Truck Safety:

Share the Road Safely Pilot Initiative Showed Promise, but the Program's Future Success Is Uncertain

GAO-06-916: Published: Sep 8, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 8, 2006.

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In 2004, over 5,000 people died on our nation's roads in crashes involving large trucks. The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) operates truck safety programs, including Share the Road Safely (STRS), which has a goal to improve driving behavior around large trucks. At congressional direction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assumed responsibility for funding STRS in 2004, but returned STRS to FMCSA in 2006. The current transportation authorization bill requested GAO to update its 2003 evaluation of STRS. This report (1) describes the STRS initiatives DOT has implemented since 2003 and their design, (2) reviews evaluations of STRS initiatives, and (3) assesses DOT's plans for the future of STRS. GAO interviewed DOT and state officials, and reviewed program plans and evaluations.

During 2004 and 2005, Share the Road Safely funding was used to implement one initiative, a pilot in Washington State that focused on aggressive driving behaviors near or by large trucks. Known as Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT), it combined education, such as highway message signs, and high-visibility law enforcement to reduce aggressive driving. TACT received about $892,000 in federal and state funds. TACT was generally modeled on successful behavior modification programs, including Click It or Ticket (a program to encourage safety belt use), but was more complex to implement than past initiatives since many behaviors constitute aggressive driving and Washington State lacked a single aggressive driving law. In addition, NHTSA sought to demonstrate to FMCSA staff how to operate similar initiatives in the future. To this end, FMCSA sent a liaison to NHTSA as requested by Congress. Lastly, initiatives that were a part of STRS in 2003 were still pursued by FMCSA, but were not funded. DOT and Washington State officials conducted an evaluation of TACT that demonstrated that the initiative was successful and well-designed. The evaluation found that TACT significantly reduced the number and severity of unsafe driving acts near or by trucks. While the evaluation did not assess changes in crashes, improved driver behavior should logically lead to fewer crashes, injuries, and fatalities. GAO found that TACT's design of combining education with law enforcement better lent itself to reaching agency goals of fatality reduction than previous STRS initiatives that were purely educational. FMCSA plans to expand development of new TACT-like initiatives, but lacks resources and experience to do so. In addition, FMCSA plans to spend most of its 2006 STRS funds on educational initiatives, which lack information showing whether they improve driver behavior. In terms of TACT expansion, FMCSA is currently developing a TACT-like pilot in Pennsylvania and plans to roll out initiatives similar to TACT nationally by 2009. FMCSA, however, has few people dedicated to education and outreach and lacks NHTSA's experience with behavior modification initiatives. While FMCSA designated a liaison to learn about TACT-like initiatives, GAO continues to have concerns about FMCSA's limited experience with these initiatives. NHTSA has considerable experience with such initiatives, but its role in STRS is still evolving. Finally, FMCSA plans to spend the majority of its fiscal year 2006 STRS funds on initiatives that do not have evaluations showing their impacts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Share the Road Safely program continues to improve driver behavior around commercial vehicles, thereby potentially reducing fatalities, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrators of the appropriate agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy describing how FMCSA will implement and fund an expansion of TACT-like initiatives from several pilots into a nationwide program and detail how STRS initiatives contribute to this goal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Open

    Comments: FMCSA had plans to expand its Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks(TACT)-like initiative to a couple of states this year. However, its web site indicates the Share the Road Safely Program is being developed. We are following up with agency officials to determine the status of the expansion of its TACT-like initiatives under the Share the Road Safely program. In September 2008, FMCSA officials stated that they are still addressing this recommendation and will update GAO on the status this Fall. August 2010. We are waiting for FMCSA officials to send information regarding status of open recommendations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Share the Road Safely program continues to improve driver behavior around commercial vehicles, thereby potentially reducing fatalities, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrators of the appropriate agencies to complete and execute plans to evaluate STRS outreach activities that are purely educational and discontinue activities with no demonstrable impact on behavior.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Open

    Comments: FMCSA officials stated they had plans to increase the use of enforcement with education. However, FMCSA's budget and planning documents do not show the link between its education and enforcement activities. We are working with agency officials to obtain further documentation of the agency's activities in this area. In September 2008, FMCSA officials stated that they are still addressing this recommendation and will update GAO on the status this Fall. August 2010. We are waiting for FMCSA officials to send information regarding status of open recommendations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Share the Road Safely program continues to improve driver behavior around commercial vehicles, thereby potentially reducing fatalities, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrators of the appropriate agencies to monitor whether FMCSA has sufficient staff and expertise to successfully develop and administer future high-visibility law enforcement campaigns, and, if it does not, determine the best methods for DOT to use its resources and expertise to modify driver behavior and address the problem of aggressive driving around trucks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency officials are working to supply information on the staff supporting its Share the Road Safely Activities. In September 2008, FMCSA officials stated that they are still addressing this recommendation and will update GAO on the status this Fall. August 2010. We are waiting for FMCSA officials to send information regarding status of open recommendations.

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