The federal truck safety program is embarked on a three-year plan to get even tougher on high-risk companies and drivers, improve its data base, tighten safety standards and raise the public’s safety awareness.
The new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its safety action plan during hearings before the House Transportation Subcommittee March 2.
At the hearing, FMCSA came under fire for slowness in getting rules written, and was accused of sacrificing quality for quantity in its compliance reviews. Acting Assistant Administrator Julie Cirillo defended the agency’s progress, citing gains in the number of enforcement cases as well as reviews and penalties.
The agency’s action plan is built on themes that emerged during the truck safety debate last year.
* Enforcement: more compliance reviews, bigger fines, tougher entrance requirements, more roadside inspections.
* Information Systems: gather in-depth data on the causes of accidents, update the carrier census, link carrier data with insurance and licensing data, test collision warning systems and other technologies.
* Safety Standards: revise the hours of service rules, revise the safety rating process, clarify the term “unfit” so dangerous truckers can be shut down, set training standards for entry-level drivers, link a driver’s record in any vehicle to his commercial driver’s license.
* Safety Awareness: expand the No-Zone program, develop seminars on fatigue management, improve inspectors’ skills.
The brand-new agency does not have the resources to make all this happen right away. It went into this fiscal year with the same amount of money its predecessor agency had the year before, but it is requesting a 54% increase for next year, plus additional staff.
Look for the flow of new rules and proposed rules to pick up in the fourth quarter of this year, after the turn of the fiscal year in October.