The trucking industry is one step nearer to its long-sought goal of a separate federal administration for motor carriers.
The Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999, introduced by Republican and Democratic leaders in the House, moves truck and bus safety programs out of the Federal Highway Administration and into a new National Motor Carrier Administration dedicated solely to safety.
The bill puts the new administration in charge of federal motor carrier safety programs. It also increases federal funding for federal and state safety efforts, and tightens loopholes in federal safety rules, including the Commercial Driver's License.
Rep. Bud Shuster, R-PA, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said highway safety would not be well-served by shifting DOT's programs into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That is the approach that was recommended by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA. Wolf was not available for comment at press time.
Supporting Shuster at the introduction were Reps. Thomas Petri, R-WI, Nick Rahall, D-WV, and James Oberstar, D-MN. Rahall commended the trucking industry for its support of the bill, remarking that it was the first time he recalls an industry seeking more government regulation.
The proposal calls for a Motor Carrier Administration headed by an administrator confirmed by the Senate, with a deputy administrator, a career Chief Safety Officer and a Regulatory Ombudsman to expedite rules. It will have offices for passenger vehicle safety, international affairs and consumer affairs.
The NMCA, which would have to be in place by Oct. 1, 2000, would cost about $38 million a year more than the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety. That includes money for more inspectors, attorneys and other staff.
In addition, the bill contains an additional $550 million for safety grants to state and local governments.
Trucking groups, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. and American Trucking Assns., endorsed the bill, as did the Teamsters union.
The bill will be marked up by the House Ground Transportation Subcommittee today, and possibly by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee tomorrow.