Watchdog: FMCSA fell short on CDL compliance oversight

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversight of states’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted fell short, according to an audit by a watchdog.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General found that the FMCSA has gaps and other challenges in this area.

The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses by regulating commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders involved in interstate commerce and the transportation of hazardous materials. 

In five years, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 12.4% — from 4,505 in 2014 to 5,064 in 2019. Federal regulations describe the minimum standards states must meet to comply with the federal CDL program and permits FMCSA to review each state CDL program to determine compliance.

FMCSA oversight

The objective of the DOT audit was to assess FMCSA’s oversight of states’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted. The audit found that states did not timely transmit electronic conviction notifications 17% of the time. 

“Specifically, we estimate that states of conviction did not timely transmit 18% of 2,182 major offenses and 17% of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe. We also estimate that 11% of 2,182 major offenses were not timely posted and 2% of 23,628 serious traffic violations in our universe were not posted to driver records at all,” according to the report.

While states did take action to disqualify CDLs when appropriate, with exceptions, FMCSA’s evaluation of paper conviction notifications is limited by states’ processes for recording and tracking convictions sent by mail. 

OIG concluded that FMCSA’s Annual Program Review process lacks adequate quality control measures for verifying that state CDL programs meet federal requirements. State noncompliance with federal CDL disqualification requirements and other state actions pose challenges for FMCSA’s oversight. 

For example, some states offered administrative appeals to out-of-state drivers, overturned disqualifications and backdated CDL disqualification periods. As a result, some drivers served shorter disqualification time periods than federal law requires, the audit found.


The watchdog made seven recommendations to strengthen FMCSA’s oversight of states’ actions to comply with federal CDL disqualification requirements. The agency concurred with all of the recommendations and will implement them, the report said.

These are the seven recommendations:

  • Improve requirements for states to record, track, and maintain paper-based convictions sent and received via mail by incorporating its standardized method for states to aggregate paper-based convictions to facilitate FMCSA’s evaluation of state performance.
  • Implement standardized operating procedures for conducting annual program reviews and for supervisory quality control reviews of completed annual program reviews.
  • Improve the annual program review checklist to require reviewers to address key factors.
  • Implement a standard operating procedure for determining when a state is not making a good faith effort to timely mitigate compliance issues and when to impose sanctions on noncompliant states.
  • Complete the agency’s review of the State Compliance Records Enterprise system and implement identified improvements for managing states’ compliance issues.
  • Develop and implement a process to segregate non-CDL holder convictions from all Commercial Driver’s License Information System reports and workbooks utilized to evaluate state’s compliance with CDL regulations.
  • Develop and implement a plan for coordinating with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to mitigate risks when states transition to new software systems.

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