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U.S. roads are flooded with commercial vehicles, with more than 12.5 million commercial trucks and buses registered in 2016. Due to their sheer size, commercial vehicle crashes are particularly deadly for those sharing the road, with 72% of people killed in large truck crashes in 2017 being occupants of other vehicles. It should go without saying, then, that commercial trucks need to be operated by safe, responsible drivers. Unfortunately, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation has revealed that thousands of dangerous truckers haven’t been pulled from the roads.

On Oct. 22, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Inspector General announced a federal audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) oversight of trucker disqualifications. The audit stems from a fatal crash involving a trucker earlier this year, which led the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to uncover flaws in its trucker licensing system during an internal investigation of the incident.

Investigators found that the RMV had not processed out-of-state paper notifications of driver convictions in over five years. In other words, the RMV failed to process and suspend the licenses of truckers with driving violations that should have disqualified them from operating a commercial vehicle. In Massachusetts, thousands of warnings pertaining to the state’s truckers from out-of-state agencies were left sitting in a storage room for at least 16 months.

The investigation also identified an RMV software flaw that slowed its ability to process out-of-state notifications within an appropriate time frame. As a result of these findings, the Office of Inspector General plans to “assess [the] FMCSA’s oversight of state driver licensing agencies’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted.” The audit will take place at the FMCSA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters along with other selected locations that have not been announced.

On the same day of the audit announcement, the Government Accountability Office published a separate report showing states did not meet most of the fatality reduction target goals from 2014 to 2017. It is clear that more oversight is needed to prevent dangerous drivers from staying behind the wheel and future tragedies from occurring. Hopefully, the DOT’s federal audit is a step in the right direction for increased trucking industry safety.

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