House panel: Better safety auditing needed

The House Appropriations Committee has directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to report by March 1, 2007, on how it will revise the compliance review process to improve detection of motor carriers with poor safety practices and shut them down. The request was included in the committee report (House Report 109-495) accompanying the transportation funding bill (H.R. 5576) for the coming fiscal year.

In its report, the committee said it remains concerned that only “a very small percentage” of registered motor carriers undergo a safety compliance review each year. Based on FMCSA’s budget submission, the agency plans 10,000 compliance reviews of the 685,000 registered interstate motor carriers — less than 1.5 percent. “In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board has included truck safety on its current list of `Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements’ because FMCSA’s entire safety fitness regime operates too leniently with criteria that do not result frequently enough in dangerous, unsafe motor carriers being shut down or drivers having their licenses revoked, and that FMCSA’s compliance review standards actually allow unsafe motor carriers to continue to operate.”

The House funding panel also urged FMCSA to expedite its revisions to the entry-level truck driver training rule that a federal appeals court ruled to be inadequate earlier this year. The agency should “carefully consider the obvious benefits of a comprehensive training requirement that includes on-street, behind-the-wheel skills training for entry-level truck drivers,” the committee said.

H.R. 5576 would provide $223 million to fund FMCSA during fiscal 2007. That’s the amount of money requested by the Bush administration and $10 million more than was appropriated for the current fiscal year. The House of Representatives is expected to pass H.R. 5576 this week, sending the measure to the Senate.