Commercial Motor Vehicles: Effectiveness of Actions Being Taken to Improve Motor Carrier Safety Is Unknown: RCED-00-189

July 2000
GAO Reports;7/17/2000, p1
Government Document
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has taken steps to improve motor carrier safety. It has established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, developed and solicited industry comments on a Safety Action Plan, and has begun work on some initiatives in that plan. The Safety Action Plan is an overall strategy for improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles and contains 47 initiatives aimed at achieving the Department's goal of a 50 percent reduction by 2009 in crash fatalities involving large trucks. These initiatives focus on increasing enforcement of federal safety regulations; increasing safety awareness; improving safety information and technology; and improving performance standards for vehicles, drivers, and motor carriers. The Department has also published a proposed rule to limit the number of hours that commercial motor vehicle operators may drive before resting. Under this rule, the Department estimates that 115 fatigue-related fatalities would be avoided annually. DOT officials confirm that they do not have a firm analytic basis for the assumptions on which these estimates are made, but rather supplemented available research with their professional judgment. Thus, the reasonableness of DOT's assumptions and the resulting estimate of lives that could be saved is unknown. Also, the Department has not articulated how the individual initiatives in the Safety Action Plan contribute to reducing fatalities, nor has it determined whether it can reasonably expect to complete all 47 activities within expected budgetary and human resources. Department officials told GAO that publication of the plan signals DOT's intent to carry it out and that they expect to examine resource needs this year. Because its goal of reduced fatalities is extremely ambitious, it is important that the Department determines how its actions will lead to a reduction in fatalities and whether it can reasonably expect to carry out the plan's initiatives.


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