According to testimony before a congressional panel March 13, U.S. DOT Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead wants states to use covert procedures to monitor CDL driver examiners.
FMCSA’s FY 2004 request includes a $10.8 million increase for the CDL program, bringing the total program budget to $22 million.
"The subcommittee should consider linking this funding increase to an FMCSA requirement that states use covert procedures," Mead said. "Our audits and investigations identified the need to strengthen the oversight of the CDL program and clarify federal standards for issuing CDLs."
Mead testified before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies.
"In May 2002, we reported that the magnitude of fraud in the CDL program warranted the required use of covert procedures," Mead said. "FMCSA’s response to our report indicated an endorsement, and not a requirement, to use covert procedures (when an examiner does not know monitoring is taking place)."
In the May report, the IG said existing federal standards and state controls were not sufficient to defend against the "alarming threat" posed by individuals who seek to fraudulently obtain CDLs.
"For example, we found that only four of 13 states we visited had laws requiring applicants to demonstrate that they are citizens or are legally present in the United States," Mead said.
Since 1998, the IG has conducted more than 70 criminal investigations in 12 states involving CDLs. As of January this year, these cases have resulted in 81 indictments, 63 convictions and more than $480,000 in fines, restitution and other monetary recoveries.
"As a result, truckers have had their licenses suspended or revoked, or have had to be retested in order to ensure they were qualified to drive commercial vehicles," Mead said. "Since 1998, federal and state investigations have identified at least 13,000 commercial drivers that needed to be retested."
On Mexican trucks
Meanwhile, Mead said he didn’t know how long the delay would last before Mexican trucks were allowed to operate beyond U.S. commercial zones.
Currently, border inspectors perform safety inspections of Mexican commercial vehicles and drivers operating along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Until the delay is resolved, safety auditors and safety investigators hired and trained to perform safety audits and compliance reviews of Mexican long-haul carriers are available to assist with other safety priority programs such as the new entrant program for U.S. and Canadian carriers," Mead said.
FMCSA’s FY 2004 budget request includes $66 million for border inspections and operations. In June 2002, the IG said FMCSA made "substantial progress" toward meeting safety requirements, including hiring and training enforcement personnel, and establishing inspection facilities and safety procedures.
"We are performing a follow-up audit to verify that the FMCSA completed the actions …we expect to issue the report shortly," Mead said.
--By Dick Larsen, senior editor