Bills would retain truck lengths, weights

Jill Dunn | May 26, 2010

During a Senate subcommittee hearing on reauthorization of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Chairman Sen. Frank Lautenberg referred to the 2009 Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act, or S. 779, that freezes truck lengths and weights on the National Highway System, which includes the Interstate System.

Last year, the House introduced a related bill, H.R.1618, which has 126 sponsors.

Francis “Buzzy” France, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance president, said the alliance does not support changes to truck size and weight until it has a more scientific approach to evaluate its safety.

Lautenberg’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held “Oversight of Motor Carrier Safety Efforts” last month that covered a number of trucking issues.

The distinction between inter and intrastate commerce should be eliminated, France said. “These distinctions have resulted in a complicated web of applicable regulations, exemptions and inconsistent enforcement practices,” he said.

Lautenberg said the new rule regarding electronic onboard recorders will affect 1.3 percent of trucking companies. “Electronic on board recorders should be installed on every truck and bus to protect all drivers on the roads—whether they’re driving a truck, a bus, or a family car,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

This year, the FMCSA anticipates issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, which would establish minimum training and testing requirements for healthcare professionals issuing medical certificates for interstate truckers. A final rule will be issued by July 2011.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro testified the agency would publish its hours-of-service NPRM later this year and a Final Rule no later than July 2011.

Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said agency’s had agreed in a lawsuit to a timeline for hours. It would forward a draft proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget before August and, after taking public comment, to issue a new final rule by August 2011.

The FMCSA also is writing a proposed rule that would mandate reporting requirements to identify CDL holders testing positive for drugs or alcohol or don’t comply with drug
and alcohol testing requirements, Ferro said. The system will also track a driver’s compliance with the return-to-duty requirements of the FMCSA’s workplace drug and alcohol testing programs

Along with federal and state partners, the agency created the Commercial Motor Vehicle Roadside Technology Corridor in Tennessee as a test bed for truck safety and enforcement technologies. The partnering agencies are evaluating a fully automated inspection station screening device, Smart Infrared Inspection System, which uses temperature measurements derived from infrared cameras to identify trucks with potential brake, tire, or hub defects.

Gillan testified the FMCSA should be required to present the large truck fatality rate by reporting the total number of truck-involved fatal crash deaths measured against annual truck vehicle miles traveled, instead of comparing it to VMT for all vehicle categories.

Also testifying were Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations.