Continuing a trend set by the Clinton administration, President Bush is calling for significant increases in funding for truck safety.
Under Bush’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning in October, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gets a 28 percent funding increase – on top of a 60 percent increase it got for this fiscal year.
That 60 percent jolt reflected FMCSA’s status as a brand-new agency with its own budget, but the message in the numbers is clear: DOT wants to continue investing in safety.
Much of the money in the FY 2002 budget would go to beefing up ongoing enforcement programs, but significant amounts are marked for the opening of the U.S.-Mexico border, expected by the end of this year.
Under the proposal, the safety agency would get 80 more safety enforcement personnel for the border, a 133 percent increase from the current 60. The budget also includes $56 million from the Federal Highway Administration to improve inspection facilities along the border. The aim is to improve or construct facilities that will allow inspectors to do their work with out impeding the flow of traffic, said DOT Secretary Norman Mineta.
Julie Anna Cirillo, assistant FMCSA administrator, said the budget gives the agency the resources it needs to ensure that Mexican trucks and drivers are safe.
The overall request for the safety agency is $344 million, compared to the $269 million it was given this year. By way of historical comparison, the agency’s predecessor Office of Motor Carrier Safety had $171 million in FY 2000.
Almost $140 million of the $344 million will go to operations and research – 51 percent more than this year. A big piece of the increase will go to more inspections and compliance reviews. Other priorities include research on safety technologies and driver selection techniques, improving data collection and the Commercial Driver’s License program.
The other major piece of the budget, $205 million, would go to the National Motor Carrier Safety Program, which includes assistance to states, a comprehensive study of accident causes and the agency’s information system program.
Under the budget, the agency’s roster of full-time equivalent employees would rise by almost 17 percent, from 770 to 899.
Overall, Bush is proposing a 6 percent increase for DOT, Mineta said at a press briefing Monday. He termed the $59.5 billion budget "good news" for the department.
Included are a 6 percent funding increase for highways ($31.6 billion) and 8 percent for transit ($3.6 billion). Intelligent Transportation Systems, seen by DOT as key to solving the highway congestion problem, would get a 32 percent boost of $253 million. Mineta emphasized that he wants to get ITS technologies out of the research and development laboratory and into the field, in practical application.