                        In the United States more people die each year in accidents involving
                        commercial motor vehicles than in accidents involving airplanes, trains,
                        and ships combined. Since 1981, large trucks have been involved in
                        about 330,000 serious accidents annually, resulting in 4,600 fatalities
                        and economic losses estimated at $6 billion per year. Such accidents may
                        have numerous contributing factors, but many are caused by driver vio-
                        lations, mechanical defects, or a combination of these factors. Although
                        large trucks account for only 4.5 percent of vehicle miles driven, they
                        represent 10 percent of all highway fatalities. To address the problem of
                        large truck accidents, the Congress authorized the Motor Carrier Safety
                        Assistance Program (MCSAP) in the Surface Transportation Assistance
                        Act of 1982.

                        The trucking industry in the United States includes approximately
Trucking Industry and   186,000 motor carriers that have annual gross revenues of more than
Federal Safety          $226 billion. These carriers have an estimated 3.6 million trucks having
Regulations             gross vehicle weight ratings of over 10,000 pounds. These trucks travel
                        more than 100 billion miles annually.

                        The federal government has regulated the motor carrier industry for
                        over 60 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the
                        Department of Transportation (DCW)established safety regulations
                        affecting the operation of motor carriers in interstate and foreign com-
                        merce. Federal safety regulations include standards for vehicles and
                        drivers. Under MCSAP, FHWA and the states have worked to increase the
                        uniformity in state regulations for interstate carriers and states have
                        adopted most of the federal regulations, although some rules may differ
                        for intrastate carriers.

                        FHWA regulations prohibit motor carriers from operating vehicles in
                        interstate commerce unless they are properly equipped with the
                        required parts and accessories. These requirements include standards
                        for axles, brake and steering systems, frames and frame assemblies,
                        tires, lights, and other parts and accessories.

                        About 6 million people drive trucks in interstate and foreign commerce.
                        FHWA regulations require these drivers to (1) be in good physical health
                        as certified by a medical certificate, (2) be at least 21 years old, (3) pass
                        a driver’s road test, (4) have a valid license with safe driving record, (6)
                        comply with alcohol and drug prohibition rules, and (6) follow
                        numerous other safety regulations.

                        Page   8                                           GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                       Chapter 1

                       Interstate drivers and motor carriers must also comply with FHWA hours-
                       of-service requirements. For example, a driver may not operate a com-
                       mercial vehicle after he or she has driven for 10 hours or has been on
                       duty for 15 hours (following 8 consecutive hours off duty). A driver
                       must keep a record (or log) of duty status for each 24-hour period. In
                       September 1988 FHWA issued a rule allowing the optional use of certain
                       automatic on-board recording devices for recording a driver’s duty
                       status, in lieu of the handwritten log.

                       FHWA'S Office of Motor Carrier Safety, Field Operations, administers
MCSAP Developed to     MCSAP; its State Program Division works closely with states to encourage
Improve Truck Safety   their involvement. The program’s purpose is to reduce accidents by
                       increasing roadside inspections and enforcement activities. These activi-
                       ties increase the likelihood that safety defects, driver deficiencies, and
                       unsafe carrier practices will be detected and corrected. In addition to the
                       roadside inspections done under MW, FHWA also requires that drivers
                       frequently conduct “walk around” inspections of their vehicles and has
                       recently required carriers to ensure annual inspections are done on all
                       commercial vehicles.

                       Authorized funds for MCSAP inspection activity have grown from $8 mil-
                       lion in 1984 to $47 million in 1990, with participating states providing a
                       20 percent match of funds and maintaining preexisting levels of
                       spending for truck inspection programs. FFIWAbasic funding to the states
                       implementing McsAPranges from $225,000 to $2.6 million annually,
                       based on factors such as road mileage, vehicle miles traveled, number of
                       commercial vehicles, population, and special fuel consumption. FHWA
                       also provides additional discretionary MCSAP grants to states, subject to a
                       separate approval process.

                       Although MCSAP funding provides states some incentive to remain in the
                       program and to follow FHWA guidance, FHWA is sometimes limited in what
                       it can actually require states to do. Because states are not required to
                       participate in MCSAP, FHWA must rely heavily upon federal-state coopera-
                       tion. As a result, FHWA provides guidance to states without insisting on
                       absolute uniformity in all matters.

                       Seventeen states reported doing inspections under MCSAP in 1984, but by
                       1989 the number had grown to 45 states. Only South Dakota, Florida,
                       and Texas were not in the program, and Alaska and Wyoming were in
                       the developmental stage of MC&P. The increase in state involvement
                       under MCSAPhas tremendously increased the numbers of inspections;

                       Page 9                                           GAO/RCJ!D-90-202
                                                                                       Truck Safety
                                         Chapter      1

                                         most are now conducted using a wide variety of state structures and
                                         personnel. As shown in table 1.1, the number of reported nationwide
                                         commercial vehicle inspections has increased from about 39,000 in 1981,
                                         when only federal personnel did them, to about 1.3 million done by state
                                         personnel under MCSAP in 1989. It should be noted that these figures do
                                         not include some state inspections not funded by MCSAP and not centrally
                                         reported, The largest example of this was California, which funded
                                         about 400,000 inspections in 1989-only 32,000 were funded by MCSAP
                                         and are included in table 1.1 totals. The inspections listed include bus
                                         and hazardous materials inspections, but, these inspections are a rela-
                                         tively small percentage of overall figures.

Table 1.l: Number of Reported Federal
and State Roadside Vehicle Inspections                                                                               Total
(1981-89)                                Federal                           Federal      MCSAP state              reported
                                         fiscal year                   inspections       inspections          inspections
                                         1981                               38,847                    .              38,847
                                         1982                               33,174                    .              33,174
                                         1983                               24.721                    .              24,721
                                         1964                               18,966            159,294               178,260
                                         1985                               16,046            374,885               390,931
                                         1986                               10,027            559,300               569,327
                                         1987                                  910          1.003.794             1.004.704
                                         1988                                  238          1,254,385             1,254,623
                                         1989                                2,357          1,301,068             1,303,425
                                         Total                             145,286         4,652,726             4,798,012

Roadside Inspection                      In conducting roadside inspections, state personnel look for both
Process                                  mechanical defects and driver deficiencies. Trucks can be selected at
                                         random, but are often selected because of observed or suspected viola-
                                         tions. All violations are noted on the inspection form which must be
                                         signed by the driver, If violations are deemed to be serious, the truck or
                                         driver can be placed out of service and cannot legally continue the trip
                                         until violations are properly corrected (figs. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 depict
                                         typical inspection activity).

                                         Page    10                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                                      chapter      1

Figure 1.1: A Driver Record8 Check

Figure 1.2: A Tire Tread Check

                                     Page   1I
                                                       GAO/RCED-90202   Truck   Safety
Chapter      1

Vehicle out-of-service violations are mechanical or loading conditions
that are determined to be so imminently hazardous as to likely cause an
accident or breakdown or contribute to loss of control of the vehicle.
The most common mechanical defects that place vehicles out of service
include defective brakes, tires, and lighting. Decals that list defects are
placed on out-of-service vehicles in a prominent location (see fig. 1.4)
and cannot be removed until listed repairs are accomplished.

Driver out-of-service orders note conditions that would render the
vehicle operator unqualified to drive. Common driver out-of-service vio-
lations include driving too many hours, failing to maintain a proper
record of hours driven, or failing to have a proper medical certificate.
Several of the more common out-of-service violations for drivers require
that they do not drive again for 8 hours. Less serious violations may
also be found that do not prohibit continued operation but that require
correction before the vehicle and driver are dispatched again.

If mechanical defects are serious enough to place the truck out of ser-
vice, it usually cannot be moved until these defects are corrected. This
means it either has to be fixed at the inspection site by the driver or a
mobile repair unit, or be towed to a repair facility. A small portion of the
vehicle out-of-service defects are also designated as “restricted service,”
which means officers may allow continued operation to a repair facility
within 26 miles. Restricted service is used only if the officer judges it to
be less hazardous to the public to move the vehicle than to require it to
remain at the inspection site.

If no out-of-service violations are found, most states place a Commercial
Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)~ decal on the vehicle that tells other
inspectors that the truck was without critical defects at the time of
inspection. The decal is good for 3 months and helps inspectors to con-
centrate their efforts on trucks that have not been recently inspected.

Table 1.2 compares the total number of inspections conducted with the
related out-of-service rates for vehicles and drivers since MCSAP began in
1984. Despite the large increase in inspection numbers, the out-of-ser-
vice rates have remained fairly constant throughout the 6 years.

‘CVSA is an association of state and provincial officials responsible for the administration and
enforcement of motor carrier safety laws in the United States and Canada, working together with the
federal government and industry to improve commercial vehicle safety. Currently 48 states and the
12 Canadian provinces and territories have joined CVSA.

Page    13                                                        GAO/RCED-90-202     Truck   Safety
                                       Chapter      1

Table 1.2: MCSAP Inspection and Out-
Of-Service Rates                                               Total inspect           Out-of-service rates (percent)
                                       Year                             tions            Vehicle                   Driver
                                       --1984                        159,294           49,604(31)                9,273(6)
                                       1985                          374,885          107,583(29)               23,695 (6)
                                       1986                          559,300          218,144(39)               43,177 (8)
                                       1987                        1,003,794         370,088 (37)               57.654 (6)
                                       1988                        1,254,385         470,836(36)                83,149(7)
                                       1989                        1,301,868         473,919(36)                91,873(7)

State Programs Under                   The dramatic increase in inspections has occurred utilizing state inspec-
MCSAPDiffer                            tion programs that vary greatly in structure, locations, methods, types
                                       and numbers of inspections done, program maturity levels, and other
                                       activities undertaken. For example, states participating in MCSAPmay
                                       use many different organizations within the state. One may use state
                                       police to conduct inspections, another may train public service commis-
                                       sion personnel or a special motor vehicle enforcement group to do this,
                                       while another may use personnel from several agencies for various
                                       MCSAP   duties.

                                       State locations and methods for inspections also vary. Some states do
                                       most inspections at facilities that remain open 24 hours per day. These
                                       are often permanent scale facilities (also used to weigh trucks), but they
                                       are not staffed with inspectors around the clock. Others states may also
                                       use mobile units called “highway rovers” to patrol and inspect trucks
                                       along the roadside or at facilities that operate a limited number of hours
                                       per day. The inspections themselves may range from a complete inspec-
                                       tion (level I) to less comprehensive inspections that check only readily
                                       observable items (level II), only drivers (level III), or only special items
                                       (level IV).

                                       These differences, along with the maturity of the inspection program
                                       and the state’s commitment to it, can affect the number of inspections
                                       done and other activities undertaken by the states. In general, states
                                       with mature programs tend to have had truck inspection programs
                                       before they joined MCSAP, while MCSAP has been the total truck inspection
                                       effort for other states. Other activities conducted by the more mature
                                       programs may involve safety reviews that assign carriers a rating that
                                       indicate the carriers’ safety of operation. States may also conduct more
                                       in-depth carrier audits that can result in enforcement actions, or they
                                       can use procedures such as reinspection, verification, and carrier certifi-
                                       cation to encourage compliance with out-of-service orders.

                                       Page     14                                        GAO/RCED-99-202   Truck   Safety

                         Chapter     1

Other MCSAP Activities   While MCSAP'S initial focus was to increase the number of roadside
                         inspections, FHWA currently encourages states to do safety reviews and
                         other carrier reviews at the carrier terminals as a part of the program.
                         Before this, safety reviews were done primarily by personnel from
                         FHWA'S Office of Motor Carrier Safety, Field Operations, Federal Pro-
                         grams Division. Approximately 30 states have joined federal efforts to
                         perform these reviews, which do not focus on vehicle inspection, but
                         assign fitness ratings based on motor carrier safety data, studies, and
                         reports. These reviews provide FHWA information about carrier opera-
                         tions and are viewed as a mechanism to educate carrier management
                         about safety regulations. If carriers are found to have unsatisfactory or
                         conditional ratings, they are scheduled for more detailed reviews that
                         may result in enforcement action against them.

                         As a part of MCSAP, FHWA also developed an automated management
                         information system called Safetynet to provide nationwide inspection
                         and accident data. FHWA combines this with other carrier information
                         from FHWA'S central computer to produce “carrier profiles.” Federal and
                         state personnel can access the information contained on these profiles to
                         identify and track the performance of problem carriers. Based on such
                         information, they can initiate follow-up actions against these carriers.
                         Although FHWA began developing Safetynet in 1984 and state implemen-
                         tation of the system began in 1986, many states are still in varying
                         stages of incorporating it into their inspection programs and are not pro-
                         viding inspection data to the nationwide system.

Internal Controls to     To help ensure that programs are effective, internal control systems and
Ensure Violation         procedures are used to provide reasonable assurance that management
                         objectives will be accomplished. States have used three primary internal
Correction               control procedures to determine if inspections are actually keeping
                         potentially dangerous trucks and drivers off of the nation’s highways
                         until violations are properly corrected. The first is reinspection immedi-
                         ately after repairs or corrections are made to see if out-of-service viola-
                         tions were properly corrected. The second procedure is similar, except
                         that this verification of correction is done at a later time, usually at the
                         motor carrier’s terminal. In the third procedure, carrier officials certify
                         that corrections are properly made by signing and returning the inspec-
                         tion form to the inspecting state. FHWA regulations require that carriers
                         return the forms and that states monitor their return. The first two con-
                         trols, reinspection and verification, were developed and used by a few of
                         the states on a limited basis; the last, carrier certification, is required of
                         all states by FHWA on all inspections that cite violations.

                         Page   lb                                          GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                            Chapter      1

Pending Legislation         In August 1989 the Senate passed S.819 to strengthen enforcement of
                            motor carrier safety laws and to address several other issues. Section 7
                            of this act requires the Secretary of Transportation to ensure the proper
                            and timely correction of commercial motor vehicle violations noted
                            during MCSAP inspections. These rules are to, among other things, initiate
                            a nationwide system for random reinspection of vehicles to ensure
                            proper and timely correction of safety violations noted during inspec-
                            tions. Also, the act requires the Secretary to establish a program of
                            accountability for correcting all safety violations. This act has been
                            referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Public
                            Works and Transportation, but no action has been taken to date.

                            The Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the House Committee
Objectives, Scope,and       on Public Works and Transportation and its Subcommittee on Surface
Methodology                 Transportation asked us to review the feasibility of establishing a pro-
                            cess to provide greater assurance that drivers comply with the results of
                            roadside inspections. This process would determine whether serious vio-
                            lations found during inspections are being corrected before the trip is
                            continued. This report analyzes

                        l   the effectiveness of FHWA and state efforts to determine the extent that
                            out-of-service trucks and drivers may be returning to the road without
                            making required corrections,
                        l   FHWA and state actions taken to ensure that serious violations are prop-
                            erly corrected, and
                        l   other actions that can be taken.

                            To address our objectives, we developed a questionnaire to determine
                            what states know about the extent of noncompliance, what they are
                            doing to ensure compliance with out-of-service orders, and the obstacles
                            they face. We pretested the questionnaire with 9 states before distrib-
                            uting it to all 60 states and the District of Columbia. Forty-seven states2
                            had conducted MCSAP inspections between October 1987 and December
                            1989 when state MCSAP coordinators completed and returned the ques-
                            tionnaire (the District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Texas were not in
                            MCSAP, while Alaska is still developing its program). We subsequently
                            telephoned state MCSAP coordinators to discuss their questionnaire
                            responses and to obtain additional information when needed.

                            2A few states such as Florida, Wyoming, and Vermont provided information for only part of the
                            period. Florida was in the program in 1988 but not in 1989; Wyoming and Vermont did not begin
                            doing MCSAP inspections until 1989.

                            Page   10                                                        GAO/RCED-90-202    Truck   Safety

In addition, we obtained and analyzed available information from five
studies funded by FHWA to determine the extent of noncompliance. We
interviewed FHWA officials at the agency’s headquarters in Washington,
D.C., to discuss these studies and other pertinent information. We also
attended several CVSAconferences to obtain additional information on
noncompliance from the state, federal, and industry officials attending
these meetings.

Using information provided by FHWA and CVSA,we also selected four
states-Kentucky,     Oregon, Connecticut, and California-for    more
detailed audit work. Our work in these states included interviewing offi-
cials, reviewing pertinent documentation, and observing state proce-
dures. Although these states are not statistically representative of all
states, we believe they illustrate basic MCSAP experiences and concerns
facing all states. These four states represent both large and small inspec-
tion programs and those that do and do not emphasize compliance

We conducted our review between June 1989 and February 1990 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
did not comprehensively review FHWA'S system of internal controls for
MCSAP. However, we did examine those controls FHWA or the states have
found useful to ensure compliance with out-of-service orders and the
states’ use of these controls. We also did not verify Safetynet inspection
data provided by FHWA or other information provided by the states.
Summary inspection figures presented in this report include bus or haz-
ardous materials inspections, but we did not isolate these for review
because of their relatively small numbers. We discussed the report’s con-
tents and recommendations with FHWA officials, who generally agreed
with them, and incorporated their clarifying comments as appropriate.
Summaries of their comments also appear at the end of chapters 2 and
3. However, in accordance with the requesters’ wishes, we did not
obtain official agency comments on a draft of this report.

Page 17                                          GAO/RCRD-90-202Truck Safety
Chapter 2

F’HYKAand the StatesNeedto Ensure That                                                     ‘
SeriousViolations Are Properly Corrected

               State personnel conducted 1.3 million roadside inspections in 1989 and
               placed 474,000 commercial vehicles and 92,000 drivers out of service
               because of serious violations. We found that neither FTIWAnor the states
               know how many of these violations were properly corrected. To comply
               with out-of-service orders, corrections of violations, required by federal
               and state regulations, must be made before the drivers and trucks can
               legally continue the trip.

               FHWA funded small studies in five states to help determine the extent of
               noncompliance with out-of-service orders. Preliminary study results on
               940 vehicles as of February 1990 disclosed an overall noncompliance
               rate of 12 percent and individual state rates that ranged from 9 to 53
               percent. The studies found the highest noncompliance rates when
               drivers were left unattended at closed facilities or along the roadside. In
               many of these cases, drivers continued their trips without correcting
               out-of-service violations. Furthermore, our questionnaire results showed
               that up to 74 percent of the 1.3 million 1989 inspections were conducted
               at facilities that are not staffed around the clock. Closed facilities mean
               that drivers are left unattended, which causes an increased potential for
               noncompliance. We believe this population of trucks and drivers should
               be emphasized in state compliance efforts.

               We also found relatively little state activity to prevent noncompliance,
                even though MCSAPobjectives clearly include correcting violations, not
               just detecting them. Because of the limited use of the three basic control
                procedures, total noncompliance numbers are unknown, but FHWA-
                funded studies in five states show that trucks and drivers with serious
               violations return to the nation’s highways before these violations are
                properly corrected.

               Primarily through using funding incentives and obtaining voluntary
               state cooperation, FHWA has encouraged the states to increase the
               number of roadside inspections and to begin doing carrier safety
               reviews. But FHWA has done little to ensure that states follow up to
               determine whether out-of-service violations discovered during inspec-
               tions were actually corrected. Reinspection and verification, two pri-
               mary controls developed by states and used by some of them on a
               limited basis, are not required by FHWA. While FHWA regulations require
               that carriers certify that corrections have been made and that states
               monitor this process, FHWA has limited ability to enforce this require-
               ment for states voluntarily participating in MCSAP. Given the lack of
               emphasis on compliance, it is not surprising that only 5 of the 47 states
               had used all three control procedures.

               Page 18                                           GAO/RCED-90-202Truck Safety
                            FHWAand the States Need to Ensure That
                            Serious Violatioiw Are Properly Corrected

                            Although 36 of the 47 states visit carriers to perform safety reviews and
                            to conduct audits and other enforcement activities, few states utilize
                            these visits to ensure compliance with previously issued out-of-service
                            orders. We believe that such visits provide an excellent opportunity to
                            ensure that out-of-service orders are followed-at    little additional cost
                            to MCSAP.

                            Although the 1.3 million MCSAP inspections placed 474,000 commercial
FHWA and States Do          vehicles (36 percent) and 92,000 drivers (7 percent) out of service in
Not Know How Many           1989, neither FHWA nor the states know the rate of compliance with
Out-Of-Service              these out-of-service orders. This information is needed so that FHWA and
                            the states can better determine what control or combination of controls
Violations Are              would provide reasonable assurance that out-of-service violations are
Properly Corrected          properly corrected. Unfortunately, little is known about the rate of non-
                            compliance at the individual state or the federal level. The use of the
                            controls discussed below, however, could help to determine the extent of
                            noncompliance, identify when and where it most often occurs, and dis-
                            courage it.

Controls Available to       Some states have used the following three internal control procedures to
Ensure Compliance           ensure compliance with out-of-service orders:

                        . Reinspection, State personnel reinspect vehicles and drivers to deter-
                          mine if out-of-service violations noted during inspections were properly
                          corrected, Immediate reinspections usually take place before the vehicle
                          and driver leave the inspection site. Drivers may or may not be told to
                          expect these reinspections. In some cases, reinspection may take place a
                          short distance from the inspection site, to determine if drivers continued
                          their trip before correcting out-of-service violations. This is usually a
                          covert operation, in which the drivers are not aware of the pending
                        . Verification. This method is quite similar to reinspection, but it is done
                          later, usually at the carrier terminals. By checking company mainte-
                          nance records, driver information, and other safety records, or some-
                          times the actual vehicle, inspectors verify whether out-of-service
                          violations noted on inspections were properly corrected before the trip
                          was continued.
                        l Carrier Certification. Historically, matching signed inspection forms
                          returned from the carriers with original inspections has been the
                          method FHWA and the states have relied upon to provide assurance that

                            Page 19                                          GAO/RCED-99-202Truck Safety
                            Chapter         2
                            FHWA and the States               Need to Enaum That
                            Serious        Violatione   Are    Properly Corrected

                            all violations cited on inspection reports were corrected. This control
                            requires that drivers deliver copies of the inspection reports to appro-
                            priate carrier officials. The carrier officials must sign the bottom of the
                            inspection forms containing violations to certify that corrections were
                            made and send them back to the inspecting state within 15 days. State
                            personnel then match certified copies with the originals and are
                            required to send tracer copies (extra copies) of the inspection forms to
                            the carriers that fail to certify within the time period allowed. Although
                            this control is required by FHWA regulations, it has not been enforced.

                            Although reinspection and verification are not FHWA requirements, both
                            methods were used to determine the extent of noncompliance with out-
                            of-service orders in four of the five studies funded by FHWA. Maine used
                            only reinspection.

FHWA Funds Initial Effort   A 1988 Congressional Research Service report concluded that MCSAP’S
to Determine Extent of      inspection follow-up was subject to serious question and presented a
                            series of options that addressed this and other MCSAP concerns.* Subse-
Noncompliance               quently, in response to that report and to S. 819, FHWA funded five small
                            studies to determine the extent of noncompliance with out-of-service
                            orders. Originally, 7 states were chosen to conduct the studies from
                            among 14 states responding to an FHWA letter asking for volunteers.
                            However, two of the states initially selected eventually decided not to
                            participate in the studies. The remaining five states-Idaho, Maine,
                            Michigan, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin- were selected on the basis of the
                            states’ proposed approaches to the study, geographical diversity, and
                            characteristics of the motor carrier population. Michigan developed
                            study procedures and completed its study before the other four states
                            began their efforts.

                            Four of the five studies were completed by February 1990, but the
                            Maine study had completed study results for only a small number of
                            vehicles and will continue until October 1990. FHWA officials plan to
                            issue a report on the studies when they are all completed. FHWA will
                            decide at that time what action, if any, states should take to ensure

                            ‘Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP): Options Intended to Improve a Generally Suc-
                            cessful and Cooperative Federal/State Partnership Promoting Truck and Bus Safety (June 1988).

                            Page      20                                                   GAO/RCED-90-202     Truck   Safety
                         Chapter  2
                         PHWA and the Stntes Need to Enmre     That
                         serlone violations Are Properly chTecad

                         Although methodologies for the studies displayed some differences,
                         inspectors followed the same general guidance. In order to determine
                         noncompliance rates, inspectors reinspected the out-of-service items
                         from the original inspection to determine if they had been properly cor-
                         rected. Reinspection was generally done as the driver was preparing to
                         leave the inspection site. Four of the states randomly chose out-of-ser-
                         vice vehicles and drivers for their study. Those vehicles and drivers that
                         were not reinspected before the site closed were observed for a 2-hour
                         period and were reinspected whenever they left within the 2-hour
                         period. For those study vehicles that did not leave within the 2-hour
                         period, four states planned to verify that corrections were made at a
                         later date at the carrier terminals. Michigan planned to verify these cor-
                         rections for vehicles based both in Michigan and other states, while the
                         other three states’ verification efforts were limited to vehicles based in
                         their own state. However, all of these verification attempts were only
                         partially successful.

                         As of February 1990 the five studies had selected a total of 940 study
                         vehicles to determine if drivers had complied with out-of-service orders
                         or continued their trips before correcting violations. Our analysis of
                         FHWA studies revealed an overall rate of noncompliance with out-of-ser-
                         vice orders of 12 percent; the individual state rates ranged from 9 to 63
                         percent (see table 2.1).

Studies Demonstrate      Although these five studies were fairly limited in number of reinspec-
Noncompliance Problems   tions and verifications, we believe that they provide valuable insight
                         into the noncompliance problem and point to the need for action. Table
                         2.1 provides an overview of the five studies with information on the
                         study vehicles identified, those not followed up, and the resulting non-
                         compliance rates. The different noncompliance rates shown in the last
                         three columns vary, according to the assumptions made about the study
                         vehicles not checked.

                         Page   21                                        GAO/RCJ3D-90-202   Truck   Safety
                                         Chapter 2
                                         FHWA and the States Need to Emure       That
                                         Serione Vlolatlons Are Properly corrected

Table 2.1: Overview of Study Results
                                                                                             Number (and percentage) of vehicles in
                                                                                        Assuming         Adjusted to      Adjusted
                                                                                        vehicles not     only             according to
                                        Number of study vehicles                        checked          vehicles         Michigan
-__-- _-.___
          -.-.---                      Total Not checked       Checked                  complied         checked          results
----I_     -.__--                       110                40               70          2         (1)    2         (3)    10         (9)
Mainea                                   30                17               13          13       (43)        13       (100)        16             (53)
      -__-__-_-                         234                15              219          21        (9)        21         (10)       24             (10)
Oklahoma          --                    443                90              353          22        (5)        22          (6)       40                (9)
--___-.._-_-----                        123                51               72          14       (11)        14        (19)        24              (20)
Totals                                  940              213               727          72        (8)        72        (10)        114            (12)
                                         aThis study is still on-going and is not expected to be completed until October 1990. We used prelimi-
                                         nary results provided by Maine personnel as of February 1990.

                                         The difference in study results reported to FHWA and those we found
                                         stems from the treatment of the 213 study vehicles on which the states
                                         were not able to perform verifications at carrier terminals. These were
                                         generally out-of-state vehicles that did not leave the site within the 2-
                                         hour observance period. The assumption made for the results reported
                                         to FHWA was that the 213 vehicles not checked complied with out-of-ser-
                                         vice orders as required, which resulted in an overall 8 percent noncom-
                                         pliance rate. If the 213 not checked are completely eliminated, the
                                         overall rate changes to 10 percent. In the Michigan study, however,
                                         when officials verified compliance at carrier terminals located both in
                                         Michigan and other states, inspectors found that 20 percent (8 of 40)
                                         had not properly corrected violations. Michigan was the only state that
                                         did verification at the out-of-state carriers’ terminals.

                                         When we applied this 20 percent noncompliance rate to those not
                                         checked at carrier terminals by the other states and added these to the
                                         study vehicles reported not to have complied, we found a 12 percent
                                         overall noncompliance rate. We believe the latter method provides the
                                         most reliable results, given the more comprehensive nature of the Mich-
                                         igan study methodology.

                                         As shown in table 2.1, Maine’s study (as adjusted) resulted in the
                                         highest rate of noncompliance (53 percent). They dealt with smaller
                                         numbers of vehicles and selected them from only those vehicles and
                                         drivers that remained out of service after the inspection facility had
                                         closed, leaving drivers unattended. They then reinspected the vehicles
                                         and drivers that left within the 2-hour surveillance period. Similarly, the

                                         Page   22                                                            GAO/RCED-90-202       Truck   Safety
                          Chapter 2
                          FHWAand the Statea Need to Ensure That
                          Serious Violations Are Properly Corrected

                          Michigan study noted that slightly under one-half of the study vehicles
                          were reinspected after they were left unattended at closed facilities or
                          along the roadside during the S-hour period. The Michigan study’s
                          resulting noncompliance rate for these vehicles was 16 percent-com-
                          pared to 2 percent for those vehicles reinspected as they left Michigan’s
                          open facilities. In addition, Michigan also escorted some of the vehicles
                          and drivers that would have been left unattended to parking or repair
                          facilities. According to the study, this practice cut the noncompliance
                          rate from 21 percent to 7 percent for the escorted vehicles. Had they not
                          followed this procedure, it is likely that the 16 percent rate would have
                          been higher.

                          In contrast, the Idaho study (as adjusted) resulted in a 9 percent non-
                          compliance rate. Officials chose as a study vehicle every third vehicle
                          placed out of service during the shift, resulting in many of the reinspec-
                          tions occurring while the inspection sites remained open. In addition, 61
                          percent of Idaho’s reinspections were at sites staffed 24 hours a day,
                          placing drivers under some scrutiny. The Oklahoma study also resulted
                          in an adjusted 9 percent noncompliance rate, but the state conducted all
                          inspections at fixed facilities and during daylight hours because of the
                          lack of lighting and other safety considerations.

Common Factors Cited in   Both the Maine and Michigan study results indicate that drivers left
Noncompliance             unattended are more likely not to honor out-of-service orders. Further-
                          more, our questionnaire results indicate that up to 74 percent of the
                           1989 inspections conducted by MCSAPwere done at locations not staffed
                          around the clock and therefore the drivers were not under any observa-
                          tion by state personnel. Of the 47 states answering our questionnaire, 21
                          had no facilities staffed around the clock, 12 estimated that only a por-
                          tion of their inspections were done at 24-hour facilities, and the
                          remaining 14 states could not provide estimates of inspections at 24-
                          hour facilities. The 33 states that could provide information reported
                          that about 74 percent of their inspections were conducted at facilities
                          not always open. We believe that the number of drivers left unattended
                          at closed facilities represents a disproportionately large potential for
                          noncompliance with out-of-service orders and that this population of
                          trucks and drivers should be emphasized in state compliance activities.

                          The Michigan study also noted other factors associated with violations
                          of out-of-service orders. The additional factors mentioned were inspec-
                          tions that resulted in multiple out-of-service violations and in driver vio-
                          lations. While three of the other studies did not pinpoint multiple

                          Page 23                                           GAO/RCRD-90-202TN& Safety
                           Chapter  2
                           FHWA and the States Need to J3nmre That
                           Serious Violations Are Properly Comected

                           violations, they did agree that driver out-of-service violations were
                           those most likely to be ignored. Both the Michigan study and the ques-
                           tionnaire results (8 of 29 that cited noncompliance characteristics) noted
                           that small carriers and owner-operators were most often the ones who
                           did not comply.

                           If the results concerning drivers’ out-of-service violations hold true on a
                           nationwide basis, this may also be a fruitful area for initial compliance
                           efforts. Studies of truck accidents increasingly point to driver error.
                           Drivers who have driven or have been on duty too many hours could
                           certainly account for errors in judgment that could lead to accidents.

                           On the basis of our questionnaires and state visits, we found that most
Most States Do Not         states did not use adequate control procedures to ensure that out-of-ser-
Use Controls to            vice violations cited are properly corrected. Most states spend the
Reasonably Ensure          majority of their MCSAP resources conducting initial roadside inspections
                           to detect violations; some also devote resources to conducting safety
Compliance                 reviews at carrier terminals. Relatively few resources have been spent
                           ensuring compliance with the results of initial inspections. As a result,
                           neither FHWA nor the states know if the out-of-service violations found
                           during these inspections are actually corrected before the vehicle and
                           driver return to the nation’s highways.

Questionnaires Indicate    We found that only 5 states of the 47 that completed our questionnaire
                           had used all three control procedures to determine if out-of-service vio-
Sporadic Use of Controls   lations were properly corrected, and these were used on a limited basis.
                           One of the five states also participated in FHWA'S studies and used rein-
                           spection and verification only during its study. Six states answering our
                           questionnaire did not use any of the three controls, 24 used only one
                           control, and 12 used a combination of two controls. Table 2.2 summa-
                           rizes the states’ responses, and appendix I shows the controls used by
                           individual states.

                           Page   24                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                                          Chapter  2
                                          FHWA and the States Need to Ensure That
                                          Serious Violations Are Properly Corrected

Table 2.2: Overview of State Compliance
Eftorts                                                                          Number of states using each control procedure
                                          Control procedure used                   Reinspection       Verification    certification
                                          All three controls used                               5                 5                      5
                                          Reinspection and verification                         5                 5                      0
                                          Reinspection and carrier
                                          certification                                         6                 0                      6
                                          Verification and carrier
                                          certification                                         0                 1                      1
                                          Reinwection only                                     11                 0                      0
                                          Verification only                                     0                 4                      0
                                          Carrier certification only                            0                 0                      9
                                          Total                                               27                 15                  21

                                          As shown in table 2.2, a total of 27 states had attempted to use reinspec-
                                          tion to help ensure compliance. Many of these efforts were limited and
                                          few were well documented, however. For example, only 9 states classi-
                                          fied their reinspection program as continuous, 13 as occasional, 4 as spe-
                                          cial programs, and 1 as rare. Of the 27, 19 provided us with counts of
                                          reinspections, although many of these were estimates. Two states, Mich-
                                          igan and Idaho, reported having done reinspections only during their
                                          FHwA-funded studies, and three states, Alabama, Missouri, and
                                          Oklahoma, had just begun reinspection efforts in fiscal year 1990.

                                          Only 15 states noted that they had attempted to use the second con-
                                          trol-verification    at carrier terminals-to ensure that carriers were
                                          properly correcting violations. Of these 15,3 states had done 10 or
                                          fewer verifications during 1989 and 3 others could not provide any esti-
                                          mate of how many they had done. The remaining nine states did from 61
                                          to 1,386 verifications; the average was 344 during 1989. For the 12
                                          states that could provide estimates on the number of verifications they
                                          had conducted, the overall verification rate was about 1 percent of their
                                          total inspections.

                                          Only 21 states used the FHWA-required carrier certification control and
                                          17 of these noted that they did so consistently. Of these 17, 12 states
                                          consistently sent tracer copies (extra copies) of the inspection form to
                                          the carriers, as required by FHWA.In addition, only 12 of the 17 consist-
                                          ently following up on inspections could provide figures as to how often
                                          carriers were signing and returning the forms as required. Four states
                                          could provide actual numbers of returns and the other eight could pro-
                                          vide only estimates. The lack of information on their own efforts to

                                          Page    26                                                  GAO/RCED-W-202    Truck   Safety
                          Chapter  2
                          FHWA and the States Need to Ensure That
                          Serlous Violationa Are Properly Comected

                          track carrier certification added to the states’ overall lack of knowledge
                          about how often carriers are certifying that violations were corrected.

                          Although use of the three controls has been rather limited on a nation-
                          wide basis, some states have demonstrated that they can be used to help
                          ensure compliance. Each control method has its advantages and disad-
                          vantages, and its degree of use often depends on a number of individual
                          state factors.

Reinspections Can Be an   Immediate reinspections may often be possible, if inspection facilities
Efficient Means of        are open and personnel are available when the driver is ready to leave.
                          Several states check some of the trucks before they leave the immediate
Ensuring Compliance       site, allowing large numbers of reinspections to be done fairly economi-
                          cally. For example, in a one-day sample we examined in Oregon, 12 of 66
                          inspections had handwritten notes indicating reinspections by state per-
                          sonnel; most of these involved brake adjustments, a very common and
                          quickly remedied out-of-service defect that allows for rapid reinspec-
                          tion Tennessee began doing immediate reinspections in 1989, not only to
                          ensure that violations were being corrected, but also as an in-house
                          quality-control measure. Under this program, supervisors had checked a
                          sample of nearly 7,000 inspections to also determine the quality of
                          inspectors’ work and the quality of maintenance provided by commer-
                          cial mobile repair units. However, Tennessee did not have summary data
                          available showing the results of these efforts.

                          According to California officials, state personnel reinspected nearly 100
                          percent of cited violations. Under the California system, citations are
                          issued and require proof of correction before they are cleared by the
                          court. This proof can also reduce or eliminate some penalty amounts.
                          California’s reinspections were not immediate, however, and the state
                          did not have procedures in place to determine when corrections were
                          made. Because court dates were usually several weeks after the inspec-
                          tion and results were not reported to MCSAPofficials, California had no
                          way to ensure that the violations were corrected before the trip was
                          continued-which      is critical to keeping unsafe trucks and drivers off
                          the road. The state was considering instituting a new system to correct
                          this weakness. Maryland also requires that selected vehicles be rein-
                          spected, after which they must send proof of correction to the state
                          within 30 days.

                          Although immediate reinspection is the most certain way of ensuring
                          compliance, it is often not possible. Many inspection locations are open

                          Page   26                                         GAO/RCED-W-202   Truck   Safety
                           Chapter   2
                           FlMA    and the Statm   Need to Ensure That
                           Serious Violatiom    Are Properly Corrected

                           for only a limited number of hours, so that trucks and drivers placed out
                           of service at these locations are left unattended. Even at locations oper-
                           ating 24 hours, inspectors are usually not on duty on a 24-hour basis. In
                           addition, trucks with out-of-service violations can be towed to remote
                           repair facilities, which also removes them from the inspectors’ scrutiny.
                           Furthermore, a small portion of out-of-service violations are classified
                           as “restricted service,” which allows the truck and driver to travel up to
                           26 miles to a repair facility. Restricted service is allowed by some states,
                           however, and only at officers’ discretion when they considered it more
                           dangerous to leave the truck and driver at the original inspection site
                           than to allow it to move. Covert surveillance and reinspection or later
                           verification (as explained below) of a small sample of vehicles and
                           drivers left unattended at closed facilities or allowed to proceed to a
                           repair facility could also decrease noncompliance in what appears to be
                           a high-risk population.

Verification Should Be a   Although 16 states used the verification control at carrier terminals to
Standard Part of Carrier   some extent, many other states also visit carrier terminals to do safety
                           reviews. These reviews educate carriers to safety requirements, obtain
Visits                     basic safety performance information, and result in the carriers being
                           assigned a safety rating of satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory.
                           The two states we visited that did safety reviews indicated that FHWA
                           discouraged them from combining safety reviews with verification--
                           because FHWA considers safety reviews to be primarily educational in
                           nature, while verification efforts can result in enforcement actions
                           against carriers. FHWA officials in Washington told us, however, that
                           they did not discourage combining these activities.

                           Our questionnaire results disclosed that as of December 1989, 16 states
                           had visited carrier terminals to conduct safety reviews. An additional 16
                           states do both safety reviews and other types of audits at carrier termi-
                           nals. Five other states did not perform safety reviews but did perform
                           other types of audits. The remaining 11 states responded that they did
                           not visit carrier terminals to perform any type of audit or review
                           activity. Thus, in 36 of 47 states, officials visit carrier terminals and
                           have the opportunity to use the verification control as a part of these

                           Connecticut has used verification the longest and has completed the
                           largest number of verifications under its Inspection Repair Audit Pro-
                           gram. Connecticut officials told us that the program was a logical out-
                           growth of MCSAP inspection efforts to ensure that in-state carriers were

                           Page      27                                      GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                         Chapter   2
                         PHKA    and the States Need to Enmre     That
                         Serlous Violations   Are Properly Corrected

                         actually correcting violations as required. A state analysis of the pro-
                         gram found a noncompliance rate on all violations (both out-of-service
                         and less serious ones) of 26 percent for the 12 months ended May 1988.
                         A random sample that we selected in November 1989, which covered the
                         entire program (approximately 36 months), revealed a 7 percent rate.
                         Until discouraged by FHWA, Connecticut combined verification with
                         safety review visits. The lead inspector told us that a large amount of
                         time is spent arranging for and traveling to safety reviews and verifica-
                         tions. Making these arrangements twice for the same carrier is not cost
                         effective and limits the number of both safety reviews and verifications.

                         In states with severe weather, verification could be used to better utilize
                         the inspectors’ time when they are unable to work outside. For example,
                         we noted that several northern states conduct fewer of the comprehen-
                         sive level I roadside inspections during the winter months. In addition,
                         FHWA has recently approved states using MCSAP funds to do roadside-type
                         inspections on vehicles at carrier terminals. This may also lead to
                         increased visits to carrier terminals in some states, providing further
                         verification opportunities.

                         Verification is used by fewer states than the other two control proce-
                         dures and may be a more time-consuming and expensive means of
                         ensuring compliance. Also, a lack of documentation needed to determine
                         whether or not violations were properly corrected was cited as one
                         problem preventing effective verification. Chapter 3 discusses an
                         inspection form change to help alleviate this problem. As noted by Con-
                         necticut personnel, resource use could be greatly reduced by combining
                         verification with safety reviews and other visits to carriers. All carrier
                         visits represent an excellent opportunity to increase verification on a
                         sample of inspections and to maximize use of limited MCSAPresources.
                         We do not believe that the educational nature of safety reviews would
                         be diminished by verification of out-of-service orders; in fact, such
                         action could provide an effective means of demonstrating to carriers the
                         need to correct these violations in a timely manner.

Carrier Certification    Although FHWA requires carrier certification on all inspections with vio-
Should Be Checked MOre   lations, it has not enforced the requirement. Only 17 states consistently
                         used this control, and FHWA officials noted that the voluntary, coopera-
Consistently             tive nature of the MCSAP limits their enforcement abilities. In addition,
                         FHWA officials said that it is difficult for the states to track carrier certi-
                         fication, because of the rapid increase in the number of inspections and
                         a lack of clerical personnel in the states. Kentucky, for example, did not

                         Page      28                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
Chapter  2
FHWA and the States Need to Ensure That
Serious Violations Are Properly Cmrected

follow up on carrier certifications because of the large number of inspec-
tions conducted (over 100,000 annually), combined with a lack of auto-
mated processing, personnel shortages, and data entry difficulties.

On the other hand, Oregon does approximately 17,000 inspections each
year and has a complete follow-up system on all inspections that list
violations. This state sends all carriers a first notice with an additional
copy of the inspection and a second notice, if necessary, to carriers
failing to return certifications. Oregon consistently receives a 96 percent
return rate and files complaints against carriers (both in-state and out-
of-state) not complying with this requirement. By contrast, Florida esti-
mated only a 38 percent return rate on the 60,000 inspections it con-
ducted in 1989. Florida officials noted that it would not be cost effective
to enforce this requirement for carriers based in other states. The Mas-
sachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles requires carriers to provide sup-
porting documentation of the violation correction, in addition to the
carrier official certification.

Although states have dramatically increased the number of inspections
conducted over the past few years, we believe all states could at least
follow up on carrier certifications for out-of-service violations. Reducing
the follow-up requirement to only out-of-service violations would reduce
the administrative burden on states while focusing efforts on the most
serious violations. For example, in 1989 this would have resulted in
states following up on less that one-half of the 1.3 million inspections.
Once their systems are fully automated, states could resume tracking all
inspections that have any violations, including the more minor viola-
tions cited.

Several options are open to FHWA to encourage other states to use the
three controls to determine the extent of the problem, where it most
often occurs, and the controls that most effectively discourage it. For
example, FHWA guidelines ask that states conduct at least 26 percent of
their inspections during off-peak hours. FHWA could use similar agree-
ments to encourage state use of the appropriate controls. Another option
would be to set aside a small portion of MCSAP funding for this purpose.
If stronger measures are needed, FHWA could withhold funds from states
that do not use the controls within a reasonable time frame.

Page   29                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                          Chapter  2
                          FHWA and the States Need to Ehmre      That
                          Serloue Violationa Are Properly Corrected

                          Early MCSAPemphasis was clearly on increasing the number of roadside
Federal and State         inspections. This involved training over 4,000 state inspectors and has
Priority Is on Roadside   resulted in a 700 percent increase in the number of inspections con-
Inspections               ducted in the first 6 years of the program. More recently, however, FHWA
                          has increased emphasis on states conducting safety reviews and other
                          carrier reviews as a part of MCSAP.

                          One reason FHWA officials gave for not encouraging states to use the con-
                          trol procedures was that it would reduce inspector availability to do
                          roadside inspections. We acknowledge that using the control procedures
                          could result in a reduction in inspection numbers, but we believe it is
                          necessary to ensure that these inspections are achieving their desired
                          results-removing     unsafe trucks and drivers from the highway until
                          violations are properly corrected. In addition, FHWA'S policy of encour-
                          aging states to conduct more safety reviews notes that these contacts
                          with motor carriers provide a “more balanced approach.” Use of the
                          three controls would also serve to provide more frequent contact with
                          the carriers, which FHWA also noted as an important factor.

                          FHWA officials also stated that not knowing the extent of the noncompli-
                          ance was part of the reason they had not taken more action to ensure
                          that violations were properly corrected. The officials noted that they
                          had encouraged use of the controls at regional conferences and had
                          funded Connecticut’s verification efforts with MCSAPdiscretionary
                          funds. However, until the five state studies are completed and analyzed,
                          F'HWAdoes not plan to make these activities an area of program

                          The studies, which involved a limited number of study vehicles in five
                          states, will not provide nationwide information on the extent of the
                          problem. While we agree that the studies were a logical and helpful first
                          step, use of the appropriate controls by all MCSAPstates can provide fur-
                          ther assurance that out-of-service violations noted during initial inspec-
                          tions are properly corrected on a nationwide basis. Our questionnaire
                          results indicate that, at present, states have not consistently used the
                          controls available to them.

                          The state responses to our questionnaire reflect the overall lack of
                          emphasis on use of the three controls. According to the 19 states that
                          did no reinspections, limited inspector availability and an emphasis on
                          roadside inspections were the primary factors affecting their decision
                          not to determine compliance with out-of-service orders. The primary
                          reasons state officials gave us for not doing verification was that the

                          Page   30                                        GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
              chapter 2
              FHVFA and the States Need to Enmre That
              Serious Violations Ace Properly Corrected

              state had not enacted a program to do so and other priorities kept them
              from it. State officials we spoke with on our state visits and in dis-
              cussing questionnaire responses noted the primary reason they did not
              track carrier certifications was lack of personnel, especially data entry

              FHWAand the states do not know the extent of noncompliance with out-
Conclusions   of-service orders. These orders are issued only when the vehicle is deter-
              mined to be imminently hazardous or the driver is determined to be
              unqualified to operate the vehicle. The noncompliance noted in the five
              FHWA-fundedstudies indicates that these orders are violated at varying
              rates under different conditions. It appears that violations are more
              likely when drivers are left at closed facilities or along the roadsides and
              that driver out-of-service orders may be more likely to be violated.
              Because of limited resources and operational constraints, states do not
              immediately reinspect to ensure that all out-of-service violations are
              properly corrected.

              We found that most states do not consistently use the controls to deter-
              mine the extent of noncompliance or use them only on a limited basis,
              and do not usually document the results of their efforts. We believe that
              the use of control procedures can help to ensure compliance with out-of-
              service orders. Carrier certification is currently required for all viola-
              tions, but over 30 states do not consistently use this control because of
              resource limitations. Until more fully automated procedures are devel-
              oped, enforcing this requirement for inspections containing out-of-ser-
              vice violations would reduce the required state workload, while focusing
              on the most serious violations and emphasizing to carriers the impor-
              tance of this certification. This control, however, cannot be the sole
              assurance of compliance.

              Use of the other two controls on a sample basis would provide a more
              active means of determining compliance. Immediate reinspection and
              covert activities, similar to those used during the FHWA-fundedstudies,
              can further emphasize to both drivers and carriers the importance of
              proper and timely compliance with out-of-service orders. Later verifica-
              tion at the carriers, especially combined with other carrier visits to max-
              imize resource use, could also help ensure compliance-as well as
              verifying the accuracy of carrier certifications.

              Use of the controls can provide better information for FHWAand the
              states to determine (1) the extent of noncompliance, (2) when and where

              Page 31                                           GAO/RCED90-202Truck Safety
                        Chapter  2
                        FHWA and the State8 Need to Ensure That
                        Serious Violations Are Properly Corrected

                        it most often occurs, and (3) the control(s) needed to most effectively
                        discourage it. We recognize that use of the controls will have to be fairly
                        flexible because of the differences in state structures and procedures.
                        When implementing verification and reinspection efforts, however, care
                        should be taken to direct these efforts to those trucks and drivers found
                        by states to be most likely to violate out-of-service orders-not just
                        those that can be checked easily and quickly. Chapter 3 also discusses
                        the use of Safetynet inspection information to help pinpoint candidates
                        for reinspection and verification.

                        Since MCSAP is a voluntary program, one mechanism to encourage states
                        to use these controls is to set aside program funds specifically for this
                        purpose. A more stringent measure would be to withhold MCSAP funds
                        from states that, within a reasonable time, fail to use the controls to
                        ensure compliance. We recognize that states will have to either provide
                        more resources or divert them from roadside inspection or safety review
                        programs to increase their efforts to follow up on these serious viola-
                        tions. MCSAP has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of vio-
                        lations detected, but we believe that using the controls will provide
                        FHWA, the states, and the motoring public with better assurance that
                        trucks and drivers are properly correcting violations before returning to
                        the highways.

                        We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation        direct the Adminis-
Recommendationsto       trator, FHWA, to take the following actions:
the Secretary of
                    . Enforce program requirements that carriers certify violation correction
Transportation        and that states monitor carrier certifications, at least for all out-of-ser-
                      vice violations.
                    . Encourage states to reinspect a sample of out-of-service orders, empha-
                      sizing those found by the state to be most likely to violate these orders.
                    . Require FHWA inspectors and encourage state inspectors to verify a
                      sample of out-of-service orders as a standard part of all carrier terminal
                      visits to maximize MCSAP resources.
                    l Encourage greater state use of the controls found to be effective by set-
                      ting aside MCSAP funds for this purpose or by withholding MCSAP funding
                      for states failing to do so in a reasonable time frame.

                        Page   32                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
               Chapter 2
               FHWAand the Stater Need to Emu-e That
               Serloua Violations Are Properly Cmrected

               We discussed this chapter’s contents with FHWA officials responsible for
Agency Views   the MCSAP, and they provided comments on our findings and recommen-
               dations. On the basis of their comments we added additional information
               on FHWA activities and made other changes as appropriate.

               F’HWAofficials generally agreed with the above recommendations, noting
               the need for flexibility in control use because of the differences in the
               states. They agreed with the approach that utilized the controls to deter-
               mine when and where noncompliance most often occurs, and to use the
               controls that most effectively discourage it.

               FHWA officials said that they do not discourage states from combining
               verification with safety reviews. They noted that safety reviews include
               checks of inspection, repair, and maintenance files by selecting a sample
               of vehicles and drivers from those listed by the carrier as having been
               involved in an accident. If safety officials do not find any that have
               been in accidents, they select a vehicle that has been inspected, if pos-
               sible. They do not at present determine whether cited violations were
               properly corrected before the vehicle was moved. These officials said
               that they do not initiate enforcement action as the result of safety
               reviews, but that carriers receiving conditional or unsatisfactory ratings
               are scheduled for more in-depth reviews that can result in enforcement.
               They agreed that resources could be saved by combining verification
               with carrier visits, however.

               Page 33                                          GAO/RCED-90-202Truck Safety
Chapter 3

Other Actions to IncreaseCompliance

              FHWA and the states can take several other actions, in addition to
              increased use of the control procedures discussed in chapter 2, to
              improve MCSAP compliance efforts. FHWA should place additional
              emphasis on the full implementation of Safetynet, its management infor-
              mation system. Although FHWA began developing this system in 1984, it
              has still not accomplished its initial purpose of providing nationwide
              inspection data to state and federal officials in order to help prioritize
              safety review activity and to focus enforcement efforts. For example, as
              of February 1990, only about 40 percent of the 1988 and 1989 interstate
              inspection data was available from the system. Many states are exper-
              iencing delays in entering and transmitting the data to FHWA, and once
              transmitted the data are not always included in the individual carrier
              profiles available from FHWA. As a result, comprehensive and timely
              inspection information needed by state and federal officials is not now
              available. Furthermore, supplemental manual efforts to provide these
              data are not consistently followed.

              FHWA and the states could also impose and use more stringent penalties
              against carriers and drivers that do not properly correct out-of-service
              violations. Some states do not have adequate penalties to deter noncom-
              pliance, and the states have very limited information on penalty use.
              FHWA has proposed additional monetary penalties for several areas of
              noncompliance and we agree these penalties are needed. However,
              although the proposed penalty structure to be used by federal officers
              conducting carrier reviews may help deter noncompliance, states are not
              required to adopt these penalties for their carrier review penalties.

              FHWA officials told us that they are strongly encouraging states to use a
              penalty structure compatible to the federal one for violations found
              during carrier reviews. Adding violation of out-of-service orders to the
              offenses listed under the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) federal reg-
              ulations for disqualifying an operator’s license could provide a more uni-
              form penalty for this offense and further encourage compliance, because
              states must adopt these CDL provisions. However, unless the states use
              the three controls previously discussed to identify and prosecute viola-
              tors, no penalties will be effective.

              F'HWAand the states could also emphasize compliance activities and
              improve related monitoring of these activities by revising the inspection
              forms. Currently, none of the forms used by the states have preprinted
              spaces for reinspection entries. Adding to the form a place to put stan-
              dard information on when and how corrections of out-of-service viola-
              tions were made would be a simple, convenient means of improving

              Page   34                                        GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                           Chapter  3
                           Other Actbna   to Increase   Compliance

                           compliance. This information, completed by the official doing the rein-
                           spection, would emphasize both the importance of compliance and the
                           possibility that official follow-up will occur, at least on a sample of
                           inspections. It would also allow states to focus later enforcement efforts
                           on trucks and drivers not previously checked or on those carriers whose
                           inspection forms indicate failure to correct or untimely corrections of
                           out-of-service violations.

                           FHWA started developing Safetynet, MCSAP's management information
Nationwide Safetynet       system, in 1984 to provide state and federal officials access to nation-
Inspection Information     wide inspection and accident information. The inspection module of
Is Not Yet Available       Safetynet was the first to be developed, with software and associated
                           documentation distributed to the states in the fall of 1986. According to
                           FHWA, many states had difficulty setting up hardware configurations,
                           while others could not readily use the software, thereby preventing
                           timely transmission of information to FHWA. By the summer of 1988,
                           FHWA planned to combine these inspection data with other carrier infor-
                           mation that FHWA collects as a part of individual carrier profiles avail-
                           able to state and federal inspectors. Profiles containing inspection
                           information were not available until a year later, and as of January
                            1990 this information still was not complete because of numerous

                           As of February 1990,ll states had not transmitted any 1988 or 1989
                           Safetynet inspection information to FHWA. Several other states are
                           experiencing substantial entry and transmission delays. Both factors
                           result in incomplete inspection information on carrier profiles. Complete
                           carrier profiles are important because information they provide to state
                           and federal officials allow them to more accurately identify and deal
                           with, on a priority basis, carriers with poor safety records. While states
                           enter both interstate and intrastate inspections on Safetynet, only inter-
                           state inspections (estimated by FHWA to be at least 60 percent of total
                           inspections) are transmitted to FHWA to become part of the carrier
                           profiles. Individual states should be able to query their local Safetynet
                           systems for inspections that they have conducted on intrastate carriers.

Safetynet Is Missing 60    Overall, only about 40 percent of the 1988 and 1989 interstate inspec-
Percent of 1988 and 1989   tions that should be included in carrier profiles is available. While some
                           states have not begun transmitting Safetynet data to FHWA, others are
Inspection Data            experiencing long delays in doing so. As of February 1990, 11 states had
                           not transmitted any 1988 or 1989 inspection data to FHWA. These states

                           Page   38                                        GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
Other Actiona to Increase   Cbmplhce

did nearly 600,000 interstate inspections during these 2 years. FHWA offi-
cials noted that because these states are having an assortment of
problems, they will probably not transmit past inspections. Thus, most
of this information will be lost to the carrier profiles.

In addition, many states that have begun transmitting inspections to
FHWA  have done so for less than one-third of their interstate inspections.
This includes seven states that had transmitted a total of 12 percent of
the 1988 inspections and nine states that had transmitted a total of 21
percent of the 1989 interstate inspections. As a result, during these 2
years only about 44,000 of an estimated 263,600 interstate inspections
were transmitted to FHWA by these states.

Because our review did not specifically address Safetynet problems, we
did not ascertain whether these difficulties were primarily at the federal
or the state level. In the course of our work, however, we noted
problems at both levels. FHWA officials told us that some Safetynet
delays occurred because 16 states were using obsolete software to
transmit their inspections. Six of these states and five other states were
using mainframe computers rather than personal computers, which
caused additional problems because the software was originally
designed for use with personal computers. As a result, at least 21 states
could generally not utilize the Safetynet Census System, a software pro-
gram that would allow them to check for proper census numbers on the
automated Census System. l Instead, for states using either obsolete
software or mainframe systems, FHWA must edit the inspections for
proper census numbers before these inspections are included in carrier
profiles. FHWA officials told us that these edit checks add about 2 months
to the processing time. They also noted that over 100,000 inspections
transmitted to them could not be matched with a carrier census number
and therefore will not be available on carrier profiles.

States also experienced various data entry problems. For example, Ken-
tucky completed over 246,000 MCSAP inspections in 1988 and 1989, but
over 100,000 of these were never entered on Safetynet due to data entry
problems. Connecticut was “losing” inspection data that it had already
entered into Safetynet, but the state had not determined if the loss
resulted from problems with its system’s software or hardware. As a
result, the state had just completed entering September 1989 data in
early December. Although FHWA promotes timely entry and transmission

%fetynet requires assignment of a unique census number for every commercial carrier and this
number must be entered for each inspection 50 that it can be attributed to the proper carrier.

Page   36                                                        GAO/RCED-90-202     Truck   Safety
                            Chapter        3
                            Other     Actions to Increm   Complhnce

                            of data from inspections forms and provides technical assistance from
                            its headquarters staff to help states with problems they encounter,
                            delays are still prevalent.

                            Although FHWA has made some Safetynet progress and is in the process
                            of taking other actions to help complete the system, additional effort is
                            needed-particularly     for those states that are not transmitting inspec-
                            tions to FHWA consistently and in a timely manner. Complete inspection
                            information would allow both federal and state personnel to prioritize
                            their efforts using carrier profiles and to direct safety reviews and
                            enforcement activities at carriers with poor safety records.

                            As noted in the agency comments at the end of this chapter, FHWA is in
                            the process of taking several positive steps to strongly encourage those
                            states not transmitting inspection data to it to do so. Among these steps
                            is a possible loss of MCSAP funding and additional required reporting to
                            FHWA headquarters of necessary tasks, required resources, and schedules
                            for completion. Although the potential loss of funding appears to apply
                            whenever states do not routinely transmit data, the other actions called
                            for, such as preparing plans to complete Safetynet inspection data,
                            apply to only those states not transmitting data at all.

Timely State Entry of       Unless the states enter inspections into Safetynet on a timely basis, the
Inspection Data Is Needed   effectiveness of using the system for follow-up on carrier certification is
                            greatly reduced. Carriers are required to return the forms to the
                            inspecting state within 15 days. Because Connecticut personnel were
                            behind in entering inspection data, they had discontinued efforts to send
                            notices to carriers failing to certify. According to state officials it made
                            no sense for them to send notices to the carriers months after the inspec-
                            tion requesting submission of forms that should have been returned
                            within 16 days. The same would be true for any state with long delays
                            in data entry, and several states experienced such delays. On the other
                            hand, Oregon developed a prompt follow-up system utilizing the state’s
                            own computer system.

Interim Manual Efforts      Before Safetynet, FHWA required federal officers in each state to manu-
                            ally forward all the state’s inspections done on out-of-state carriers to
May Increase Carrier        those carriers’ home states. Federal officers in those states would place
Information v               inspections in the carrier file to provide information for use in carrier
                            audits and other enforcement actions. State enforcement officials are
                            permitted to use FHWA carrier files for enforcement purposes.

                            Page      37                                      GAO/RCED-!M-202   Truck   Safety
                     Chapter  3
                     Other Actions   to Increase   Compliance

                     In anticipation of Safetynet becoming fully operational and because of
                     personnel shortages in the states, this inspection-forwarding procedure
                     is not followed on a consistent, timely basis. Until states are transmit-
                     ting all interstate inspection data promptly, we believe that, at a min-
                     imum, out-of-service inspections for these. states should be forwarded in
                     a timely manner by the federal officers to their counterparts in the car-
                     riers’ home states. This information would supplement carrier profiles
                     containing transmitted inspection information and would provide a
                     more complete picture of carrier inspection information. In addition,
                     these out-of-state inspections would be available to state and state-
                     assigned federal officers to verify violation corrections from states
                     other than their own.

                     In March 1990 FHWA initiated a rulemaking process to consider adding
Penalties Neededto   penalties to promote improved compliance with out-of-service orders.
Ensure Compliance    These penalties, for use by federal officers conducting carrier reviews,
                     would apply to both carriers and drivers who fail to comply with out-of-
                     service orders. FHWA has strongly encouraged states to adopt compatible
                     penalty schedules for penalties arising out of their own carrier reviews.
                     Among the proposed penalties were (1) $500 for carriers failing to cer-
                     tify or falsely certifying that violations were corrected as required, (2)
                     $1,000 for drivers or owner-operators who violate out-of-service orders,
                     (3) $10,000 for carriers requiring or permitting drivers to operate vehi-
                     cles after the driver was placed out of service, and (4) $2,000 per day
                     for operating vehicles placed out of service or for carriers that require
                     or permit drivers to operate these vehicles, up to a maximum fine of

                     In proposing these additional monetary penalties, FHWA noted that

                     Out-of-service orders directed to carriers in an imminent(ly) hazard(ous) situation
                     are issued to prevent death or serious injury that is likely to result, if the vehicle,
                     driver, or carrier operations continue uncorrected. To ignore or violate such orders
                     is considered in the same category as substantial health and safety violations, and
                     the penalties proposed reflect the extreme seriousness of such blatant disregard for

                     Currently, states set their own widely varying penalties for truck safety
                     violations found during roadside inspections (and for noncompliance
                     with out-of-service orders) and have little information on the enforce-
                     ment of such penalties. Table 3.1 notes current state monetary penalty

                     Page   38                                                 GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                                           Chapter 3
                                           Other Actions to Increase Compliance

                                           information for carrier certification and for noncompliance with out-of-
                                           service orders, as provided to us on the questionnaires.

Table 3.1: Informatlon on State Monetary
Penalties                                                                                          Number of states
                                                                                                                   Dollar         Average
                                                                                   Without         With         range of         maximum
                                           Violation                               penalty       penalty        penalty”          penalty’
                                           Carrier failure to certify                    24           23      $35 to $2,000            $556
                                           Carrier falsely certifying                    23           24      $35 to $2,000            $653
                                           Carrier/driver violating out-
                                           of-service orders                              4           43      $35 to $5,000            $724
                                           aRanges and maximum penalties are based on only those states with maximum penalty amounts.
                                           Average penalty amounts shown are a simple arithmetic average, computed by adding all maximum
                                           penalty amounts and dividing by the number of states with a maximum penalty for each offense.

                                           As table 3.1 illustrates, 24 states did not have monetary penalties for
                                           carriers failing to certify that out-of-service violations were corrected;
                                           23 states lacked penalties for carriers falsely certifying that out-of-ser-
                                           vice violations had been corrected; and 4 states had no penalties for car-
                                           riers and drivers violating out-of-service orders. Of the 24 states that
                                           had penalties for failure to certify, 10 were among those that consist-
                                           ently tracked carrier certification and only 3 of the 10 often pursued
                                           these penalties. Because so little verification has been done to determine
                                           false certification, it is doubtful that many carriers have been fined for
                                           this violation. Although more states have generally higher penalties for
                                           violating out-of-service orders, few states could provide information on
                                           how often these penalties were used.

                                           The number of penalties assessed and collected are generally adminis-
                                           tered by state and local courts. This usually involves many different
                                           courts within the state, and none of the four states we visited had infor-
                                           mation on the penalties assessed or fines collected for noncompliance.
                                           Lower monetary penalties that may be considered a part of “the cost of
                                           doing business,” coupled with inconsistent assessment and collection of
                                           fines, have been frequently mentioned as contributing to noncompliance.
                                           On the other hand, the trucking industry also complains that some states
                                           charge unreasonably high fines. CVSA has dedicated a special committee
                                           to (1) recommend a maximum fine schedule that includes a $1,000 fine
                                           for violating out-of-service orders, (2) work for voluntary state adoption
                                           of the schedule, and (3) educate state and local judicial officials, in an
                                           effort to help alleviate the problem of inconsistent monetary penalties.

                                           Page 39                                                         GAO/RCED-99-202Truck Safety
Chapter        a
Other Actions      to Increase   Compliance

The responses from our 47-state questionnaire reflected both the lack of
priority on ensuring compliance and how little the states knew about
how often out-of-service orders were violated. In 1989, for example, 7
states noted they had never detected violation of out-of-service orders
and 23 states could not provide an estimate of how many times these
violations had been detected in their states. Most of the remaining 17
states could provide only estimates. Eleven of these states estimated
that they had detected fewer than 20 out-of-service violations, while the
remaining six states noted from 30 to 277 violations detected.

One MC&W coordinator noted in his questionnaire response that violating
out-of-service orders should result in license disqualification under the
Commercial Driver’s License penalty provisions. He also thought a fine
of $1,000 for the first offense should be levied.

To implement the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, CDL
regulations call for a l-year license disqualification (3 years if trans-
porting hazardous materials) for the first offense and stipulate a life-
time disqualification for a second offense. Offenses include such acts as
driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, leaving the scene
of an accident, or using a commercial motor vehicle in the commission of
a felony.

Shorter minimum disqualification periods are provided under the act for
“serious traffic offenses” such as excessive speeding and reckless
driving. The Secretary of Transportation can also add similar violations
of a state or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control which are
determined by regulation to be serious. Using this provision, the Secre-
tary has by regulation added convictions for (1) following the vehicle
ahead too closely and (2) improper lane changes, to the offenses desig-
nated as serious traffic offenses. Under CDL regulations a driver who,
during a 3-year period, is convicted of two serious traffic offenses in
separate incidents is disqualified for a period of 60 days. A third convic-
tion within 3 years results in a 120-day disqualification.

Since trucks placed out of service have already been identified as immi-
nently hazardous and drivers identified as unqualified to drive, we
believe this offense falls into the serious traffic offense category-com-
parable to reckless driving or excessive speeding, already included.
Adding it to the serious traffic violations could be accomplished by a
rulemaking procedure to amend the CDL regulations. Given the wide
range of state monetary penalties and uncertainty of the outcome of

Page      40                                      GAO/RCED-9O-202TruckSafety
                     ckapter  2
                     Other Actions   to Increase   Compliance

                     assessments for noncompliance, this action could provide a more uni-
                     form penalty for failure to properly correct out-of-service violations.
                     The states are required to adopt CDL provisions by October 1993 or face
                     losing a portion of their highway trust funds,

                     CVSA has also requested FHWA to initiate action to add violation of out-of-
                     service orders to CDL disqualification provisions. The CVSAproposal calls
                     for the more severe l-year penalty for violation of out-of-service orders
                     because it considers it imperative that the national inspection program
                     possess an adequate deterrent for those who violate the orders. While
                     we agree that this violation should be strongly discouraged, we believe it
                     is more similar to violations included under the serious traffic offense

                     Currently, the inspection forms do not provide for recording reinspec-
Inspection Form      tion activity. Although some states conduct reinspections, they often do
ChangesCan Enhance   not record this information. If they do, it is usually handwritten across
Compliance           the inspection forms because none of the state forms contain preprinted
                     space for it. We found this method used in Oregon and Kentucky. Fur-
Information          ther, no reinspection information is put into the Safetynet system,
                     although the CVSAData Committee was exploring ways to do this. Con-
                     sideration was being given to changing the inspection forms and to using
                     a uniform rubber stamp to record reinspection information on the states’
                     copy of the inspection forms. By recording reinspection information,
                     such as the methods used and the result achieved, states can increase
                     overall awareness of compliance, direct efforts where most needed, and
                     determine the most effective means of ensuring compliance.

                     Prior to 1984 the inspection forms contained a separate certification for
                     the repair person correcting out-of-service violations, noting the
                     person’s name and date of repair. We obtained copies of the inspection
                     forms from 48 states and found that 13 states still use the separate
                     repair person certification. Eight of these 13 states also request the
                     name of the repair facility. The current inspection form, suggested for
                     use by FHWA, uses only a one-stage certification by carrier officials that
                     does not segregate out-of-service from less serious violations. This elimi-
                     nates information useful for verifying whether or not the out-of-service
                     violations were corrected before the trip was continued. The Michigan
                     study, funded by FHWA, pointed to lack of documentation of repair as
                     one of the primary verification problems encountered. In addition, this
                     more specific information would be particularly helpful in determining
                     the amount of penalty due under the proposed FHWA fine structure,

                     Page   41                                         GAO/RCEJHO-202   Truck   Safety
                      Other Actions to Increase Compliance

                      which assesses additional amounts for each day of operation in an out-
                      of-service condition.

                      FHWA and the states have several opportunities      to improve MCSAP and
Conclusions           enhance compliance with out of service orders. Complete, timely
                      Safetynet inspection information is essential to help focus federal and
                      state activities on carriers with poor safety records. Timely entry of
                      inspections not only would provide for more comprehensive nationwide
                      inspection information, but also could allow states to use the system to
                      track carrier certifications. In the interim, manual efforts by federal
                      officers may be needed to provide complete inspection information for
                      states that are not transmitting complete and timely Safetynet inspec-
                      tion information to FHWA. FHWA has focused more attention on the impor-
                      tance of completing this information and has taken initial steps to
                      correct the problem-particularly      in states not transmitting any inspec-
                      tion data-but can expand this effort to also include the states that do
                      not consistently transmit these data to F'HWA.

                      FHWA has recognized weaknesses in the monetary penalties available for
                      noncompliance and has initiated rulemaking to provide additional fed-
                      eral penalties for carriers and drivers. Our review shows that this is a
                      much-needed step, given the wide diversity of fines and the lack of
                      information on their use reported by the states. Because states are not
                      required to adopt the federal penalty structure, however, we believe
                      additional action is needed. Making noncompliance with out-of-service
                      orders a CDL license disqualification under the serious traffic offenses
                      category would further discourage drivers from violating out-of- service
                      orders and provide a more uniform penalty. These actions, in addition to
                      minor changes in the inspection forms, should also help to increase

                      We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation         direct the Adminis-
Recommendationsto     trator, FHWA, to take the following actions:
the Secretary of
Transportation      . Expand planned FHWA procedures for states not transmitting any
                      Safetynet data to include those states not consistently transmitting com-
                      plete and timely Safetynet inspection data. This should include develop-
                      ment of individual state action plans and periodic progress reports to
                      the Secretary of Transportation on the overall status of Safetynet com-
                      pletion in Mcs4r states.

                      Page   42                                          GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
                           Chapter  3
                           Other Actiolu,   to Increase   Compliance

                       l Direct FHWA officers in the states not transmitting complete and timely
                         Safetynet inspection data to forward copies of all inspections with out-
                         of-service violations to the carriers’ home state to supplement carrier
                       . Initiate a rulemaking procedure to add noncompliance with out-of-ser-
                         vice orders to the CDL serious traffic offense provisions that require a
                         license disqualification.
                       l Modify inspection forms to accept reinspection information and to
                         require separate repair person certification of out-of-service violations
                         to provide more specific information on the correction of these

                           We discussed the facts and recommendations of this chapter with FHWA
Agency Views and Our       officials responsible for MCSAP. Except for proposed recommendations
Response                   concerning Safetynet and forwarding of inspection forms, officials
                           agreed with our findings. We had proposed in the draft of this report
                           that FHWA work with all states not transmitting timely, routine Safetynet
                           data to FHWA. FHWA officials noted that they had issued a memorandum
                           in March 1990 to the states that strongly encourages routine transmis-
                           sion of Safetynet inspection data to FHWA headquarters by October 1,
                           1990. This memorandum provides for a possible loss of MCSAP funding to
                           those states failing to routinely transmit the data, but allows for addi-
                           tional time if unusual circumstances exist. If additional time is required,
                           FHWA also will require that states outline necessary tasks and a schedule
                           for completion in their annual plans to FHWA. In the interim, FHWA offi-
                           cials in state and regional offices have also been directed to analyze
                           state Safetynet development for the states that had not transmitted any
                           inspection data. These reports are to focus on problems in the states and
                           on the resource realignment needed to correct these problems.

                           We agree with this approach but believe that the interim reporting
                           efforts should be expanded to include any state that is not consistently
                           transmitting inspection data to FHWA. We modified our proposed recom-
                           mendation that directed FHWA to work with all states to reflect the need
                           to expand their actions to include additional states not covered by the
                           March 1990 memorandum. Second, we proposed that FHWA report to the
                           Secretary the status of Safetynet and that inspection data should be
                           manually sent to a carrier’s home state until Safetynet is fully opera-
                           tional. FHWA officials told us that they thought neither the report to the
                           Secretary of Transportation nor the forwarding of inspection forms
                           would be necessary because of the pending completion of Safetynet
                           inspection data. We agree that once planned efforts are completed and

                           Page   43                                         GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
Chapter  3
Other Actiona   to Increase   Compliance

all states are consistently transmitting these data, these actions will be
unnecessary, but we believe that until that happens they will help focus
increased attention on Safetynet completion and further encourage it.

In agreeing with our recommendation to include violation of out-of-ser-
vice orders in the serious traffic violation category under CDL, FHWA offi-
cials noted that this had also been recommended during a June 1990
FHWA-sponsoredcommercial vehicle safety workshop, but had not been
acted upon.

Page   44                                          GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
Page   45   GAO/RCED-90-202   Ruek   Safety
Appendix I

Control ProceduresUsed by the Statesas No&
on Questionnaires,December1989

                                                                   Type of procedure
              State                                Reinspection        Verification        certification
              Alabama                                         X                       .                      .
              Arizona                                         .                       X                      .
              Arkansas                                        X                        .                     .
              California                                      X                        .                     .
              Colorado                                         .                       .                     .
              Connecticut                                      .                      X                     X
              Delaware                                        X                        .                     .
              Florida                                          .                       .                    X
              Georgia                                          .                       .                    X
              Hawaii                                          X                       X                     X
              Idaho                                           X                       X                      .
              Illinois                                         .                       .                     .
              Indiana                                          .                       .                     .
              Iowa                                             .                       .                    X
              Kansas                                          X                       X                      .
              Kentucky----.-.--                               X                        .                     .
              Louisiana                                        .                       .                     .
              Maine                                           X                       X                     X
              Maryland      --                                X                        .                    X
              Massachusetts                                   X                       X                     X
              Michigan                                        X                       X                     x
              Minnesota                                       X                        .                      .
              Mississippi                                      .                       .                    X
              Mrssouri                                        X                        .                     .
              Montana                                          .                       .                    X
              Nebraska                                        X                        .                    X
              Nevada                                          X                        .                     .
              New Hampshire                                    .                       .                     X
              New Jersey                                       .                      X                      .
              New Mexico                                      X                        .                     .
              New York                                        X                       X                       .
              North Carolina                                   .                      .                       .
                       _I_.     - .-.--~
              North Dakota                                    X                        .                     X
              Oklahoma                                        X                        .                     X
              Ohio                                            X                        .                      .
              _.-__-..~--         -~-- -.-...---              X              .-       X                      X
               Pennsylvania                                   X                        .                     X
               Rhode Island                                    .                      X                       .
               South Carolina                                  .                      .                 X

               Page   46                                               GAO/RCED-90-202     Truck   Safety
    Appendix   I
    Control ProceduresUsedby the States aa
    Noted on Queetlonnbes, December 1989

                                                             Type of procedure
    State                                    Reinspection        Verification       certification
    Tennessee                                           X                   X                     .
    Utah                                                 .                  X                     .
    Vermont                                              .                   .                    .
    Virginia                                             .                   .                   X
    Washinaton                                          X                   X                     .
    West Virginia                                       X                    .                   X
    Wisconsin                                           X                       .                .
    Wyoming                                             .                       .                X
    Total                                              27                  15                  21


    Page 47                                                     GAO/RCElMO-202Truck Safety
Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Ron E. Wood, Assistant Director
Resources,              Jonathan T. Bachman, Design Methodologies, Technical Assistance
Community, and          Group
Development Division,
Washington, DC.

                        James E. Hatcher, Assistant Regional Manager
Cincinnati Regional     Donald J. Heller, Issue Area Manager
Office                  Linda S. Standau, Evaluator-in-Charge
                        Lori A. Williams, Staff Evaluator
                        Cheryl K. Andrew, Staff Evaluator
                        Mary J. Lewnard, Technical Assistance Group

(342798)                Page   48                                      GAO/RCED-90-202   Truck   Safety
---   -.---
              Ortlthriug   Iufornmliou

              ‘I’ht~ first. five copies of each GAO report are frt*p. Atlciititmal copies
              itrth $2 tbach. Orders should be sent. t.o the following address, a~ccom-
              pauit~tl by a check or ~noney order made out. to the Superinteudmt.
              of I)ocurnt~ut,s, when ntxessary. Orders for 100 or more copit*s t,o be
              tnailt~ti t.o a single address are discounted 25 percent.

              IT.% (;tmhral Accounting Office
              I’.(). 130x 6015
              Gait.htmtmrg,    MD 20877

              Orcit*rs nU%yalso be I~lact~I by calling   (202) 2756241.
                 First-Class Mail    ,’
               Postage & Ftws Paid
                 Permit No. GlOO

I   -.I”*-.-
                                           Chapter      1

Figure 1.3: A Lug Nut8 Check

Flgure 1.4: An Out-Of-Service Decal for
Serloub Violations

                                          Page 12           GAO/RCED-SO-202   Truck   safety