A new audit from New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the state’s Department of Transportation is not adequately monitoring whether commercial carriers whose vehicles or drivers have been taken off the road are making the needed repairs or corrections, which potentially puts the public at risk. Thirty-nine percent of the certifications for 90,368 out-of-service violations on vehicles and drivers between Oct. 1, 2008 and June 17, 2013 were not submitted, and the DOT doesn’t have a tracking system to monitor whether commercial carriers fix violations, the audit said.
The Department of Transportation is responsible for overseeing the state’s participation in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. DOT inspectors and specially trained state and local police conduct roadside inspections of commercial vehicles. When problems are found, vehicles are immediately removed from service until they are fixed. Commercial carriers with poor safety records may be subject to more stringent enforcement, such as on-site compliance reviews or additional penalties.
“Lax oversight of commercial carriers could be putting New York’s motorists in jeopardy,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The Department of Transportation needs to do a better job making sure carriers comply with the law, and most especially those with poor safety records. The state needs to send a strong message that commercial carriers that flout the rules and put people at risk will be penalized.”
Commercial carriers are required under federal and state regulations to return inspection reports and repair certifications to the DOT within 15 days. State auditors found, however, that the agency doesn’t follow up to see whether carriers that have been cited for violations submit in a timely manner the required documents certifying that violations have been repaired or corrected. The agency doesn’t have a tracking system in place to monitor compliance with the 15-day requirement, or whether reports are ever submitted.
Examples of truck violations include faulty brakes, steering problems and cracked frame supports. Driver violations include exceeding the amount of time driving without a mandated rest period, failing to have proper medical certifications and keeping incomplete or inaccurate log books.
Commercial carriers with poor safety records have to take additional steps to improve compliance. For example, federal or state officials may visit the carrier to conduct a review or the DOT may issue a formal Notice of Violation. When such a notice is issued, the carrier is required to appear before an administrative law judge and may be subject to additional penalties.
In about 60 percent of the cases of repeat out-of-service violations, the DOT did not use such enhanced enforcement actions to ensure compliance with the law, according to the audit. Instead, violators in these instances typically received only a traffic citation.
DiNapoli recommended the agency create a comprehensive tracking system to monitor compliance, develop strategies to improve compliance and impose increasingly severe penalties for continued carrier violations. He said the DOT generally agreed with his recommendations and are taking steps to implement them.