The cost of the federal truck safety program is going up. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is asking Congress for a 54% increase in funding in the next fiscal year.
This year the new agency is funded at $181 million. In the Department of Transportation budget unveiled yesterday, FMCSA is seeking $279 million.
The biggest single piece of the increase – $87 million – is for safety grants to the states. The money would be used for more compliance reviews and roadside inspections, to put the brakes on traffic violators and to toughen enforcement of the Commercial Driver’s License program. Also, it would go to improving the agency’s information system.
Another portion of the budget request, covering operations, would pay for the 40 additional safety inspectors it will take to do the compliance reviews. It also covers 20 more inspectors along the Mexican border, and a program to improve information exchange among the states.
FMCSA’s research budget would go up 66%, from $6 million to $10 million. The money would go for programs such as hazardous materials inspection, driver training and performance assessment, and driver alertness and fatigue research.
The proposal also calls for $10 million to implement the CDL improvements required by last year’s truck and bus safety law. The money would go to states to improve their information systems, so they can keep better track of drivers. It also will help give prospective employers access to driver records – to see if job applicants have been convicted of traffic or other safety violations.
The agency’s growth plans also include more people. It has 714 personnel slots this fiscal year – and is seeking 850 for 2001.
What does the country get for this expenditure? FMCSA is charged with reducing truck-related accident fatalities by 50% over the next 10 years. Its goal for 2001 is 4,830 – down from 5,374 in 1998.
Other DOT agencies:
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking $499 million for 2001, up 36% from this year. The biggest chunk of that will go to research – including a project NHTSA has under way jointly with FMCSA to study the causes of truck accidents.
* The Federal Highway Administration wants $30.36 billion, up 6% from this year. Included are funds for the CDL program, safety research and to uncover highway use tax evasion.
* The Research and Special Programs Administration, which regulates hazardous goods transportation, is looking for $104 million, up 25% from this year.