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House Leaders Seek CDL Probe

September 27, 1999

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In response to recent catastrophic accidents, transportation leaders in the House are pressing the Department of Transportation for a review of the commercial driver's license program.

The CDL is for the most part an effective safety tool, but weaknesses in its database need to be fixed, indicated Reps. Bud Shuster, R-PA, and James Oberstar, D-MN.
CDL reform is a major provision of truck safety legislation now working its way through the House and Senate. Shuster chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which originated the legislation, and Oberstar is the ranking Democratic member.
In a letter to DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead, Shuster and Oberstar cited the accident last March in Illinois in which a truck driver failed to clear a railroad crossing and was struck by an oncoming Amtrak train. The collision resulted in the deaths of 14 train passengers.
The truck driver had been convicted of speeding five times within the preceding 27 months, yet held a valid CDL, Shuster and Oberstar said.

In another accident this year, 22 people died when a bus driver ran off the road in Louisiana. That driver had a history of chronic, disqualifying health problems, and had been twice fired for substance abuse -- yet he, too, held a valid CDL.
"Dangerous loopholes appear to exist" in the CDL program, said Shuster and Oberstar in their letter. They said they want a preliminary report by the end of September.

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