The fledgling Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was officially pushed out of the nest yesterday, as top officials from the Department of Transportation hosted congressional and industry leaders in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"We understand that this is a unique and historic opportunity," said DOT Secretary Rodney Slater in remarks that also were broadcast to safety agency staff around the country. Creation of the agency is the most important federal safety initiative in decades, he said.
FMCSA is charged by Congress with a high mission: to improve truck and bus safety. The agency, which came into existence on January 1, 2000, is embarked on a three-year plan
to toughen enforcement, improve safety data, tighten safety standards and raise the public’s safety awareness.
The gathering was a Who’s Who of the Washington transportation scene, including Reps. James Oberstar, D-MN, and Nick Rahall, D-WVA, Motor Freight Carriers Assn. President Tim Lynch, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. President Jim Johnston, American Trucking Assns. President Walter McCormick, Truckload Carriers Assn. President Lana Batts, and Jackie Gilliam of Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety. Also on hand was Michael Wickham, president of Roadway Express.
Amid the congratulations, Rep. Oberstar, D-MN, injected a cautionary note. "Safety has to start in the corporate boardroom," he said. "And the role of government is to ensure that the corporate boardroom is doing what it must."
The ceremony closed with Slater and Acting Assistant Administrator Julie Cirillo signing a performance agreement for this year.
The agreement calls on FMCSA to improve safety through a range of programs, and to lead in the development of new safety technologies. A long list of specifics follows, including issuance of a proposed rule on driver hours of service and setting training requirements for entry-level truck and bus drivers.
"I am excited," said Cirillo after the ceremony. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."