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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Motor Vehicles
Enforcement of Article 19-A of the Vehicle and Traffic Law


Issued: January 7, 2019
Link to full audit report 2018-S-7

Purpose
To determine if the Department of Motor Vehicles (Department) takes adequate steps to identify motor carriers that must comply with Article 19-A of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law and enforces its requirements. Our audit covered the period January 1, 2016 through October 3, 2018.

Background
In 1972, a tragic school bus and freight train collision near Congers, New York, involving bus driver negligence prompted legislation to amend the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Article 19-A: Special Requirements for Bus Drivers (Law) created qualification standards for bus drivers. The Department is responsible for overseeing the State’s Article 19-A Program (Program) and establishing and enforcing policies to support the Law’s requirements.

The Law requires every motor carrier, as defined in the Law, to be instructed in and comply with the Program’s requirements and to ensure that their bus drivers meet the Law’s qualification standards. For example, every two years bus drivers must pass: a medical examination; a practical driving test; behind-the-wheel tests; and written or oral exams testing the driver’s knowledge of the rules of the road and must continuously maintain a safe driving record both on and off the job. Additionally, school bus drivers must undergo criminal background checks. For each of their drivers, motor carriers must document that these standards have been met, by maintaining records, including but not limited to: driving records; initial and biennial medical examinations; annual defensive driving reviews; fingerprints; and criminal background checks.

The Law requires the Department to review drivers’ records at each motor carrier at least once every three years to determine whether the carriers are adequately ensuring their drivers meet the Law’s requirements. Entities that do not believe they meet the Law’s criteria for Program enrollment may apply to the Department for an exemption. The Department reviews exemption requests and grants or denies the exemption based on the information provided. As of January 2018, Department records show 3,150 active motor carriers enrolled in the Program and 1,756 exempted.

Key Findings

We identified deficiencies in the Department’s policies and procedures that could result in motor carriers operating out of compliance with the Program’s requirements – with the associated risk that under- or unqualified drivers who do not meet State standards are operating buses and potentially jeopardizing highway and passenger safety. For instance:

  • The Department did not clarify certain regulatory terms, which has caused confusion in determining whether certain entities are subject to the Law or could receive an exemption. As a result, we found entities with similar busing services are not always treated consistently, with some being exempt – potentially improperly – and others not. Nor does the Department consistently document the basis for an entity’s exemption or review past exemptions to determine if they are still appropriate.
  • The Department does not use all readily available information to identify entities that may be subject to, but are not enrolled in, the Program. Using the Department’s non-governmentvehicle registration data, we identified 311 non-enrolled entities that, based on their name and seating capacities of registered vehicles, appear to meet the Law’s definition of a motor carrier, but have neither enrolled in the Program nor received an exemption.
  • In January 2018, the Department launched a streamlined process for reviewing motor carriers’ compliance, including a review of driver files. While the new procedures may have created efficiency, they also provide the motor carrier with the sample of drivers to be reviewed and create a 10-day window of opportunity for less scrupulous motor carriers to fabricate or manipulate documents to come into compliance – or give the appearance of compliance – upon review.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop and consistently apply policies and procedures and issue detailed guidance that clearly explains which entities are required to comply with the Law.
  • Develop a process to periodically review entities that previously received exemptions and determine if their exemption status remains applicable.
  • Determine if the 311 entities we identified are subject to the requirements of the Law, and require their enrollment in the Program, as warranted.
  • Develop a process to identify motor carriers using all relevant information that is available.
  • Formally assess the new record review program to determine its effectiveness, and include a risk assessment of motor carriers to determine if it is necessary to incorporate on-site unannounced evaluations into future motor carrier reviews.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

Department of Motor Vehicles: Registration and Enforcement of Automotive Services, Sales, and Salvage Facilities (2016-S-71)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236