A $1.5bn transportation system for the US needs to be modernised, but it needs to move faster, and the department’s contract with Valley Transportation Service, which provides trucking services in the Washington, DC, area, does not meet that requirement.
In an article published on Monday, Al Jazeera said Valley Transportation had contracted with the Department of Transport (DOT) to provide a fleet of trucking vehicles and haulage trucks, which it claims will reduce costs for Washington’s drivers.
But the DOT’s contract specifies that it must be modernisable to the standards set out in the US Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) guidelines for its own operations.
The DOT has said that the vehicles will be able to handle more passengers and less cargo, and they will be equipped with advanced safety features to make them safer than they are now.
But there is no evidence that the trucks are ready for commercial operations yet, according to the article.
“The contract does not require the vehicles to be operational for a year after they are delivered, and it is not clear how long it will take the company to get the vehicles up to the DOT standards,” Al Jazeera wrote.
The article also said that Valley Transportation did not disclose the estimated cost of the system before it signed the contract, and that the company was not required to give an estimate of how much money it would need to operate the vehicles before the end of the contract.
“In fact, the company had no information on what the estimated costs would be, or how much it would cost to operate, or what its anticipated revenues and costs would look like after the contract expires,” the article said.
Al Jazeera’s Aliya Abdulla, who has worked for several local media outlets in Washington, Washington, and DC, said that it was “ridiculous” for the government to contract with companies that were not capable of delivering their vehicles to Washington.
“They don’t have the capacity to do that, they don’t know how to run the business, they have no infrastructure, they’ve never delivered a truck to a customer before, so how can they be trusted to provide transportation to the US?” she said.
The company’s owner, the Department Of Transportation (Dot), did not respond to Al Jazeera request for comment.
The contract was awarded to the company on November 19, 2015, but was cancelled by the DOT on December 31, 2017.
The DHS said that in February 2018 it had completed a full review of the contractor’s work, and found that the trucking fleet was not up to code and that there were serious issues with its delivery methods.
In the meantime, the department has since issued a notice of noncompliance, which stated that the contract should be terminated immediately, and instructed Valley Transportation to take action to rectify the situation.
Albeit the DOT did not give a timeframe, the notice said that there was “no evidence” of a problem in the trucks yet.
“We have seen no evidence of any issues,” the notice read.
“If Valley Transportation does not correct the deficiencies identified, it will be liable for any losses incurred as a result of this violation.”
The DOT had also asked Valley Transportation for more information about the vehicles, and asked that the documents be provided to the department.
Alarmed by the delay, the Washington DC-based company has appealed the DOTs decision, which was upheld by a federal judge on January 26.
The judge, Judge Katherine B. Forrest, said the DOT was entitled to know the cost of a vehicle before bidding for it, and if it was to be delivered in the next month.
“You are entitled to that information, and this is exactly the kind of information that we need to make the determination about what the costs are,” Forrest said.
However, Forrest said that she did not think the DOT could have performed a more thorough investigation.
“It appears that they simply didn’t have time to look at the evidence,” Forrest wrote in her decision.
“I am not persuaded that the DOT has an adequate basis for the finding that the cost to Valley Transportation of the vehicles is not justified.”
According to Aljazeera, the DOT said it has been in contact with Valley, and hopes to “make the necessary changes and provide a response to this request in the coming days.”
The company has until March 10 to respond.