The Government Accountability Office just issued a scathing report on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s information technology systems, its ability to effectively use budgetary funds, and to meet users’ needs. It also illustrated the difficulties of not having top leadership positions filled.
GAO’s report concluded FMCSA has not completed an IT strategic modernization plan, and “until the agency addresses shortcomings . . . its progress in modernizing its systems will likely be limited and the agency will be unable to ensure that the systems are working effectively.”
The findings should be of great concern to truckers, especially after GAO questioned whether the technology programs are “effective at meeting users’ needs.”
A lack of specific guidelines and personnel was often cited as a contributing factor to the overall problem.
For example, the agency’s CIO remains in an acting position, and agency staffers lack execution strategies, which in part falls to the executive management team, GAO said.
FMCSA has been without a permanent administrator since President Obama’s final day in office, when Scott Darling stepped down. Daphne Jefferson, deputy administrator since February 2015, has been in charge since Darling’s departure.
Both President Bush in 2001 (Joseph Clapp) and Obama in 2009 (Anne Ferro) took many months to announce their FMCSA nominees, so it isn’t all that unusual President Trump has not announced a selection yet. The GAO report, however, shows the importance of making that choice to oversee FMCSA’s inner workings, as well as be the public face for the electronic logging mandate implementation.
Back in 2015, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) was among the senators who criticized the Department of Transportation for dragging its feet on filling leadership positions, including at FMCSA.
Later that year, while awaiting Senate action on Darling’s nomination, Rose McMurray spoke with Fleet Owner’s Kevin Jones about the difficult balancing act a career staffer faces as a temporary agency head, compared with a confirmed political appointee. She herself served as defecto head of FMCSA prior to Ferro’s confirmation.
McMurray said acting heads are a “weakened position.” In this case, it likely would make FMCSA’s IT and budgetary decisions that much more difficult, based on GAO’s conclusions.
“Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the agency’s working groups and individuals involved in the governance process, FMCSA has less assurance that its modernization investments will be reviewed by those with the appropriate authority and aligned with agency goals,” the report said.
Filling decision-making positions would go a long way toward developing these processes, one that each and every trucking fleet and commercial drivers should demand of the new administration.