Archives/Subscribe | January 9, 2012

Senators Introduce Bill to Strengthen FMCSA, Truck Regulations

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WASHINGTON — The senator who last month pledged to put more freight on the rails to get trucks off the road has introduced legislation aimed at strengthening commercial vehicle regulations and the federal agency that enforces them. 

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, along with senators John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Mark Pryor, introduced on Thursday the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, a bill that reauthorizes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and toughens federal truck and bus safety standards. 

"We must do more to make sure large trucks and buses are not a threat on our roadways and are only operated by the most qualified drivers," said Lautenberg. "While most drivers and companies put safety first, crashes still happen, and when they do, the consequences can be devastating. 

"This bill will give the Department of Transportation the tools to kick unsafe drivers and carriers out of the industry and keep America’s roadways safe." 

Lautenberg promised the legislation during a hearing on agency funding last summer. And in a Nov. 9 hearing launching the Senate’s long-term federal transportation plan, Lautenberg encouraged fellow senators to make sure the freight program "uses all modes of transportation." 

"This means putting more cargo on trains and ships, which will get more trucks off the road and help us save fuel, boost productivity and reduce traffic," Lautenberg said then. 

Supporters say the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act takes steps to ensure only the safest motor carriers and drivers are able to enter the industry, improves the safety laws governing current carriers and drivers and increases FMCSA's enforcement tools to remove unsafe and unfit drivers and carriers from the industry. 

Specifically, the bill — which includes several provisions that have been introduced previously as stand-alone legislation – would: 

-Require electronic on-board recorders be used on all trucks and buses used in interstate commerce in order to improve drivers’ compliance with Hours of Service rules; 

-Improve the DOT’s registration process by requiring an applicant to pass a safety proficiency examination and submission of a safety management plan as a precondition for operating authority; 

-Bolster FMCSA’s ability to crack down on "reincarnated carriers"  (carriers that attempt to resume operations after being put out of service) by increasing the administration’s ability to revoke carriers’ operating authority and by requiring new operators to disclose all relationships with other motor carriers over the past five years as a condition of receiving operating authority; 

—Direct DOT to support FMCSA’s implementation of its Compliance, Safety, and Accountability program, which will increase its oversight of the truck and bus industry and give it the authority to assess the safety fitness of drivers to further identify unsafe drivers. 

 2012 stands to be a tougher year for both drivers and carriers because of increased pressure by the FMCSA and Washington politics. FMCSA wants the power to fire drivers with high CSA scores and those drivers who jump from job to job.

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