U.S. House passes truck safety reform bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 18, 1999) — The United States inched closer to giving the trucking industry its own office within the Dept. of Transportation, as the House approved a bill to create a National Motor Carrier Administration. The measure passed by a 415-5 margin.

The bill would put DOT’s safety program into a new organization with the single goal of improving highway safety for trucks and buses. Right now, the program is run out of an office in the Federal Highway Administration.

It would more than double funding for federal oversight of truck and bus safety programs from the current $354 million US to $774 million US over a three-year period. The money would come from revenue from the federal gas tax.

The bill would also give the DOT authority to strip commercial driver’s licenses from truck drivers with serious traffic convictions, and require commercial trucks to have recording devices similar to those found in aircraft cockpits to assist in accident investigations.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has yet to finish work on companion legislation. Committee chairman Sen. John McCain has indicated he wants to wrap up work on the measure by the end of this congressional session early next month. The Senate plan calls for a more modest, $50 million boost in funding for truck and bus safety programs.

Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater said he backs the House bill and urged the addition of other provisions aimed at strengthening CDL requirements.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate have cleared corrections bills that restore full funding to DOT’s truck and bus safety program. Last week week, DOT officials were told not to issue fines for safety violations or work with law enforcement authorities in enforcement cases due to a mix-up in the transportation appropriations bill.

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