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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Reports Progress in Motor Carrier Safety

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Trucking Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Reports Progress in Motor Carrier Safety

Federal Highway Administration
September 28, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 28, 1999
Contact: Bill Adams
Telephone: 202-366-5580
FHWA 61-99

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today said that the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken significant action to improve truck and bus safety in the United States since the department’s safety action plan was announced May 25 to further enhance highway safety.

"President Clinton said that now is not a time to rest but to build, and we have set a new course for motor carrier safety that will prevent crashes and save lives," Secretary Slater said. "We are focusing on performance, and the data show that we have made significant progress in a very short period."

In May, Secretary Slater and Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle announced a safety action plan with a goal of reducing motor carrier traffic fatalities by 50 percent over 10 years through a comprehensive effort in partnership with safety groups, industry, and federal, state and local government authorities.

Actions taken include:

  • Increase of 59 Percent in Compliance Reviews. The average monthly number of compliance reviews conducted has increased substantially since the first quarter of 1999, consistent with the goal of doubling these reviews. A total of 2,770 compliance reviews, an average of 692.5 per month, were conducted throughout the United States during May through August 1999. A total of 1,745 compliance reviews, an average of 436.3 per month, were conducted during January through April of 1999.
  • Tripling of Federal Safety Investigators. Forty federal safety investigators at the U.S. Mexico border will be in the field by the end of September, an increase from 13 investigators. These investigators work closely with state motor carrier inspectors there.
  • Enforcement Case Backlog Reduced by Two-Thirds. The backlog of enforcement cases identified by the department’s Inspector General in an audit of the Office of Motor Carriers has been reduced by two-thirds, from 1,174 to 363.
  • Average Fines Have Doubled. The average fines in settlements have increased from an average of $1,600 per case during the first two quarters of fiscal 1999 to $3,200 per enforcement case during the five months, May-September. On Aug. 2, 1999 the Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999 was introduced. The department sent this legislation to Congress to propose tough new penalties, stricter regulations, advanced technology and strengthened state enforcement requirements with additional funding.
  • Enhanced Regulatory Power. Important rulemakings have been completed or will be completed this fall. The department proposals would prohibit from operating all motor carriers found unfit; redefine commercial carriers of passengers to include vehicles with eight or more occupants instead of 16 as it was previously; and would make violating highway-rail crossing warnings a serious CDL (commercial driver license) violation, warranting disqualification. On Sept. 1, the department required that carriers maintain new trailers equipped with rear underride guards designed to improve crash protection of car occupants, and it continues to work on revising the regulation on hours of service. A proposal is expected this fall.
  • Study of Truck Crash Causes. The department’s FHWA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Bureau of Transportation Statistics have embarked on a program to collect better data on the causes of truck crashes to learn from the past and improve safety for the future. This will help better target enforcement efforts at problem carriers and drivers.
  • Commercial Motor Vehicles Safety Workshop. Two two-day workshops, involving more than 70 partners, including industry, labor, safety groups, insurance, and state and local governments, have been conducted to help develop long range strategies to achieve the goal of reducing truck- and bus-related fatalities by 50 percent in 10 years. Proceedings from the workshops will be available this month.

    Looking ahead, Secretary Slater said that during the next several months the department expects to provide incentive grant funding to states to deploy the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks safety reporting capabilities, which provide accurate and timely information for federal, state and motor carrier personnel to help identify unsafe carriers and drivers; publish a unified carrier register rulemaking to provide each carrier a unique USDOT number, which would reduce the administrative burden on all carriers and help identify high risk carriers; provide funding to states for the Performance and Registration Systems Management Program, which links state motor vehicle licensing programs with the federal commercial vehicle safety program to enhance its effectiveness; and begin fleet tests of advanced technology collision avoidance systems on trucks.

    According to the department’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System, fatalities involving large trucks dropped slightly, from 5,398 in 1997 to 5,374 in 1998, the last year for which data are available.

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