U.S. truck agency taken to task on Capital Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 25) — The Office of Motor Carriers got knocked around on Capitol Hill as Rep. Frank Wolf and others took the agency to task for shortcomings in its enforcement of truck safety rules and friendly ties to trucking industry lobbyists.

Wolf, the Virginia Republican who says OMC has had an “incestuous” relationship with the trucking industry, chaired a day-long hearing on Tuesday in which witnesses from the trucking industry, safety groups, and federal agencies, among others, talked about OMC’s performance and what can be done to improve truck safety.

Citing statistics showing that the number of deaths in truck accidents is on the rise, Wolf asked witnesses if they thought OMC has been doing its job. The response was largely negative.

Even OMC staff have a low opinion of the agency’s effectiveness. Kenneth Mead, the Inspector General of the Dept. of Transportation, said that almost half of OMC’s safety investigators and field supervisors responding to a survey rated the agency1s enforcement program as poor to fair.

Earlier this year, OMC suffered a leadership shakeup after a report showed that senior officials violated ethics rules when they helped trucking industry lobbyists in a campaign to kill a bill introduced by Wolf last year that would have placed the OMC under the auspices of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is currently the responsibility of the Federal Highway Administration.

This hearing, with its 16 witnesses from safety groups, government, and industry, was the second in a series on what to do about OMC.

Witnesses from the trucking industry pressed for creation of a Federal Trucking Administration to oversee all trucking activities. Other witnesses called for more inspections, tougher penalties and mandated safety devices such as collision-avoidance radar and on-board recorders.

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