The trucking industry inched closer to having its own office in the Department of Transportation, as the House passed a bill to create a National Motor Carrier Administration. The measure passed by a 415-5 margin.
The bill, which also toughens standards for the commercial driver's license, would put DOT's safety program into a new organization with the single goal of improving highway safety for trucks and buses. Right now, the program is run out of an office in the Federal Highway Administration.
Similar legislation is moving in the Senate. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has indicated he wants to wrap up work on the measure by the end of this congressional session early next month.
Once the House passed the bill, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater decided to support it. Previously, Slater held that the safety program should stay where it was. But in a letter to Rep. Bud Shuster, R-PA, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Slater said he backs the bill and urged the addition of other provisions aimed at strengthening CDL requirements.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate have cleared corrections bills that restore full funding to DOT's truck and bus safety program. Earlier this week, DOT was blocked from issuing fines for safety violations or working with law enforcement officials in enforcement cases due to a mix-up in the transportation appropriations bill.