More evaluation needed of FMCSA’s outreach, GAO says

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should describe the link between its education and outreach programs and the agency’s strategic objectives and should evaluate how additional information and safety audits are helping new carriers learn FMCSA requirements, the Government Accounting Office said.

In a report requested by the House Appropriations Committee, GAO – Congress’ agency for overseeing the executive branch – reviewed five FMCSA education and outreach programs: new entrant, non-entrant, motor coach, safety belt and household goods. In fiscal year 2005, FMCSA spent $36.3 million on these programs, including about $33 million on the new entrant program.

Although FMCSA’s new entrant program, which includes educational safety audits of new carriers, has existed for more than two years, FMCSA doesn’t plan to evaluate the program’s effectiveness until 2008, GAO said. However, a preliminary comparison of crash rates for new entrants who had received safety audits during the first part of 2003 with new entrants who had not received safety audits found little difference in the crash rates of the two groups.

In part because there are few sanctions for carriers that fail certain portions of the safety audit, FMCSA now is increasing the enforcement associated with its safety audits by making it more difficult to pass the audit and requiring carriers to correct deficiencies, GAO said. Currently, a carrier can pass its safety audit even if it fails two of the six sections of the audit. GAO found, for example, that over the past two years, about 40 percent of the carriers failed the “driver” section of their safety audits, despite passing the audit overall.

For a copy of the GAO Report, click here.