As a Senate subcommittee Wednesday revived longstanding complaints about DOT truck safety enforcement, the Department of Transportation rose to its defense with a report showing progress it has made since last spring.
In testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Assistant Transportation Secretary Peter Basso said DOT has increased the number of carrier compliance reviews by almost 60%. Also, he said, DOT has tripled the number of federal safety investigators at the U.S.-Mexican border, from 13 to 40, and it has reduced its enforcement case backlog by 66%.
These initiatives, and others, are part of DOT's program to cut fatalities in accidents involving motor carriers by 50% over the next 10 years. They also can be seen as an attempt to stave off congressional moves to restructure DOT's Federal Highway Administration by moving the truck and bus safety program into a new Motor Carrier Safety Administration. DOT contends that safety should remain an FHWA function (See related story at http://www.heavytruck.com/hdt/news.html#990930.2388).
DOT also reported progress in other areas:
· The average fines in settlements have doubled, from $1,600 per case in the first six months of this fiscal year to $3,200 during the past five months.
· It has proposed rules that could shut down carriers that have been found unfit, and take away a driver's license for violating rail crossing warnings.
· It is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a program to collect better information on truck accidents.
The Department was unable to report progress on reform of the hours of service rules, however. The status there is the same as it has been for a while: A proposal has been drafted and should be published this fall.