Did FMCSA Oversight “Failure” Lead to Deadly New Hampshire Motorcycle Crash?
Washington D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced this week it has begun an audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) oversight of truck driver disqualifications.
“Our objective for this self-initiated audit is to assess FMCSA’s oversight of State driver’s licensing agencies’ actions to disqualify commercial drivers when warranted,” wrote Barry J. DeWeese, Assistant Inspector General for Surface Transportation Audits.
The audit comes in response to what Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker called a “completely unacceptable… failure” by the Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles (MRMV).
An internal review determined the MRMV could have prevented a crash involving a commercially licensed driver in June of this year that claimed the lives of seven motorcyclists.
The highly publicized crash occurred in the eastbound lane of US Highway 2 in Randolph, Coos County, NH, on June 21.
Ukranian immigrant Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, who received his commercial driver’s license (CDL) on August 3, 2018 from the commonwealth of Massachusetts, was driving a pickup truck hauling an unladen flatbed trailer for West Springfield, MA-based Westfield Transport Inc. at the time of the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary findings in July and determined the 23-year-old driver of the pickup truck crossed over from the westbound lane and crashed into a group of motorcyclists traveling in the opposite direction.
A toxicology report later determined Zhukovskyy was impaired at the time of the fatal crash.
Further, the subsequent investigation by the MRMV was sparked by the alarming realization Zhukovskyy should have had his CDL suspended.
He was arrested by Connecticut authorities in May for operating a vehicle while under the influence.
Connecticut officials then sent the proper notification to the MRMV that should have triggered a suspension of Zhukovskyy’s CDL.
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However, according to the OIG, MRMV’s review found that the agency “had not systematically processed out-of-State paper notifications of driver convictions in about 5 years. The investigation also identified a software flaw that hindered MRMV’s ability to process out-of-State electronic notifications timely. Consequently, in summer 2019, MRMV issued thousands of CDL suspensions, based on previously unprocessed out-of-State notifications.”
FMCSA is tasked with reviewing State CDL programs annually to determine whether they comply with CDL regulations.
It is unclear why the FMCSA did not discover the systemic failure at the MRMV in the course of its oversight responsibilities.
Additionally, the OIG expressed concern that “according to FMCSA data as of June 2019, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses have grown from 4,455 in 2013 to 4,949 in 2018, an 11-percent increase.”