GAO audit: FMCSA's IT systems, including URS, are 'inadequate'

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/14/2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s information technology systems’ planning and oversights are inadequate, according to a Government Accountability Office report. FMCSA’s IT system is responsible for enforcement, compliance, inspection and registration services.

In December 2015, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act required GAO to review FMCSA’s IT, data collection and management systems. According to GAO’s review, “FMCSA lacks adequate visibility into and oversight of IT investment decisions and activities, which could ultimately hinder its modernization efforts.”

During the review, GAO focused on four investments at FMCSA:

  • Aspen: a desktop application that collects commercial driver/vehicle inspection details and creates and prints a vehicle inspection report.
  • Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS): captures data from field offices and is the authoritative source for inspection, crash, compliance review, safety audit and registration data.
  • Safety Enforcement Tracking and Investigation System (Sentri): used to facilitate safety audits conducted by FMCSA and state users.
  • Unified Registration System (URS): intended to replace existing registration systems with a single comprehensive, online system and provide FMCSA-regulated entities a more efficient means of submission and manipulation of data pertaining to registration applications.

GAO found that none of the above program offices completed operational analyses as required by the Office of Management and Budget. Of the four analysis factors (costs, schedules, investment performance and customer/business needs), one program partially implemented all four, two had partially implemented one factor, and one program had not addressed any of the four factors.

According to the review, FMCSA initiated a modernization effort and developed an IT strategic plan in 2011. However, GAO is reporting “the plan lacks timelines to guide FMCSA’s goal and strategies.” Furthermore, FMCSA has yet to implement a modernization plan for existing IT systems.

The report also notes that FMCSA has not fully implemented key elements of a sound IT governance and oversight process to manage any modernization efforts. Investment boards have not met regularly to review the performance of IT investments, including those investments that are part of its modernization efforts, against expectations. During the Technical Review Board’s four meetings last year, neither cost, schedule, performance nor risks were even discussed.

Lastly, FMCSA did not ensure that its IT systems are effectively meeting agency needs. Of the four systems audited, only Aspen, Sentri and URS assessed customer/business needs. However, none of those systems fully assessed those needs, only partially.

Other IT investments in FMCSA’s portfolio as of August 2016 include:

  • Licensing and insuring
  • Safety and fitness electronic records
  • Commercial driver’s license information system access
  • Electronic logging device
  • National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
  • Drug and alcohol clearinghouse
  • Compliance analysis and performance review information
  • Uniform fine assessment
  • Violation update utility

GAO’s audit was conducted from April 2016 to July 2017.

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