Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater last week challenged the members of American Trucking Assns. to help put the brakes on unsafe truckers.
Safe companies and drivers are the backbone of the industry, Slater said. "(They) should welcome the opportunity to work with us to identify the bad drivers and the bad companies and get them off the road."
Specifically, what Slater wants is support in developing a safety management auditing system for the entire industry, and leadership on using advanced technology to improve safety.
There were 100 fewer deaths in truck-related accidents in 1998 compared to 1997 -- but more than 5,300 people die in truck and bus accidents each year. "That number is unacceptable to President Clinton, and it is unacceptable to me," Slater said in calling for support for his program to cut fatalities by 50% over the next decade (See "Slater Acts to Keep OMCHS Where it Is," http://www.heavytruck.com/hdt/newsarch.html#990526.1790).
Slater, who was speaking to trucking executives at the ATA board meeting in Arlington, VA, listed safety initiatives that DOT is studying:
· Using speed governors in trucks.
· Requiring new truckers to prove that they understand the safety rules.
· Requiring states to play a stronger role in reducing accidents.
· Cracking down on drivers who violate traffic rules, or abuse drugs or alcohol.
· Finding out if mileage-based pay influences drivers to drive too long.
· Developing crashworthiness requirements to protect people in truck-car accidents.
Slater took on critics who complain that DOT works too closely with ATA. DOT's partnership approach to safety regulation has been under fire on Capitol Hill, particularly from Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, and Joan Claybrook of CRASH. But Slater told the ATA members, "I do not apologize … I applaud the (safety) partnership."