Bill would provide more scrutiny for new, reincarnated truck, bus companies

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Updated Dec 12, 2011

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and John Rockfeller (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, on Thursday, Dec. 8, introduced the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and strengthen federal truck and bus safety standards.

“We must do more to make sure large trucks and buses are not a threat on our roadways and are only operated by the most qualified drivers,” said Lautenberg. “While most drivers and companies put safety first, crashes still happen, and when they do, the consequences can be devastating. This bill will give the Department of Transportation the tools to kick unsafe drivers and carriers out of the industry and keep America’s roadways safe.”

The act would provide more scrutiny before new motor carriers and drivers are able to enter the industry, strengthen the safety laws governing current carriers and drivers, and increase FMCSA’s enforcement tools to remove unsafe and unfit drivers and carriers from the industry. Specifically, the bill would:
• Require electronic onboard recorders be used on all trucks and buses used in interstate commerce in order to improve drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service rules;
• Strengthen the U.S. Department of Transportation registration process by requiring an applicant to pass a safety proficiency examination and submit a safety management plan as a precondition for operating authority;
• Bolster FMCSA’s ability to crack down on “reincarnated carriers” – carriers that attempt to resume operations after being put out of service – by increasing the administration’s ability to revoke carriers’ operating authority and by requiring new operators to disclose all relationships with other motor carriers over the past five years as a condition of receiving operating authority; and
• Direct DOT to support FMCSA’s implementation of its Compliance Safety Accountability program.

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“This bill will make significant safety improvements for drivers and passengers on our nation’s highways and roads,” Rockefeller said. “We need to make sure that only the safest people are allowed to operate large trucks and buses and give the Department of Transportation the tools it needs to improve its oversight of the industry. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we continue to work to get this important bill enacted into law.”

The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, representing several large U.S. trucking companies, announced its support for the measure, particularly the EOBR mandate. “These electronic logging devices are the critical link to continued improvements in highway safety and the quality of life for our nation’s commercial drivers,” said Steve Williams, Alliance chairman and chairman and chief executive officer of Maverick USA.

Chris Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National, said the hard data generated by EOBRs is necessary to address drivers’ working hours and improve public safety. “EOBRs take the noncompliance issue off the table,” Lofgren said. “Once we can measure safety in a compliant industry, we can then address changes to the hours-of-service rules if necessary.”