September 25, 2019
Mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015
FMCSA’s Plan Addresses Recommendations on Prioritizing Safety Interventions but Lacks Implementation Details
What We Looked At
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act) directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to commission the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to evaluate the methodology and data it uses to identify carriers that are not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles, and develop a corrective action plan in response. The FAST Act also directed our office to assess FMCSA’s plan and its responses to our prior recommendations, as well as those from NAS and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Accordingly, our audit objectives were to (1) assess the extent to which FMCSA’s corrective action plan addresses the NAS recommendations and relevant OIG and GAO recommendations and (2) identify challenges FMCSA may face when implementing the corrective action plan.
What We Found
While FMCSA’s corrective action plan addresses motor carrier safety interventions, it lacks implementation details for improving transparency and its assessment of carrier safety rankings. For example, in response to recommendations from NAS and GAO, the Agency is testing an Item Response Theory (IRT) statistical model to gauge how it prioritizes motor carrier safety interventions. Regarding the NAS recommendation on collecting more accurate and diverse types of data, FMCSA determined that much of the data either do not exist. As a result, FMCSA no longer plans to collect additional data. Similarly, the plan describes putting datasets on a publicly available website but does not discuss making them user-friendly, or outline costs and implementation steps—hindering FMCSA’s efforts to make its data, safety measures, and rankings more transparent. Finally, the complexity of the IRT model may make implementation and public outreach difficult.
We made two recommendations to improve the corrective action plan FMCSA developed in response to the NAS study. FMCSA partially concurred with both recommendations. We consider the recommendations resolved but open pending completion of planned actions.