DOT Can Improve Processes for Evaluating the Impact of Time Zone Changes and Promoting Uniform Time Observance
What We Looked At
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for fostering and promoting uniform time observance—including Daylight Saving Time (DST)—as well as evaluating requests to change time zones. Since 2015, at least 45 States have proposed legislation either to change their observance of DST or to establish permanent standard time. Recent Federal interest, such as the March 2022 U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on DST and the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, highlights the importance of DST and time zone changes to impacted communities. Given the recent interest and potential impact of time zone changes on transportation, we initiated this audit with a limited scope to assess DOT’s processes for evaluating and responding to requests from States and localities for time zone changes and DST exemptions.
What We Found
While DOT is responsible for evaluating and processing time zone change petitions from States and localities, it does not have written guidance in place specifically addressing how the petitions should be evaluated and validated. Instead, if it were to receive a petition, the Department would process the petition according to the general rulemaking procedures and DOT Order already in place. However, it has been roughly 12 years since the Department last processed a petition and officials currently responsible for this area were not involved in the process the last time it took place. In addition, although DOT does not have the authority to grant exemptions from DST, it is responsible for fostering and promoting uniform time observance. Yet, it does not have processes for monitoring localities that are not observing DST or their assigned time zone and may not be aware of possible instances of non-uniform time observance. In addition, the Department does not provide sufficiently detailed information for the public to promptly and accurately identify non-compliant localities.
The Office of the Secretary of Transportation concurred with all five of our recommendations to improve DOT’s evaluation of time zone changes and promotion of uniform time observance and provided appropriate actions and completion dates. We consider these recommendations resolved but open, pending completion of planned actions.