Congress is poised to pass a bill that toughens truck safety enforcement and creates a new federal office dedicated solely to truck and bus safety.
Until yesterday, the bill had been stuck in the Senate over a provision that eliminated the Single State Reporting System. When it became clear that the logjam was impassible, trucking industry lobbyists agreed to drop that provision.
So the state reporting system will remain in effect, under the bill that cleared the House last night and is expected to clear the Senate soon. 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 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, and 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.