A state audit ordered after the fatal May 2013 San Mateo Bridge limo fire determined that California's oversight of limousines and other passenger carriers is “insufficient to ensure consumer safety,” according to a report released in early June.The audit found that the California Public Utilities Commission did not respond promptly enough to resolve consumer complaints or begin investigations, and did not properly fine or collect fees from violators. The CPUC took more than a month and a half on average to open an investigation and nearly eight months to complete one.
“Without formal guidance, investigators have not always ensured that passenger carriers comply with critical safety requirements,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in the audit report. “The main reason for the deficiencies we found is a lack of effective program leadership.” Howle also gave procedural recommendations and outlined formal protocols for complaints and investigations.
CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon agreed with the recommendations while disagreeing with the audit's findings that the commission had failed to protect passengers. “While we agree there are certainly deficiencies in some areas, we believe that the CPUC's collective efforts to ensure Californians' transportation safety through active enforcement and licensing have not been trivial, nor a failure,” Clanon wrote in a response to the audit.