Truck safety steps into the spotlight on Capitol Hill this week, as the Department of Transportation offers a bill to implement its safety strategy, and the House marks up a bill to create a new National Motor Carrier Administration.
The DOT proposal is scheduled to be unveiled today. A draft obtained by Newport Communications reveals that the Clinton administration will propose mandatory onboard recorders or similar devices on some vehicles to track driver hours of service.
The draft did not address the issue of DOT organization. Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said he wants to keep the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety where it is for the time being, although he did not rule out the idea of a National Motor Carrier Administration.
But a separate truck and bus administration may come sooner than Slater anticipated. The House Ground Transportation Subcommittee is scheduled this week to mark up a bill that would create such an administration.
The trucking industry has long wanted a separate DOT administration for commercial vehicles. As American Trucking Assns. President Walter McCormick has told Congress, trucking is by far the largest mode of freight transportation, yet it does not have an equal place at the DOT table with aviation, railroads and maritime.
The administration bill that will be introduced today:
· Directs DOT to issue rules requiring "appropriate types" of trucking operations to use onboard recorders or other technologies to track driver hours.
· Would toughen the commercial driver license by requiring in-vehicle driver training and prohibiting special permits for CDL holders whose car license has been suspended.
· Would require new truckers to complete a safety training and compliance course.
· Directs DOT to study the impact of driver payment methods on safety.
· Would require all truckers, including private carriers, to file periodic identification reports.