Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater's conservative approach to fixing problems of truck safety — leaving truck safety oversight where it is — drew a sharp reaction from Capitol Hill.
Slater's approach, announced earlier this week, includes numerous enforcement and regulatory actions and aims to reduce truck-related fatalities by 50% in the next decade. (See "Slater Acts to Keep OMCHS Where It Is," http://www.heavytruck.com/cgi-bin/rsnewsframe?990526.91.)
Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Slater gave "merely" a broad overview of DOT goals. The transportation secretary did not offer a clear position on organizational structure, or detailed actions to address the safety program's shortcomings, McCain said.
Rep. Bud Shuster, R-PA, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also took a dim view of the DOT plan. "Everyone except the Department of Transportation concludes that the current placement of the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety handicaps its performance," he said. The federal highway administrator has too many things on his plate to effectively handle the safety office as well, he added.
Rep. Nick Joe Rahal, D-WV, criticized the timing and content of Slater's plan. He said it was "no accident" that Slater held his press conference the day before the House hearing on Norman Mineta's "blue ribbon panel" report, and that, in any case, the initiatives in the plan are what OMCHS should have been doing all along.
Rahal said the Ground Transportation Subcommittee will have a "comprehensive" legislative remedy soon.
According to published reports, safety groups weren't happy with Slater's proposals, either. Joan Claybrook, president of advocacy group Public Citizen, said "they're still talking about useless safety education programs and 'collaborative' government-industry research, for which they have been harshly criticized by the inspector general of the DOT."