Truck safety continues to get front-burner attention in Washington, as a House panel and the National Transportation Safety Board schedule more hearings this month and next.
On the griddle is the Office of Motor Carriers and Highway Safety, the federal agency responsible for enforcing truck safety rules. At hearings slated by the Ground Transportation Subcommittee for March 17, House members will hear strong criticism of OMCHS from the Transportation Department’s Inspector General and the General Accounting Office.
DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead has already told the House that the safety agency needs to be rebuilt and given more horsepower for enforcement – including “shut-down orders” for fleets that do not meet the safety mark. GAO echoed Mead’s critique at a February hearing held by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, saying that OMCHS is not tough enough, needs better data and that its staff spends too much time on non-enforcement activities.
The Ground Transportation Subcommittee is planning an additional hearing March 25.
Meanwhile, NTSB has scheduled a hearing April 15 and 16 to review truck and bus safety, and evaluate safety enforcement. Testimony will come from DOT, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the American Trucking Assns., Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.
NTSB Chairman Jim Hall is pressing for immediate changes in truck safety rules. Like everyone else in the trucking community, he wants the hours-of-service rules modernized, but he also wants such add-on safety requirements such as collision warning technology, onboard recorders and speed governors.