United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Honorable Ray LaHood House of Representatives November 1997 COMMERCIAL MOTOR CARRIERS DOT Is Shifting to Performance-Based Standards to Assess Whether Carriers Operate Safely GAO/RCED-98-8 United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-277481 November 3, 1997 The Honorable Ray LaHood House of Representatives Dear Mr. LaHood: About 5,000 people die annually in the United States in accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (large trucks, commercial buses, and hazardous materials vehicles). To reduce serious accidents involving these vehicles, the Office of Motor Carriers, within the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration, is responsible for implementing commercial motor vehicle safety programs. The Office of Motor Carriers’ investigators conduct on-site reviews of motor carriers’ compliance with federal safety regulations, known as compliance reviews, that are used to determine whether each carrier is fit to operate safely on the nation’s highways, known as a safety fitness rating. The Office of Motor Carriers also provides matching grants under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program for states to perform roadside inspections of commercial vehicles and drivers, compliance reviews, and other commercial vehicle safety programs. The reauthorization of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program is currently under consideration by the Congress as part of the deliberations over reauthorizing the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. You requested that we examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the Office of Motor Carriers’ commercial motor vehicle safety programs. Specifically, you asked us to report on the efforts by the Office of Motor Carriers and the states to (1) reduce serious accidents by conducting roadside inspections and compliance reviews, (2) better target motor carriers for compliance reviews, and (3) improve the compliance review criteria for assessing and rating a carrier’s safety fitness. To obtain this information, we interviewed the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program’s coordinators for 16 states that we selected to provide geographical diversity and a range of compliance reviews performed. We also contacted participants in the five-state pilot program of the Office of Motor Carriers’ new Safety Status Measurement System, which uses accident data and the results of roadside inspections and compliance reviews to identify motor carriers with poor on-the-road performance for compliance reviews. Page 1 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 Federal, state, and industry officials told us that federal and state Results in Brief initiatives to improve the safety of commercial vehicles and actions taken by trucking firms to improve the safety of their trucks and drivers were the most important factors behind the 42-percent reduction in the fatal accident rate for large trucks from 1983 to 1995.1 In particular, the number of roadside inspections increased from 25,000 performed by federal inspectors in fiscal year 1983 to 2.1 million performed predominantly by state inspectors in fiscal 1996. Compliance reviews also increased from 6,211 in fiscal year 1989 to 8,952 in fiscal 1996, in part because the Office of Motor Carriers encouraged the states to develop comprehensive safety programs for commercial vehicles, including compliance reviews. Effective in fiscal year 1998, the Office of Motor Carriers revised the criteria for awarding funding from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program to provide each state with more flexibility in choosing the combination of programs—including roadside inspections and compliance reviews—that would best reduce accidents involving commercial vehicles. The Office of Motor Carriers has sought to target motor carriers that pose the greatest potential risk to highway safety for compliance reviews. To do this, the Office of Motor Carriers often targeted passenger carriers and hazardous materials carriers—because of the potential serious consequences if their vehicles were involved in accidents—rather than carriers with the worst highway safety records. As a result, 63 percent of the carriers that received a compliance review in fiscal year 1996 had not had a recordable accident2 during the previous 12 months. In April 1997, consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, the Office of Motor Carriers began using performance-based data through its Safety Status Measurement System to identify carriers with the worst highway safety records. Complete and timely data on accidents, roadside inspections, and compliance reviews that the states submit to the Office of Motor Carriers are key to implementing performance-based criteria. While many states have improved the completeness and timeliness of their data submissions in recent years, the Office of Motor Carriers found that (1) the states, overall, reported only about 74 percent of the recordable accidents in 1995 and (2) during fiscal year 1997, five states submitted accident data more than 6 months, on average, after the accidents occurred. Without these data, the Office of Motor Carriers and the states cannot effectively 1 Large trucks accounted for 99 percent of the fatal accidents involving commercial motor vehicles in 1995. 2 A recordable accident is defined as one involving a commercial vehicle operating on a public road that resulted in a fatality, bodily injury that required medical treatment, or the towing of a vehicle from the accident scene. Page 2 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 target their limited compliance review resources on the motor carriers with safety problems. The Office of Motor Carriers is in the early stages of revising its criteria for assessing and rating a commercial motor carrier’s safety fitness. Currently, the Office of Motor Carriers rates carriers on the basis of compliance reviews that examine a carrier’s (1) compliance with federal motor carrier safety regulations (primarily those related to financial responsibility; drivers’ qualifications and operations, including hours-of-service; vehicle inspection and maintenance; and any hazardous materials handling) and (2) recordable, preventable accident rate. Trucking industry representatives favor revising the existing criteria for a safety fitness rating because, in their opinion, these criteria give too much weight to such record-keeping requirements as drivers’ hours-of-service records instead of on-the-road safety performance. While compliance reviews will continue to be an important element of the federal motor carrier safety program, the Office of Motor Carriers plans to publish an advance notice of proposed rule making later this year to solicit public comments on alternatives for rating motor carriers’ safety fitness. One option under consideration is to rely on accident data, roadside inspections, and other performance-based data for safety fitness ratings. This approach depends on the successful implementation of the Safety Status Measurement System and improved reporting of safety data. Established in 1983, the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) Background provides grants to states to support commercial motor vehicle safety programs aimed at (1) large trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 10,000 pounds, (2) vehicles used to transport more than 10 passengers, and (3) vehicles used to transport hazardous materials. Under MCSAP, the federal government funds up to 80 percent of the costs of each state’s motor carrier safety program. Federal funding for MCSAP has increased from $8 million in fiscal year 1984 to $78.2 million in fiscal 1997. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 required that by January 1994, each of the 48 contiguous states participate in Safetynet, the Office of Motor Carrier’s (OMC) automated database system used to monitor the safety performance of commercial motor carriers. The act also directed OMC to provide grants for states to develop a Commercial Vehicle Information System3 that would link OMC’s motor carrier safety information with states’ motor vehicle registration systems. The 3 OMC recently changed the name of this program to Performance Registration Information System Management. Page 3 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 Commercial Vehicle Information System project led to the development of OMC’s Safety Status Measurement System (SafeStat) program. The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 directed the Secretary of Transportation to establish a procedure to determine the safety fitness of owners and operators of commercial vehicles. In response, OMC modified its existing safety management audit program to institute safety reviews4 with follow-up compliance reviews. During a compliance review, OMC and/or state investigators perform an on-site review of a motor carrier’s compliance with federal safety regulations by assessing its policies, management controls, and operations. Typically, investigators examine a sample of the carrier’s records, including drivers’ hours-of-service logs, commercial drivers’ license requirements, alcohol- and drug-testing records, vehicle maintenance and inspection records, and accident records. Investigators also may perform full vehicle inspections of several of the carrier’s vehicles. The investigators give the carrier a satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory rating on the basis of this review. From 1983 through 1995, the rate of fatal accidents involving large trucks dropped by 42 percent—from 4.3 to 2.5 fatal accidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.5 (See fig. 1.) The lower fatal accident rate reflects a (1) 57-percent growth in total vehicle miles driven by large trucks and (2) 9-percent drop in the number of large trucks involved in fatal accidents. However, almost all of this decline occurred during MCSAP’s first 10 years; since 1992, the fatal accident rate has been relatively stable. In contrast, the total number of large trucks involved in fatal accidents increased from 4,035 in 1992 to 4,740 in 1996; 4,035 and 5,126 people died from these accidents, respectively. (See table I.1 in app. I.) 4 Safety reviews were designed to teach motor carriers about safety regulations and determine whether the carriers’ safety management controls complied with these regulations. In 1994, OMC replaced safety reviews with educational contacts performed only by states that do not rate a carrier’s operations. 5 DOT’s traffic safety data track large trucks more carefully than other commercial vehicles because the former are involved in substantially more fatal accidents. For example, only 23 intercity buses were involved in fatal accidents in 1995. Page 4 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 Figure 1: Rate of Fatal Accidents Involving Large Trucks, 1983 Through 1995 5.0 Fatal accident rate (per 100 million miles traveled) 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The interstate trucking industry has grown rapidly in recent years from about 213,000 firms in 1990 to about 379,000 in 1996. OMC and state officials and industry representatives told us that the most MCSAP and Other important factors in reducing the rate of fatal accidents involving Initiatives Have commercial vehicles were federal and state initiatives to improve safety Contributed to for commercial vehicles and actions that trucking firms have taken to improve the safety of their trucks and drivers. In particular, the states Improved Commercial assumed the responsibility for conducting roadside inspections of Motor Vehicle Safety commercial vehicles under MCSAP, and OMC expanded its compliance review program under the 1984 safety fitness requirement. OMC and the states also established drug- and alcohol-testing requirements and a commercial driver’s license program designed to eliminate the opportunity for drivers to evade law enforcement penalties by using commercial licenses from more than one state. As OMC and the states expanded their safety programs, many trucking firms implemented safety programs and Page 5 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 improved their vehicles’ maintenance. OMC recently announced that it will work with the states to develop performance-based Commercial Vehicle Safety Plans that give each state more flexibility to decide the best combination of programs for reducing truck accidents while maintaining the current levels of roadside inspections. States Conduct Almost All With the establishment of MCSAP, the responsibility for conducting roadside Roadside Inspections inspections of commercial vehicles shifted from OMC to the states. As a result, total inspections increased from 25,000 performed by OMC inspectors in 1983 to 2.1 million performed predominantly by state inspectors in 1996. (See table I.2 in app. I.) The use of state inspectors also expanded the program’s coverage because federal personnel are authorized to inspect only commercial vehicles engaged in interstate and foreign commerce, while state personnel can inspect vehicles operating in both intrastate and interstate commerce. In fiscal year 1996, 16 percent of the vehicles inspected were engaged in intrastate commerce. State inspectors and enforcement officers can conduct any of five levels of inspection that focus on the vehicle and/or the driver. Level 1 inspections,6 the most rigorous, accounted for 46 percent of the fiscal year 1996 inspections, ranging from 91 percent of the inspections in California to 4 percent of the inspections in South Dakota. (See table I.3 in app. I.) In comparison, level 2 inspections, which check the driver and readily observable vehicle items—such as tires and lights but not the brakes—accounted for 30 percent of the inspections; level 3 inspections, which focus on such driver-related items as hours of service and the commercial driver’s license, accounted for 22 percent of the inspections; and level 4 and level 5 inspections (special purpose inspections) accounted for the remaining 2 percent of the inspections in fiscal year 1996. An important measure of safety is the percentage of vehicles and drivers that inspectors put out of service until violations are corrected. Out-of-service rates for vehicles have dropped from a high of 39 percent, on average, in fiscal year 1986 to 21 percent, on average, in fiscal 1996.7 The out-of-service rate for drivers generally has remained steady, ranging 6 A level 1 inspection involves a complete examination of the vehicle, including (1) an examination of brakes, tires, lights, and the load, to determine if it is properly secured, and (2) a review of the driver, including hours-of-service logs. 7 The out-of-service rate for vehicles in fiscal year 1996 was 26.3 percent if level 3 and level 4 inspections, which primarily focus on the driver, are excluded. Page 6 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 from 6 to 8 percent during this period. State police officials responsible for roadside inspection programs in several states told us that the condition of trucks on the road today is substantially better than that of trucks at the beginning of MCSAP. States Are Performing While OMC has had the primary responsibility for conducting compliance More Compliance Reviews reviews since the inception of the safety fitness program, many states have substantially increased their involvement in an effort to develop comprehensive commercial vehicle safety programs. OMC performed 6,211 compliance reviews and the states performed 5 in fiscal year 1989, the first year for which data are available. In fiscal year 1996, OMC performed 5,241 compliance reviews, and states performed 3,711.8 (See table I.4 in app. I.) Figure 2 shows that 26 states performed at least 25 compliance reviews in fiscal year 1996; 11 states performed fewer than 25 compliance reviews; and 13 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico did not perform any compliance reviews. 8 In addition, the California Highway Patrol performed 14,785 terminal inspections pursuant to California state law. These terminal inspections do not meet OMC’s compliance review standards because they do not include, for example, a review of a carrier’s policies and drivers’ hours-of-service logs. Page 7 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 Figure 2: Compliance Reviews Performed by Each State, Fiscal Year 1996 States that performed at least 25 compliance reviews States that performed 1 to 24 compliance reviews States did not perform compliance reviews Note: Totals exclude California’s terminal inspections as well as any compliance reviews of shippers, intrastate carriers, 16-passenger vans, and school buses. Source: OMC. The 16 MCSAP state coordinators we contacted generally believe that compliance reviews are an essential element of a comprehensive commercial vehicle safety program. Greater state involvement in conducting compliance reviews would extend the program’s coverage to include intrastate motor carriers, which OMC has no authority to audit. During the past 3 years, about 26 percent of the commercial vehicle accidents reported to Safetynet involved vehicles operated by intrastate carriers, including dump trucks and garbage trucks. Maryland State Police Page 8 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 officials noted that these trucks may rarely be inspected because they operate within a metropolitan area and can more readily bypass state weigh stations by using other routes. In fiscal year 1996, 24 states conducted compliance reviews of one or more intrastate commercial motor carriers. OMC officials told us that their policy is to encourage, but not require, states to develop compliance review programs. While the OMC officials support a greater state role in conducting compliance reviews, they noted that OMC wants to give each state more flexibility to decide the combination of programs that would best reduce commercial vehicle accidents. OMC also has offered states the option to issue “U.S. DOT numbers” to intrastate carriers and enter them into OMC’s motor carrier management information system to provide a single set of identification numbers for tracking accidents and the results of roadside inspections and compliance reviews.9 OMC requires, however, that states conduct a census of their intrastate carriers to provide a complete and accurate list of carriers. Connecticut, Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming have completed their census, and other states have expressed an interest in using U.S. DOT numbers. MCSAP coordinators for several states we contacted believe that their state could assume lead responsibility for conducting compliance reviews. However, MCSAP coordinators in several other states expressed concern about further expanding their state’s role in the compliance review program because of funding and personnel constraints. For example, one coordinator stated that, without additional MCSAP funding, his state may have to reduce the number of roadside inspections to conduct more compliance reviews. Some MCSAP coordinators also told us that their state laws do not provide them with adequate legal authority to conduct compliance reviews of intrastate carriers or to impose civil fines for the violations found during a review. OMC Requires Effective in fiscal year 1998, OMC initiated performance-based Commercial Performance-Based State Vehicle Safety Plans to replace the State Enforcement Plan that each state Safety Plans submits annually as a basis for receiving MCSAP funds. The new plan is intended to give each state more flexibility in choosing the combination of programs that would best achieve the goal of reducing motor carrier 9 OMC requires that each interstate motor carrier obtain either a U.S. DOT number or an Interstate Commerce Commission number and display it on each of its interstate vehicles. DOT has initiated a rule making to consolidate the two sets of carrier numbers in response to the termination of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1995. Page 9 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 accidents in the state while retaining minimum levels of effort for roadside inspections. In contrast, the State Enforcement Plan had established safety activity goals for the forthcoming year, including the number of roadside inspections and law enforcement activities. In fiscal year 1996, OMC provided the states with $54 million for MCSAP’s basic grant program and $22.6 million for designated program activities, such as hazardous materials training and covert operations.10 (See table I.5 in app. I.) Several MCSAP coordinators suggested moving some of MCSAP’s designated program funding to MCSAP’s basic grant funding because, in accordance with the new Commercial Vehicle Safety Plans, the states should be given more flexibility to determine the best use of funds for reducing motor carrier accidents. Some MCSAP coordinators said that using funds for designated activities sometimes is not an efficient use of their state’s limited resources, adding that their state could use these funds more productively in other motor carrier safety programs. OMC and the states have rated the safety fitness of about 34 percent of the SafeStat Is Designed 379,000 commercial motor carriers currently engaged in interstate and to Better Target foreign commerce. In 1989, OMC had announced its intention to assess the Compliance Reviews safety fitness of each commercial motor carrier. However, because the number of interstate carriers has grown rapidly in recent years and resources for conducting compliance reviews are limited, OMC subsequently targeted compliance reviews on carriers that pose the greatest potential risk to highway safety. In fiscal year 1996, OMC and the states conducted 8,952 compliance reviews of commercial motor carriers, including about 4,324 first-time reviews and 4,628 follow-up reviews. In fiscal year 1996, OMC identified motor carriers for compliance reviews primarily through its Selective Compliance and Enforcement (SCE) list, which prioritized motor carriers on such factors as the commodity being transported and the carrier’s out-of-service rate for vehicles, prior compliance reviews, and the written complaints that it had received. In April 1997, consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993,11 OMC began using SafeStat, a computer program that uses performance-based data on accidents, roadside inspections, and 10 The covert operations program is designed to catch out-of-service vehicles that leave a roadside inspection area before repairs have been made. 11 The act required federal agencies to develop, by the end of fiscal year 1997, 5-year strategic plans that are the starting point for agencies to set annual goals for programs and measure their performance in achieving these goals. (See 5 U.S.C. 306.) Page 10 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 compliance reviews to identify problem carriers. OMC also is working with the states to improve the completeness and timeliness of their safety data reporting to the Safetynet database. OMC’s SCE List Used As shown in table 1, OMC used the SCE list to select 46 percent of the motor Descriptive and carriers for a compliance review in fiscal year 1996. The SCE list prioritized Performance Data motor carriers on the basis of (1) the commodity transported; (2) their annual mileage; (3) the months since the last safety fitness rating; (4) their vehicles’ out-of-service rate; (5) their drivers’ out-of-service rate; (6) their preventable, recordable accident rate; and (7) their overall safety fitness rating. (See app. II for a more detailed description of each factor.) Of the remaining compliance reviews conducted, 14 percent were to follow up prior enforcement cases, 14 percent were in response to complaints,12 9 percent were initial reviews of carriers’ operations; 4 percent were in response to carriers’ requests for a compliance review; and 12 percent were for other reasons. Among the other reasons for a compliance review is if a motor carrier’s vehicle was involved in a major accident that resulted in multiple fatalities or closed down an interstate highway for several hours. Table 1: Source of Compliance Reviews in Fiscal Year 1996 Number of Category compliance reviews Percent SCE rating 4,406 46 Enforcement follow-upa 1,387 14 a Complaint 1,356 14 Initial reviewb 910 9 Carrier request 369 4 Other reasons 1,159 12 a In February 1997, OMC issued guidance that no longer requires that a compliance review be conducted in response to an enforcement case or a complaint about a carrier if its on-the-road performance meets OMC’s criteria. b OMC has stopped citing this reason because it no longer seeks to provide a safety fitness rating for each motor carrier. Source: OMC. Compliance review investigators found that 63 percent of the carriers examined in fiscal year 1996 did not have a recordable accident during the 12 The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 requires OMC to investigate any nonfrivolous written complaint alleging a substantial violation of federal motor carrier safety regulations. Page 11 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 previous 12 months. OMC also calculated that the national average accident rate for all carriers that had a compliance review in fiscal year 1996 was 0.5 recordable, preventable accidents per million miles driven. About 77 percent of these carriers had an accident rate below the average rate. In a March 1997 report,13 the DOT Office of Inspector General found that OMC’s SCE list did not ensure that carriers with the worst safety records were targeted for compliance reviews. In particular, the report stated that the SCE list did not define problem carriers and used factors that did not sufficiently emphasize on-the-road performance to prioritize carriers. For example, a carrier that transported passengers or hazardous materials was given more points and, therefore, was more likely to be reviewed than one that transported general freight, regardless of each carrier’s actual accident record. The report also stated that a carrier’s annual mileage, the number of months since its last safety fitness rating, and its overall safety fitness rating were descriptive factors not directly related to the carrier’s on-the-road performance. The Inspector General recommended that OMC replace its existing system for prioritizing carriers for compliance reviews with one that uses on-the-road performance and stated that the implementation of SafeStat satisfied the recommendation’s intent. SafeStat Uses Safety Data To address the limitations associated with the SCE list in identifying to Improve Targeting commercial motor carriers with poor on-the-road performance, OMC has worked with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, a DOT research laboratory, to develop the SafeStat computer program. SafeStat ranks motor carriers on the basis of performance-based data in four safety evaluation areas (SEA): (1) accident rates; (2) driver factors, including out-of-service violations from roadside inspections; (3) vehicle factors, including out-of-service violations from roadside inspections; and (4) safety management practices and policy, including the results of prior compliance reviews and enforcement actions. SafeStat also weights these data on the basis of the severity and age of an event. For example, SafeStat gives more weight to a fatal or serious injury accident than to a tow-away accident and to an accident that occurred within 6 months than one that occurred more than 6 months previously. (See app. III for a more detailed description of SafeStat.) Table 2 shows the SafeStat categories for carriers ranked among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in at least one SEA. OMC will conduct a compliance 13 Motor Carrier Safety Program: Federal Highway Administration, DOT Office of Inspector General (AS-FH-7-006, Mar. 26, 1997). Page 12 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 review of each carrier included in category A or category B. OMC also considers those carriers in category C to be poor performers. Each category A, B, and C motor carrier remains in OMC’s Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Process until its on-the-road performance improves sufficiently for SafeStat not to subsequently identify them. Table 2: SafeStat Categories for Carriers Ranked Among the Worst 25 Category SEA ranking Percent of All Carriers in at Least One A Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in either SEA all four SEAs or the accident SEA plus two other SEAs. B Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in either three SEAs, excluding the accident SEA, or the accident SEA plus one other SEA. C Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in two SEAs, excluding the accident SEA. D Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in the accident SEA. E Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in the driver SEA. F Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in the vehicle SEA. G Carrier among the worst 25 percent of all carriers in the safety management SEA. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center tested SafeStat’s effectiveness in identifying problem carriers by using prior year information and then comparing the subsequent accident rates of carriers that SafeStat identified as being poor performers with those for all other carriers. The Volpe Center found, in particular, that the subsequent accident rate for poor performers in the (1) accident SEA was 259 percent higher than that for motor carriers not identified and (2) driver SEA was 81 percent higher than that for motor carriers not identified. Many of the MCSAP coordinators we interviewed believe that SafeStat will considerably improve the targeting of problem carriers for compliance reviews as compared with the SCE list’s criteria. OMC officials noted that if SafeStat targets problem carriers better than the SCE list does, OMC and state investigators could improve the program’s effectiveness while performing about the same number of compliance reviews. However, OMC officials noted that better targeting could reduce the total number of compliance reviews performed because investigators may become involved with more complex enforcement cases, increasing the staff days spent per case. Page 13 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 In April 1997, OMC used SafeStat to generate its first nationwide list of problem carriers, which included 1,700 category A and B carriers and 3,300 category C carriers. OMC will generate a new list of problem carriers every 6 months. Beginning in October 1997, OMC is sending letters to category C motor carriers notifying them of their poor safety performance. Each letter will identify the carrier’s accidents, out-of-service orders from roadside inspections, and violations and enforcement actions from compliance reviews that provide the basis for the SafeStat score. The letters will give a carrier the opportunity to correct any database mistakes, especially if an accident or inspection was wrongly assigned to the carrier. The letters will advise category C carriers that they will be subject to a compliance review unless their SafeStat score subsequently improves. OMC’s policy that a compliance review be performed of each category A and B carrier includes a revisit to any carrier that remains in either category A or B when a new SafeStat list is generated. OMC also plans to conduct a compliance review of any carrier listed in category C after the carrier has been listed in category C for a third time. In addition to these motor carriers, OMC’s regional offices can target other motor carriers from (1) category D carriers that were among the worst 25 percent of the carriers in the accident category only and/or (2) hazardous materials carriers and bus companies that the SCE list prioritized because of the potential severity of an accident involving these carriers. Roadside inspection data may not be sufficient for a SafeStat ranking for bus companies because buses often are allowed to bypass weigh stations so that passengers are not inconvenienced. SafeStat is part of the larger Commercial Vehicle Information System demonstration program. The program links OMC’s databases with states’ motor vehicle registration systems, which provide current information on each vehicle that a carrier operates. An OMC official told us that the extension of the Commercial Vehicle Information System demonstration program to all 50 states is essential to enable SafeStat to effectively compare accident rates among carriers. Many States Have A key element in implementing performance-based criteria for selecting Improved the motor carriers is ensuring that the Safetynet database contains complete, Completeness and accurate, and timely data about each motor carrier’s safety performance. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 took a first Timeliness of Their step toward developing a comprehensive database by requiring that the 48 Safetynet Data contiguous states submit data to Safetynet on commercial vehicles’ Page 14 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 recordable accidents and the results of roadside inspections and compliance reviews. The states have substantially improved the quantity and quality of the safety data on commercial vehicles reported to Safetynet since 1991. (See app. IV for three examples of innovative ways that the states are collecting, analyzing, and using these data to improve traffic enforcement.) OMC and the states increased the percentage of reported accidents from about 14 percent in fiscal year 1992 to an estimated 74 percent in fiscal 1995. To improve the completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of roadside inspection data, OMC has provided funding through MCSAP grants for states to purchase laptop computers and special software, known as ASPEN, that enable inspectors to upload inspection results directly into Safetynet’s electronic database. Using ASPEN, instead of paper forms, improves accuracy because the software alerts inspectors to inconsistent information, particularly if the carrier’s name and the entered U.S. DOT number do not match. (Without the correct U.S. DOT number, SafeStat cannot attribute the inspection results to the motor carrier.) The electronic entry of the inspection results also substantially reduces the time needed to transmit data to Safetynet because it eliminates the step of mailing paper forms to a central office for entry into the computer’s database. In addition, to better ensure that adequate inspection data are collected on the drivers and vehicles of individual motor carriers, OMC introduced the Inspection Selection System (ISS) software in 1995. As of March 1997, 36 states were using ISS to help inspectors select vehicles for inspection and focus the inspection on problems identified in a carrier’s previous inspections. As a vehicle pulls into an inspection station, its U.S. DOT number is entered into ISS. The program assigns the vehicle a score on the basis of the number and the results of the motor carrier’s previous inspections and compliance reviews. Specifically, ISS recommends an inspection for a motor carrier that has a poor safety record or has had very few roadside inspections relative to its size in the prior 2 years. Alternatively, state inspectors may select vehicles for inspections on the basis of either random sampling or judgmental factors, including the type of commodity transported or observed safety violations. Improving the completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of accident data is more difficult than improving roadside inspection data primarily because (1) accident reporting is decentralized, involving many more state and local law enforcement officers, and (2) the officer at an accident scene Page 15 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 often has other more urgent concerns and gives low priority to obtaining all of the necessary information and filing the accident report with the state. Several states told us that they are taking actions to encourage their law enforcement officers to improve the reporting of accidents involving commercial vehicles. For example, some states we contacted are providing officers with more training in completing the 22-item supplemental form developed by the National Governors’ Association for reporting commercial vehicle accidents. Similarly, some states are incorporating the supplemental form’s items into their basic accident-reporting form to further streamline the needed information. An OMC official noted that accident reporting is likely to improve as law enforcement officers become aware that SafeStat is using their reports to identify poor performers in their states. In December 1996, OMC provided the states with guidance that tightened the time frames for uploading (1) roadside inspection and compliance review data to within 7 days if the data are collected electronically or within 21 days if paper forms are used and (2) accident data to within 90 days from the date of the accident. Previously, the standards for uploading the information were 90 days for inspections, 30 days for compliance reviews, and 180 days for accidents. OMC’s data showed that the states, on average, had reduced the time for uploading roadside inspection data to Safetynet from 49 days in fiscal year 1996 to 42 days in fiscal 1997. However, 42 states did not meet OMC’s 21-day standard for paper forms, and only Connecticut met OMC’s 7-day standard for electronically uploading inspection data. OMC’s data show that the states, on average, reduced the time for uploading accident data to Safetynet from 159 days in fiscal year 1996 to 98 days in fiscal 1997. (This improvement is somewhat overstated because no accident data for Maryland were uploaded during fiscal year 1997.) Five states did not meet OMC’s former 180-day standard for uploading accident data during fiscal year 1997. Eight of the 16 MCSAP coordinators we contacted do not believe that their state will meet the tighter time frames for uploading inspection and compliance review data. Eight MCSAP coordinators also do not believe that their state will meet the new accident-reporting time frames. For example, Ohio’s MCSAP coordinator told us that Ohio relies on the voluntary cooperation of local police departments to report commercial vehicle accidents, unlike many states that require state and local police to file traffic accident reports with a state highway agency. Ohio’s MCSAP coordinator also noted that uploading accident data into Safetynet has been delayed by a backlog in electronically entering the data from paper Page 16 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 forms in the state’s central office. OMC officials acknowledged that if commercial motor carriers’ accidents were unreported, their SafeStat rankings would be reduced for the accident SEA, possibly allowing some carriers to avoid being listed among the worst 25 percent of the performers and subsequently not receive a compliance review. OMC uses a compliance review to assess a commercial motor carrier’s OMC Has Used management controls that results in a safety fitness rating. Trucking Compliance Reviews industry representatives have opposed using compliance reviews to rate a to Rate a Carrier’s carrier’s safety fitness, stating that too much weight is given to record-keeping requirements that may not correlate with a firm’s Safety Fitness on-the-road safety performance. While OMC will continue to perform compliance reviews, especially to upgrade the safety management of problem carriers, OMC plans to publish an advance notice of proposed rule making later this year to solicit public comments on alternatives for rating a carrier’s safety fitness, including the possible use of performance-based criteria. Drivers’ Hours-Of-Service In a compliance review, trained investigators assess a motor carrier’s Regulations Result in the compliance with federal motor carrier safety regulations that are divided Most Safety Violations into general, driver-related, operations-related, vehicle-related, and hazardous materials-related rating factors.14 The investigators also examine the carrier’s recordable accidents. OMC distinguishes among its motor carrier safety regulations by designating certain regulations as (1) acute, because violating one of these regulations would create an immediate risk to persons or property, or (2) critical, because violations, if occurring in patterns,15 would indicate a breakdown in the effective control over essential safety functions. Examples of acute regulations are several related to controlled substances and alcohol use and testing. Examples of critical regulations are several driver’s hours-of-service regulations that specify the maximum working hours and minimum hours off duty for drivers at selected times during an 8-day period. Each compliance rating factor is evaluated to determine whether the carrier violated any of the acute and critical regulations. A carrier’s rating 14 OMC’s national training center provides a 6-week training course for instructing investigators on how to conduct a compliance review, including interpersonal skills and role playing for interviewing a motor carrier’s personnel and conducting a closeout with the carrier’s management. 15 A pattern is defined as at least two violations that also constitute at least 10 percent of the occasions where like violations could have occurred. Page 17 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 factor is (1) satisfactory if no violations of acute or critical regulations exist, (2) conditional if one violation of an acute or critical regulation exists, and (3) unsatisfactory if two or more violations of acute or critical regulations exist. In addition, each carrier is rated on the number of recordable, preventable accidents per million miles that its vehicles traveled during the past year. (See table V.1 in app. V.) Of the motor carriers that received a compliance review in fiscal year 1996, 35 percent were rated unsatisfactory for the operational rating factor, which includes hours-of-service regulations, while 13 percent were rated unsatisfactory for the driver rating factor—the second highest unsatisfactory category. (See table V.2 in app. V.) A substantial number of carriers violated at least one critical driver’s hours-of-service regulation. (See table V.3 in app.V.) OMC gives double weight to the violation of these regulations because of the link between hours-of-service violations and driver fatigue. OMC does not track the time that investigators spend evaluating each rating factor. Compliance review investigators told us that they spend between 30 and 40 percent of their time examining the driver’s hours-of-service records during a typical compliance review, but they added that this percentage could vary, depending on known problems, available records, and whether it was a first visit or a follow-up. We did not identify any studies that specifically analyzed the relationship between the accuracy of the driver’s hours-of-service logs and accidents; however, we found two studies that generally examined these issues. A 1995 study by the National Transportation Safety Board on single-vehicle heavy truck crashes found that drivers were more likely to have exceeded OMC’s maximum allowable hours of service in fatigue-related accidents.16 A 1996 study by the Northwestern University Traffic Institute examined the relationship between a carrier’s hours-of-service logs and accident rates, but the study primarily relied on interviews with representatives of 26 motor carriers that had received a compliance review.17 The study stated that the most frequent suggestion for modifying OMC’s safety fitness rating system was to give more weight to performance-based measures, including accidents and roadside inspection results, and eliminate the stringent emphasis on record keeping. In November 1996, OMC published an advance notice of 16 Factors That Affect Fatigue in Heavy Truck Accidents, National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB/SS-95/01 (Jan. 1995). 17 “Evaluation of the US DOT Federal Highway Administration Motor Carrier Safety Rating System,” Northwestern University Traffic Institute (July 1996). The study was conducted for the American Trucking Associations. Page 18 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 proposed rule making in the Federal Register to request comments on its hours-of-service regulation (49 C.F.R. part 395), as required by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-88). Few Motor Carriers Of the 8,952 carriers that received a compliance review in fiscal year 1996, Appealed Their Safety 54 percent were rated satisfactory, 32 percent were rated conditional, and Fitness Ratings in Fiscal 12 percent were rated unsatisfactory. (See table V.4 in app. V.) A carrier’s overall safety fitness rating is satisfactory if none of the six rating factors Year 1996 are unsatisfactory and at most two rating factors are conditional. A carrier’s rating is conditional if either no rating factor is unsatisfactory and more than two rating factors are conditional or one rating factor is unsatisfactory and at most two rating factors are conditional. A carrier’s rating is unsatisfactory if one rating factor is unsatisfactory and more than two rating factors are conditional or if at least two rating factors are unsatisfactory. A motor carrier that receives an unsatisfactory or conditional rating may appeal its rating on either factual or procedural grounds within 90 days after the rating is received. Of about 3,940 motor carriers that received either a conditional or unsatisfactory rating in fiscal year 1996, only 17 appealed their rating within 90 days. After reviewing each case, OMC (1) upgraded the ratings of eight carriers, primarily on the basis of actions taken by the carrier; (2) denied the appeal of eight carriers; and (3) did not act on one appeal because a state had conducted the compliance review and had not entered the results into OMC’s Safetynet database. Alternatively, a carrier may request a new safety fitness rating on the basis of operational improvements made. This request usually results in a new compliance review. Officials in two OMC regional offices told us that a request for a change of a carrier’s rating is relatively rare and that their regional offices typically try to schedule a follow-up visit within 3 months. Another OMC official added that a follow-up compliance review usually results in an upgraded rating because a carrier would not request one unless previously cited violations had been addressed. OMC Plans to Reexamine In March 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Its Criteria for Rating that OMC had failed to carry out its statutory obligation to promulgate a Safety Fitness regulation that establishes criteria for determining whether a carrier has complied with the safety fitness requirements of the Motor Carrier Safety Page 19 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 Act of 1984.18 While this decision applied only to the safety fitness rating of a single carrier, OMC has temporarily stopped issuing ratings. To address the court’s concerns, OMC published a notice of proposed rule making in the May 1997 Federal Register that would establish a safety fitness rating methodology, including six rating factors, substantially similar to the methodology that OMC had used to rate motor carriers. (OMC also published an interim final rule that applies only to hazardous materials and passenger carriers.) The notice of proposed rule making would revise the accident rating factor by (1) eliminating the determination of whether each recordable accident was preventable by the motor carrier or the driver, (2) increasing the threshold for an unsatisfactory rating from 1 accident to 1.6 accidents per million miles driven, and (3) eliminating the satisfactory and conditional ratings. The notice of proposed rule making states that the safety fitness rating methodology is a short-term approach needed to address the court of appeals’ decision. The notice further states that, in the longer term, OMC plans to shift from using compliance reviews to performance-based criteria for determining whether motor carriers are fit to conduct commercial vehicle operations safely in interstate commerce. OMC believes that SafeStat can be successfully employed to identify the worst performing carriers within the next 2 years. As a first step in this transition, OMC plans to publish an advance notice of proposed rule making later this year to solicit public comments on alternative approaches for rating the safety fitness of commercial motor carriers. OMC’s SCE list and other criteria for selecting motor carriers for compliance Conclusions reviews did not effectively target commercial motor carriers with poor safety performance. While OMC’s new SafeStat system is designed to better identify problem carriers by using on-the-road performance data, it depends upon the states to submit complete, accurate, and timely data on recordable accidents and the results of roadside inspections and compliance reviews. However, some states currently lack adequate data, particularly for accidents. Substantial gaps in the reported data can change a carrier’s score, thus affecting SafeStat’s reliability. In addition, 14 states do not use the Inspection Selection System for selecting vehicles for roadside inspections, and small motor carriers may get no ranking or a biased ranking by SafeStat if few roadside inspections are performed on their vehicles and drivers. 18 MST Express v. Department of Transportation, 108 F.3d 401 (D.C. Cir. 1997). Page 20 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 We agree in concept with OMC’s announced plan to use performance-based data for rating the safety fitness of commercial motor carriers. However, for this approach to succeed, the states must provide substantially complete, accurate, and timely data to Safetynet. While OMC has taken steps to improve states’ data reporting by, for example, introducing the Inspection Selection System and providing funding for the states to purchase laptop computers to directly upload roadside inspection results, many states have not provided complete and timely data that meet OMC’s reporting requirements. To better ensure that the safety fitness ratings of commercial motor Recommendations carriers accurately reflect their on-the-road performance, we recommend that the Secretary of Transportation (1) identify the barriers that prevent the states from providing complete and timely data and work with the states to develop a strategy for addressing each barrier and (2) develop alternative approaches to SafeStat, such as consulting with state and local law enforcement officials to identify problem motor carriers, in the states that have inadequate data. We provided the Department of Transportation with a draft of this report Agency Comments for review and comment. We met with officials in the Office of Motor and Our Evaluation Carriers, including the Chief, Safety and Hazardous Materials Division; the Chief, Information Division; and OMC’s National Field Coordinator, as well as with a senior analyst in the Office of the Secretary. DOT agreed with the overall message of the report, stating that it was fair and accurate, and agreed with our recommendation that it work with the states to develop a strategy for addressing barriers that prevent the states from providing complete and timely data. However, DOT disagreed with our recommendation that it develop alternative approaches to SafeStat in the states that have inadequate data, stating that (1) its resources would be better spent by working with the states to improve their data and (2) developing separate processes for different states or individual populations of carriers would not be practical or an effective use of resources because an interstate carrier’s performance is influenced by multiple states. We continue to believe that DOT needs to develop alternative approaches for the states that have inadequate data, especially on recordable accidents, because of the importance of improving the safety fitness of motor carriers with poor safety records. An alternative approach need not Page 21 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 be labor intensive; for example, it could involve asking a state to identify for compliance reviews any motor carrier whose drivers or vehicles have multiple out-of-service violations. Alternatively, OMC could modify SafeStat for the states that have inadequate accident data to rank carriers only on the basis of the other three SEAs that use roadside inspection, compliance review, and enforcement case results. DOT also provided clarifying information to improve the report’s technical accuracy, which we incorporated as appropriate. To obtain the information in this report, we interviewed officials from OMC, Scope and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, the Commercial Methodology Vehicle Safety Alliance, and the American Trucking Associations and the MCSAP coordinators for Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. We selected these 16 states to provide geographical diversity, a mix of large and small states, and a mix in the number of compliance reviews that each state performed in fiscal year 1996. We also (1) made site visits to three of these states that have strong programs for collecting and using commercial vehicle accident, inspection, and enforcement data; (2) interviewed officials in each of the five states that participated in the SafeStat pilot program; and (3) accompanied OMC investigators as they performed a compliance review. While we did not verify the accuracy of the data that the states submitted to OMC’s Safetynet database, OMC reviews these data for accuracy and completeness before they are entered into its motor carrier management information system, which OMC has used to generate its SCE and SafeStat rankings. We also did not examine the safety performance of longer-combination vehicles, which are limited by federal law to designated highways in 20 states. DOT does not plan to propose any revisions to the current federal restrictions until it completes an ongoing major study on these trucks. We conducted our review from April through September 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies of the report to congressional committees and subcommittees responsible for commercial Page 22 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers B-277481 motor vehicle safety issues; the Secretary of Transportation; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; and other interested parties. We will make copies available to others upon request. If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-3650. Major contributors to this report are Jason Bromberg, Richard Cheston, and James Ratzenberger. Sincerely yours, Phyllis F. Scheinberg Associate Director, Transportation Issues Page 23 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Contents Letter 1 Appendix I 26 Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Appendix II 31 Selective Compliance and Enforcement Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review Appendix III 34 SafeStat Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review Appendix IV 35 Oregon: Accident Reporting 35 Selected State Utah: Reducing Fatigue-Related Accidents 36 Initiatives to Improve Connecticut: Real-Time Wireless Communication 36 the Collection and Use of Safety Data Appendix V 38 Compliance Review Rating Factors Tables Table 1: Source of Compliance Reviews in Fiscal Year 1996 11 Table 2: SafeStat Categories for Carriers Ranked Among the 13 Worst 25 Percent of All Carriers in at Least One SEA Page 24 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Contents Table I.1: Fatal Accidents Involving Large Trucks, 1983 Through 26 1996 Table I.2: Roadside Inspections of Commercial Motor Vehicles 27 Performed by Federal and State Inspectors, Fiscal Years 1983 Through 1996 Table I.3: Roadside Inspections of Commercial Motor Vehicles 27 Performed by Each State, Fiscal Year 1996 Table I.4: Compliance Reviews of Commercial Motor Carriers 29 Performed by Federal and State Investigators, Fiscal Years 1989 Through 1996 Table I.5: Federal MCSAP Grants to the States by Category, Fiscal 30 Year 1996 Table V.1: Recordable, Preventable Accident-Rating Scale 38 Table V.2: Compliance Review Ratings by Factor, Fiscal Year 38 1996 Table V.3: Violations of Critical Hours-of-Service Regulations 39 Cited in Compliance Reviews, Fiscal Year 1996 Table V.4: Federal and State Compliance Review Ratings of 39 Commercial Motor Carriers’ Operations by State, Fiscal Year 1996 Figures Figure 1: Rate of Fatal Accidents Involving Large Trucks, 1983 5 Through 1995 Figure 2: Compliance Reviews Performed by Each State, Fiscal 8 Year 1996 Abbreviations DOT Department of Transportation GAO General Accounting Office ISS Inspection Selection System MCSAP Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program OMC Office of Motor Carriers SCE Selective Compliance and Enforcement SEA Safety Evaluation Area Page 25 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix I Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Table I.1: Fatal Accidents Involving Large Trucks, 1983 Through 1996 Vehicle miles traveled per 100 million miles Large trucks involved in Vehicle miles Fatal accident Year Fatalities fatal accidents traveled ratea 1983 5,491 4,877 1,131.6 4.3 1984 5,640 5,124 1,239.3 4.1 1985 5,734 5,153 1,265.8 4.1 1986 5,579 5,097 1,301.4 3.9 1987 5,598 5,108 1,356.0 3.8 1988 5,679 5,241 1,414.0 3.7 1989 5,490 4,984 1,483.2 3.4 1990 5,272 4,776 1,498.1 3.2 1991 4,821 4,347 1,507.3 2.9 1992 4,462 4,035 1,528.0 2.6 1993 4,856 4,328 1,599.0 2.7 1994 5,144 4,644 1,704.2 2.7 1995 4,918 4,472 1,781.6 2.5 b b 1996 5,126 4,740 Note: Large trucks accounted for 99 percent of the fatal accidents involving commercial motor vehicles in 1995. a Fatal accidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. b Data are not available. Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Page 26 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix I Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Table I.2: Roadside Inspections of Commercial Motor Vehicles Performed State by Federal and State Inspectors, Fiscal Fiscal year Federal inspections inspectionsa Total inspections Years 1983 Through 1996 1983 24,721 0 24,721 1984 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 1,254,076 1,254,314 1989 2,357 1,302,453 1,304,810 1990 4,376 1,601,230 1,605,606 1991 2,321 1,574,188 1,576,509 1992 1,066 1,615,668 1,616,734 1993 2,864 1,946,833 1,949,697 1994 2,965 1,974,232 1,977,197 1995 726 1,840,266 1,840,992 1996 10,987b 2,073,666 2,084,653 a State totals may exclude inspections of intrastate carriers or inspections not funded by the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) and not centrally reported. For example, Missouri did not report inspections of intrastate carriers to Safetynet before March 1997. Similarly, California reported only 32,000 of 400,000 roadside inspections in fiscal year 1989. b Federal inspections increased in fiscal year 1996 because the Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) temporarily assigned personnel to help states inspect commercial vehicles entering the United States from Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Source: OMC. Table I.3: Roadside Inspections of Commercial Motor Vehicles Performed Out-of-service by Each State, Fiscal Year 1996 Level 1 Total rate for Out-of-service State inspections inspections vehicles rate for drivers Alabama 2,359 19,713 17.0 6.4 Alaska 640 1,636 30.1 4.5 Arizona 6,623 34,365 19.8 9.2 Arkansas 12,306 38,037 14.5 16.3 California 325,345 356,423 25.0 3.6 Colorado 23,065 46,616 18.5 6.4 Connecticut 5,407 15,546 27.8 13.1 Delaware 1,435 3,109 26.1 11.4 Florida 27,618 67,602 25.8 8.8 Georgia 10,174 32,870 23.0 8.0 Hawaii 6,404 7,815 16.1 1.8 (continued) Page 27 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix I Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Out-of-service Level 1 Total rate for Out-of-service State inspections inspections vehicles rate for drivers Idaho 3,089 6,449 23.3 13.5 Illinois 13,878 97,791 11.9 4.6 Indiana 25,559 80,410 16.5 6.8 Iowa 15,656 51,071 17.7 11.1 Kansas 3,634 23,338 18.7 12.7 Kentucky 62,985 77,159 20.5 8.6 Louisiana 16,595 39,413 20.3 11.9 Maine 4,245 5,043 31.3 13.9 Maryland 25,496 91,760 14.4 6.2 Massachusetts 13,923 25,562 25.4 5.0 Michigan 10,001 49,486 11.9 3.3 Minnesota 13,268 27,250 23.1 9.8 Mississippi 14,449 19,747 24.9 8.9 Missouri 26,885 63,504 27.9 10.0 Montana 7,470 26,916 8.6 8.3 Nebraska 5,942 22,454 11.3 13.4 Nevada 3,184 15,249 20.3 7.1 New Hampshire 1,475 11,065 12.4 6.4 New Jersey 20,098 55,536 21.6 2.7 New Mexico 7,610 24,685 21.0 15.5 New York 30,823 37,839 32.2 11.4 North Carolina 16,831 39,527 19.8 6.0 North Dakota 2,721 15,231 7.3 9.0 Ohio 21,721 59,981 29.1 11.0 Oklahoma 3,165 10,461 25.1 5.7 Oregon 15,167 26,170 34.9 10.7 Pennsylvania 15,807 39,718 25.8 7.7 Rhode Island 2,274 5,443 14.7 7.5 South Carolina 8,192 32,697 20.9 6.8 South Dakota 633 14,373 3.3 11.2 Tennessee 17,676 63,402 17.8 9.2 Texas 19,872 82,056 29.4 13.7 Utah 8,251 15,065 24.7 8.5 Vermont 1,737 4,367 19.0 12.4 Virginia 15,438 30,717 22.7 7.3 Washington 27,963 81,250 17.5 8.8 West Virginia 8,227 14,511 23.1 8.5 (continued) Page 28 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix I Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Out-of-service Level 1 Total rate for Out-of-service State inspections inspections vehicles rate for drivers Wisconsin 10,791 29,806 23.0 10.4 Wyoming 2,542 13,650 9.5 18.1 American Samoa 2,396 2,899 26.5 2.7 District of Columbia 964 3,505 11.7 0.9 Guam 7,258 9,908 24.1 0 Northern Mariana Islands 372 457 0 0 Puerto Rico 535 3,013 29.0 3.4 Total 958,174 2,073,666 21.0 7.8 Source: OMC’s MCSAP Quarterly Report. Table I.4: Compliance Reviews of Commercial Motor Carriers Performed Federal State Total by Federal and State Investigators, compliance compliance compliance Fiscal Years 1989 Through 1996 Fiscal year reviews reviews reviews 1989 6,211 5 6,216 1990 6,764 87 6,851 1991 8,958 142 9,100 1992 7,733 225 7,958 1993 7,342 431 7,733 1994 6,924 1,258 8,182 1995 5,396 3,857 9,253 1996 5,241 3,711 8,952 Note: Excludes safety reviews, which OMC eliminated at the end of fiscal year 1994. Source: OMC. Page 29 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix I Commercial Vehicle Safety Data Table I.5: Federal MCSAP Grants to the States by Category, Fiscal Year 1996 Dollars in thousands Activity Funding Basic MCSAP grant $53,968 Traffic enforcement 6,900 Hazardous materials training 1,500 Secondary grantsa 1,701 b 50 percent holding (1,499) National Governors’ Association data elements for accident reporting 1,403 Drug interdiction assistance program 464 Research and development 1,042 Covert activities 1,062 Public education 850 Uniformity grantsc 3,097 North American Free Trade Agreement implementation assistance 1,067 d Incentive grants 1,036 Reallocation 1,517 Special grants 2,483 Total $76,592 a Supplementary funding designed to encourage states with mature safety programs to further enlarge their programs. Funding was phased out in fiscal year 1997. b States whose intrastate regulations are incompatible with federal regulations are eligible to receive only 50 percent of their basic formula allocation. c Funding for participation in the international registration plan and the international fuel tax agreement. d Supplemental funding derived from the 50-percent holding account for states with comprehensive motor carrier safety programs. Source: OMC. Page 30 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix II Selective Compliance and Enforcement Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review Commodity transported (1 to 8 points): • 8 points for a passenger carrier • 5 points for hazardous materials in a tank • 2 points for hazardous materials in a package • 1 point for everything else Annual carrier mileage (1 to 4 points): • 4 points for at least 5 million miles • 3 points for from 1 million to 4,999,999 miles • 2 points for from 150,000 to 999,999 miles • 1 point for less than 150,000 miles If mileage is unavailable, then a driver census would be used • 4 points for at least 72 drivers • 3 points for from 16 to 71 drivers • 2 points for from 6 to 15 drivers • 1 point for from 1 to 5 drivers If mileage and a driver census are unavailable, then the number of power units (for semi-trailer trucks, the tractor unit that includes the engine) would be used • 4 points for at least 72 power units • 3 points for from 16 to 71 power units • 2 points for from 6 to 15 power units • 1 point for from 1 to 5 power units • Neutral value if 0, blank, or unknown Months since last safety fitness rating (0 to 4 points): • 4 points for more than 36 months • 3 points for from 25 to 36 months • 2 points for from 13 to 24 months • 1 point for from 7 to 12 months • 0 points for from 0 to 6 months • 2 points for an unrated carrier Page 31 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix II Selective Compliance and Enforcement Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review Vehicle out-of-service rate (1 to 5 points): • 5 points for an out-of-service rate of at least 40 percent • 4 points for an out-of-service rate from 33.34 to 39.99 percent • 3 points for an out-of-service rate from 25 to 33.33 percent • 2 points for an out-of-service rate from 16.67 to 24.99 percent • 1 point for an out-of-service rate of from 0 to 16.66 percent Driver out-of-service rate (2 to 10 points): • 10 points for an out-of-service rate of at least 15 percent • 8 points for an out-of-service rate from 10 to 14.99 percent • 6 points for an out-of-service rate from 7 to 9.99 percent • 4 points for an out-of-service rate from 3.25 to 6.99 percent • 2 points for an out-of-service rate of from 0 to 3.24 percent Preventable, recordable accident rate (1 to 5 points): • 5 points for an accident rate of at least 1.0 • 4 points for an accident rate from 0.67 to 0.99 • 3 points for an accident rate from 0.34 to 0.66 • 2 points for an accident rate from 0.01 to 0.33 • 1 point for an accident rate of 0 • Neutral value for a blank or missing accident rate Overall safety fitness rating (1 to 5 points): • 5 points for an unsatisfactory rating • 3 points for a conditional rating • 1 point for a satisfactory rating • Neutral value for an unrated carrier The Selective Compliance and Enforcement (SCE) selection formula removes a neutral value for a factor from consideration because of a lack of data. To adjust for neutral values, the selection formula multiplies the carrier’s SCE score by seven (the total number of factors) and divides by the number of factors for which data are available. A carrier’s final SCE score is the total of its scores for the seven factors. The SCE list used (1) inspections conducted within the previous 18 months and (2) accident rates calculated during a compliance review within the previous 2 years. OMC required that the out-of-service rates for the vehicle Page 32 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix II Selective Compliance and Enforcement Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review and driver be calculated on the basis of at least 10 valid inspections for trucks and 5 valid inspections for passenger vehicles. Page 33 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix III SafeStat Criteria for Selecting Motor Carriers for a Compliance Review Accident Safety Evaluation Area (SEA) 1. Motor carriers’ accidents that states report to OMC’s Safetynet database. (The accident must involve a fatality, an injury, or a vehicle that was towed away from the scene.) 2. Recordable, preventable accident rate from compliance reviews. Driver SEA 1. Out-of-service violations for drivers from roadside inspections. 2. Violations of driver-related critical and acute regulations from compliance reviews. Vehicle SEA 1. Out-of-service violations for vehicles from roadside inspections. 2. Violations of vehicle-related critical and acute regulations from compliance reviews. Safety management SEA 1. Closed enforcement cases. (An enforcement case is the result of one or more major violations discovered by a safety investigator during a compliance review.) 2. Out-of-service violations for hazardous materials from roadside inspections. 3. Violations of safety management-related critical and acute regulations from compliance reviews. SafeStat time weights data by (1) giving more weight to events that occurred during the past year than to events that are older and (2) using only data that are less than 30 months old. SafeStat also weights accident data and compliance review violations by the severity of the event. For example, a fatal accident is given more weight than an accident involving a vehicle that was towed from the scene. Page 34 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix IV Selected State Initiatives to Improve the Collection and Use of Safety Data States vary widely in the quality and completeness of their commercial vehicle safety data and in the ways they make use of these data in their commercial vehicle safety programs. Several states have initiated programs to improve their collection and use of safety data for commercial vehicles. Below are three state initiatives to develop comprehensive data on accidents involving commercial motor vehicles, targeting high-accident corridors for increased enforcement, and using real-time wireless communications to provide state police with electronic access to Safetynet data. The Motor Carrier Transportation Branch, within Oregon’s Department of Oregon: Accident Transportation (DOT) has a system for gathering data on commercial Reporting vehicle accidents that differs from that of many other states. In particular, the branch employs an experienced accident analyst whose sole job is to collect and check accident information, look for inconsistencies in the data, and follow up with the police or the carrier to make the accident report as accurate and complete as possible. The accident analyst also provides information that helps decide whether the branch should get involved in the investigation of a particular accident. Oregon uses several sources to acquire information on accidents involving commercial vehicles, the most important of which is the police accident report. But unlike many states, Oregon also requires motor carriers to file a report within 30 days if one of their vehicles is involved in a serious accident. The carrier’s report provides more information than the police report about the driver and such things as the configuration of the vehicle and its load. In about one in six cases, the carrier’s report is the only source of information about an accident because local police departments do not always file an accident report. Unlike many states, Oregon makes an effort to determine the cause of a commercial vehicle accident and who was at fault. Oregon’s DOT uses a list of about 50 different reasons (lane change, brake failure, etc.) that can be identified as the primary or secondary cause of an accident. While Safetynet does not include data on cause and fault, Oregon uses this information to develop its performance-based standards and strategies. For example, the information allows Oregon’s DOT to map out the location of accidents, on the basis of their cause, showing problem spots for accidents believed to be caused by such things as excessive speed or fatigue. Oregon’s DOT can then respond to patterns by, for example, focusing its resources on traffic enforcement efforts on speed-problem Page 35 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix IV Selected State Initiatives to Improve the Collection and Use of Safety Data corridors or targeting hours-of-service violations where fatigue is a problem. Utah, like other states, is adopting performance-based standards to Utah: Reducing implement its truck safety programs. In 1996, Utah’s DOT used its basic Fatigue-Related MCSAP grant to participate in a pilot project to address a 78-percent Accidents increase in truck accidents on a stretch of Interstate Route 80 west of Salt Lake City that is very straight, flat, and monotonous. Utah’s DOT conducted an analysis of these accidents in relation to the time of day, location, number of vehicles involved, and other elements that found that a disproportionate number of the accidents were single-vehicle events, such as a truck’s running off the road, suggesting that the accidents were related to driver fatigue. Through the pilot, Utah has targeted resources on the driver-fatigue problem on this corridor. The truck unit of the state police has increased level 3 (driver) inspections at targeted locations, focusing on hours-of-service violations. Where problems were found, Utah’s DOT focused on the carrier’s operations by looking at the carrier’s collective driver records and conducting a full compliance review, if warranted. In addition, Utah’s DOT initiated educational activities to reduce the number of sleep-related crashes, such as disseminating brochures outlining the warning signs of fatigue and informational packets for drivers and carriers at ports of entry, during compliance reviews, and at various driver-related events. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Division, within the Connecticut Connecticut: Department of Motor Vehicles, has begun to implement a real-time Real-Time Wireless wireless communication system that links an inspector performing a truck Communication inspection at a roadside stop with state and national motor carrier information systems. The system, known as the cellular digital package data system, provides inspectors with the ability to send and receive real-time data from the ASPEN vehicle inspection system, OMC’s commercial driver license information system, and other related commercial vehicle and enforcement databases. The system substantially increases both the quantity and currency of the data available to an inspector at a roadside stop about a vehicle, its driver, and the motor carrier. Several police departments in Connecticut and nationwide already use this basic technology, but Connecticut is using a special MCSAP research and Page 36 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix IV Selected State Initiatives to Improve the Collection and Use of Safety Data development grant to piggyback onto this existing technology to incorporate ASPEN. The communications are double-encrypted before going over the airwaves, since they contain sensitive information. The operating costs are much less than those for a cellular telephone, since the system sends out its data in short bursts, rather than through a continuously open telephone line. By entering a truck’s U.S. DOT number at a roadside stop, an inspector will be able to obtain a motor carrier’s complete inspection history and the results of compliance reviews. Having more up-to-date information will allow the inspector to make a better determination about whether to inspect the truck. In addition, having more complete information allows the inspector to focus the inspection more effectively; if the database shows a history of brake violations, for example, the inspection may focus more on the vehicle’s brakes. The inspector also can use the cellular system to input the data collected during an inspection into the system immediately, rather than have it entered at some future date, which facilitates data processing and makes the databases more current. Page 37 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix V Compliance Review Rating Factors Table V.1: Recordable, Preventable Accident-Rating Scale Accidents per million Accidents per million miles traveled for urban Rating miles traveled carriersa Satisfactory Less than 0.3 Less than 0.3 Conditional Between 0.3 and 1.0 Between 0.3 and 2.0 Unsatisfactory Greater than 1.0 Greater than 2.0 Note: A recordable accident is one involving a commercial vehicle operating on a public road that results in a fatality, bodily injury that requires medical treatment, or a vehicle being towed from the accident scene. A preventable accident is one that could have been averted but for an act, or failure to act, by the motor carrier or driver. a An urban carrier is defined as one operating entirely within a radius of less than 100 air miles (normally in urban areas). Table V.2: Compliance Review Ratings by Factor, Fiscal Year 1996 Percentage Rating factor Satisfactory Conditional Unsatisfactory unsatisfactory Generala 8,569 272 13 0.1 Driverb 5,522 2,154 1,178 13.3 Operationalc 5,731 45 3,078 34.8 Vehicled 5,879 2,390 584 6.6 Hazardous materialse 2,518 245 33 1.2 f Accident 7,578 1,041 234 2.6 a Assesses compliance with regulations for financial responsibility and general safety (49 C.F.R. parts 387 and 390). b Assesses compliance with regulations for the use and testing of controlled substances and alcohol, the commercial driver’s license, and drivers’ qualifications (49 C.F.R. parts 382, 383, and 391). c Assesses compliance with regulations for motor vehicle driving and hours of service (49 C.F.R. parts 392 and 395). d Assesses compliance with regulations for vehicle parts and accessories and vehicles’ inspection, repair, and maintenance (49 C.F.R. parts 393 and 396). e Assesses compliance with regulations for transporting hazardous materials (49 C.F.R. parts 397, 171, 177, and 180). f Assesses a motor carrier’s recordable, preventable accident rate. Source: OMC. Page 38 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix V Compliance Review Rating Factors Table V.3: Violations of Critical Hours-Of-Service Regulations Cited in Critical regulation Total violations Compliance Reviews, Fiscal Year 1996 Requiring or permitting driver to drive more than 10 hours. 3,322 Requiring or permitting driver to drive after having been on duty 15 hours. 1,955 Requiring or permitting driver to drive after having been on duty more than (1) 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or (2) 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. 3,311 Failing to require driver to make a record of duty status. 3,042 False reports of records of duty status. 4,332 Failing to require driver to forward, within 13 days of completion, the original of the record of duty status. 501 Failing to preserve driver’s records of duty status and supporting documents for 6 months. 984 Note: Excludes four critical hours-of-service regulations that apply only to Alaska. Source: OMC. Table V.4: Federal and State Compliance Review Ratings of Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage Commercial Motor Carriers’ rated rated rated not Operations by State, Fiscal Year 1996 State Total satisfactory conditional unsatisfactory rated Alabama 133 46 37 17 1 Alaska 11 36 55 0 9 Arizona 88 57 33 10 0 Arkansas 124 48 40 10 2 a California 185 48 29 15 8 Colorado 193 49 38 11 3 Connecticut 111 38 26 21 15 Delaware 43 44 44 12 0 Florida 73 40 40 19 1 Georgia 246 36 36 28 0 Hawaii 1 100 0 0 0 Idaho 72 63 18 19 0 Illinois 414 55 38 7 0 Indiana 291 58 35 7 0 Iowa 58 22 41 36 0 Kansas 40 40 28 33 0 Kentucky 408 39 36 22 4 Louisiana 126 51 46 3 0 Maine 24 29 42 29 0 Maryland 161 49 30 20 0 (continued) Page 39 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix V Compliance Review Rating Factors Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage rated rated rated not State Total satisfactory conditional unsatisfactory rated Massachusetts 197 59 31 8 2 Michigan 426 62 27 7 4 Minnesota 658 65 27 6 3 Mississippi 107 23 51 25 0 Missouri 416 49 36 14 0 Montana 43 44 44 12 0 Nebraska 68 41 43 16 0 Nevada 78 54 32 6 8 New Hampshire 3 0 33 67 0 New Jersey 256 56 33 10 1 New Mexico 112 64 22 11 3 New York 230 50 33 16 1 North Carolina 139 40 45 14 1 North Dakota 49 18 57 24 0 Ohio 979 71 22 4 3 Oklahoma 92 39 50 11 0 Oregon 206 46 31 20 3 Pennsylvania 294 70 21 10 0 Rhode Island 50 62 22 14 2 South Carolina 60 52 33 15 0 South Dakota 14 43 29 29 0 Tennessee 171 77 22 1 0 Texas 307 50 36 10 4 Utah 74 62 27 8 3 Vermont 12 58 25 17 0 Virginia 120 41 41 18 0 Washington 276 34 42 20 4 West Virginia 84 65 25 10 0 Wisconsin 464 67 24 5 5 Wyoming 60 45 48 7 0 District of Columbia 9 56 33 11 0 (continued) Page 40 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Appendix V Compliance Review Rating Factors Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage rated rated rated not State Total satisfactory conditional unsatisfactory rated Puerto Rico 3 0 0 0 100 Total 8,952 54 32 12 2 Note: Totals exclude any compliance reviews of shippers, shippers’ terminals, and intrastate carriers, as well as 16-passenger vans and school buses. a California performed 14,785 terminal inspections during 1996. Source: OMC. (348032) Page 41 GAO/RCED-98-8 Commercial Motor Carriers Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office P.O. Box 37050 Washington, DC 20013 or visit: Room 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW) U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000 or by using fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537. Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any list from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512-6000 using a touchtone phone. 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Commercial Motor Carriers: DOT Is Shifting to Performance-Based Standards to Assess Whether Carriers Operate Safely
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-11-03.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)