Congress passed a bill that toughens truck safety enforcement and creates a new federal office dedicated solely to truck and bus safety.
The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, which cleared Congress on Friday, sets the stage for significant long-term changes in the federal safety program. As the provisions of the bill are put into effect, truck drivers on the road can expect stricter enforcement targeted at those who fail to meet safety standards.
President Clinton is expected to sign the bill.
The legislation creates a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in the Department of Transportation. This gives truck and bus safety equal status in DOT with the other transportation modes – a goal long sought by the trucking industry.
The bill sets the FMCSA start date for January 1, 2000. This creates an immediate issue for the Clinton administration, which must quickly nominate a new administrator – someone “with professional experience in motor carrier safety.”
The bill also sets tough new rules for truck safety, and promises the money to pay for them. It doubles funding, from $355 million to $774 million over three years.
Among the reforms:
* Stricter licensing rules. For example, a driver who causes a fatal accident must be suspended.
* More inspectors along the Mexican border.
* Higher minimum fines for safety violations. Repeat offenders must pay the maximum fine.
* Any trucker who refuses to pay a fine will be shut down.
* Mexican carriers that violate U.S. rules will be penalized and disqualified.
* DOT will conduct an extensive study of the causes of accidents.
The original bill had a provision that eliminated the Single State Reporting System, but that section was dropped due to objections from states that make money from SSRS.
Truckinginfo.com will spell out the important provisions of the bill in a series of stories beginning this week.