July 14, 2021
FMCSA Has Gaps and Challenges in Its Oversight of CDL Disqualification Regulations
What We Looked At
The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. To that end, FMCSA regulates commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders involved in interstate commerce and the transportation of hazardous materials. In the last 5 years, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 12.4 percent, from 4,505 in 2014 to 5,064 in 2019. Federal regulations describe the minimum standards States must meet to comply with the Federal CDL program and permits FMCSA to review each State CDL program to determine compliance. Accordingly, the objective for this self-initiated audit was to assess FMCSA’s oversight of States’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted.
What We Found
States did not timely transmit electronic conviction notifications 17 percent of the time. Specifically, we estimate that States of Conviction did not timely transmit 18 percent of 2,182 major offenses and 17 percent of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe. We also estimate that 11 percent of 2,182 major offenses were not timely posted and 2 percent of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe were not posted to driver records at all. While States did take action to disqualify CDLs when appropriate, with exceptions, FMCSA’s evaluation of paper conviction notifications is limited by States’ processes for recording and tracking convictions sent by mail. Furthermore, FMCSA's Annual Program Review process lacks adequate quality control measures for verifying that State CDL programs meet Federal requirements. Finally, State noncompliance with Federal CDL disqualification requirements and other State actions pose challenges for FMCSA’s oversight. For example, some States offered administrative appeals to out-of-State drivers, overturned disqualifications, and backdated CDL disqualification periods. As a result, some drivers served shorter disqualification time periods than Federal law requires.
We made seven recommendations to strengthen FMCSA’s oversight of States’ actions to comply with Federal CDL disqualification requirements. FMCSA concurred with all seven recommendations, which we consider resolved but open pending completion of the planned actions.