Senators Introduce Bill to Strengthen FMCSA, Truck Regs

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. Rockfeller 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.[/box]

[box type=”shadow”]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, improve the safety laws governing current carriers and drivers, and increase 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; and

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.[/box]

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A spokesman for the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association likewise said there are some “promising” provisions within the bill, but the small-business trucking advocate was still analyzing the details before making decisions on what to support or oppose.[/box]