Truck safety legislation will be the top item on the House Transportation Committee's list when Congress returns to work Wednesday after its August recess. The package of reforms would fulfill trucking's long-time dream of a separate motor carrier administration in the Department of Transportation.
A knowledgeable source said the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's bill could be put to a House vote as soon as the week of Sept. 13. In addition to creating the new modal administration, the bill would make it harder to get and keep a Commercial Drivers License and require new truckers to prove they know the safety rules.
Portions of another truck safety proposal, offered by DOT, could be added to the bill through amendments, the source said. Among the provisions of that proposal: a rule mandating onboard recorders or other technology to monitor driver hours for some kinds of trucking operations, and penalties for shippers who knowingly push truckers to break the safety rules.
The shipper provision has the strong backing of tank truck carriers. In an Aug. 25 letter to House T&I Committee leaders Bud Shuster and James Oberstar, the national tanker association said the penalties would send a clear message to those who compromise safety.
"The threat of criminal or civil sanctions for complicity in 'knowing' violations should prompt meaningful reviews of questionable practices by top management," wrote Cliff Harvison, president of the National Tank Truck Carriers.
The safety package will not move as quickly on the Senate side. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Science and Transportation Committee, has indicated that he wants to hold hearings.