The state has allowed too many defective trucks and incompetent truck drivers on the roads in recent years, resulting in some deaths, according to an audit prepared by the state legislative auditor general.
But Eugene H. Findlay, director of the Department of Transportation's Safety Division, said Wednesday he needs more inspectors to keep up with the state's approximately 8,000 private trucking companies.Findlay said he will follow the audit's recommendations and will begin closely monitoring drivers.
State auditors randomly picked five companies with poor safety records and found two fatal accidents within the past five years that could have been prevented by the safety division. The companies had not been examined.
One accident was caused by defective brakes. The other involved a driver who had no chauffeur's license and whose vehicle was overweight, according to the report.
The division regularly inspects companies that haul items within the state. But it has difficulty covering all companies with only eight inspectors, Findlay said.
"We're trying to be austere . . . but we really could use more people," he said. "We figure we could do 1,000 to 1,100 a year, but that means roughly 7,000 companies will go unaudited."
The state audit chides the division for not examining companies with poor safety records first and for not following up past examinations to see if problems were corrected.
The division failed to inspect trucks during most safety examinations and has no rigid standards for determining when a company needs discipline, the report said.
"Unlike other jurisdictions, Utah has no consistent method for determining when a company needs disciplinary action or whether disciplined companies have achieved compliance," the report said. "As a result, the public is not fully protected."
Wayne Welsh, auditor general, said the audit was done at the request of lawmakers in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
Although critical, the report concludes lawmakers should keep the division going, rather than let it die next year. State law calls for the division to disappear unless lawmakers keep it going.
"We think they (the division) perform a valuable function," Welsh said. "But like anything else, there are better ways to do things."
Findlay said the division already had started correcting its problems when the audit was released. He said the division will follow all recommendations within the report.
The division has developed a rating system to identify the companies that are more likely to be unsafe, Findlay said.
Drivers will be scrutinized. Findlay said 85 percent of truck accidents are caused by incompetent drivers.