House plan ties electronic onboard recorders to reauthorization bill – by Jill Dunn
Although the U.S. Department of Transportation wants immediate approval of a short-term surface transportation reauthorization bill, which would allow more congressional deliberation on long-term transportation policy, House leaders released their funding plan requiring electronic on-board recorders on trucks.
On June 18, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure chairman, released the committee’s plans for the next authorization bill. Joining him were John Mica (R-Fla.), Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), Subcommittee on Highways and Transit chairman, and John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.).
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood briefed Congress on the Highway Trust Fund, which will be broke by late August, he said. “Beyond keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent, an immediate 18-month reauthorization provides Congress the time it needs to fully deliberate the direction of America’s transportation priorities.”
In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed rule only required EOBRs by companies with HOS violation patterns. More than 99 percent of carriers would continue to use paper logbooks under the rule, which has not been finalized.
The American Trucking Associations conditionally supports an EOBR mandate, including requiring evidence that it improves compliance and safety. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, however, opposes it. Public Citizen endorses EOBR mandates and asks that the legislation protect highways against heavier and bigger trucks.
The proposed act “embraces many of ATA’s priorities,” the ATA said. “It requires recipients of federal funds to meet performance standards related to safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction and emissions, and recognizes the economic role of freight transportation by establishing a Freight Improvement Program that dedicates money to the National Highway System.”
The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program provides federal funding to states for motor carrier safety enforcement activities.
From fiscal year 2001 through 2007, MCSAP funding increased 30 percent. “However, over this same period, little progress has been made in addressing the number of deaths and injuries in large truck and bus crashes in the United States; only a 4 percent reduction in fatalities has occurred,” the report said.
In response, the act would also institute new performance measures to focus state efforts on reducing the number of crashes and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. It noted the average cost of a fatal crash involving a large truck is more than $3.6 million, but did not elaborate on what’s included in those costs.
The act also would establish a dedicated source of funding for freight-related highway projects and reauthorize the capital grant program for short-line and regional railroads. It would provide states with funding for projects that will improve freight mobility on the National Highway System and secondary freight routes.
The act also:
·Strengthens carrier oversight by FMCSA and its state partners;
·Amends the compliance review process to focus on vehicles and drivers;
·Requires additional review to identify and prevent “reincarnated” carriers;
·Ensures states will comply with federal commercial driver license requirements by the end of the authorization period;
·Institutes training requirements for drivers before obtaining a CDL;
·Establishes a drug and alcohol testing clearinghouse for commercial drivers.
Safety Belt Usage Increases -by Staff Reports
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that safety belt use by drivers of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles increased to 72 percent in 2008. That figure is up 7 percentage points from 65 percent the previous year.
FMCSA’s safety belt statistics are part of its 2008 Seat Belt Usage Study, which the agency uses to measure the effectiveness of its Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Program. The federal program assists states in executing their own safety belt awareness campaigns. Safety belt usage among commercial drivers has increased from just 54 percent since 2005, when the program began.