FMCSA scores mixed reviews

| 1/6/2006

If it were a movie, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wouldn’t be a box-office smash.

But, it wouldn’t be going straight to DVD, either.

In a new report, the General Accounting Office said that, while FMCSA has made advances in its enforcement and safety inspection programs, the administration still has a long way to go when it comes to handling its grant money.

Specifically, the report refers to money from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, or MCSAP.

MCSAP is designed to provide financial assistance to states’ safety programs with the goal of reducing the number and severity of accidents involving commercial trucks. It also sets qualifying conditions for states to receive the money.

The GAO said in its report that it was unable to determine if states met almost two-thirds of the requirements because of missing performance information.

The report also said that, although FMCSA requires its offices periodically review grant activities for adequacy of oversight, very few of those reviews are actually being completed.

In the past three years, FMCSA’s service centers have only assessed 15 of the agency’s 52 field division offices. FMCSA maintains it did not conduct these reviews because of a curbed oversight role for the service centers and a reduction in staff at MCSAP headquarters.

The report also criticized the FMCSA for not measuring the effect civil penalties have on carriers’ compliance with safety regulations. Not measuring these effects, the report said, deprives FMCSA of the information needed to “make sound decisions about any changes to its use of civil penalties.”

– By Terry Scruton, senior writer