On June 12, 2019, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Past President Deputy Chief Mark Savage with the Colorado Highway Patrol testified on behalf of the Alliance and the enforcement community at the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing, titled “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America.”
Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill) convened the hearing to receive feedback from motor carriers, owner-operators, law enforcement and safety advocates about the dilemmas affecting commercial motor vehicle and roadway safety.
Congresswoman Norton started the hearing by stating, “As Congress looks to enact changes to trucking policy and the reauthorization, upcoming, how to improve safety must be a guiding question and new questions, new challenges, new statistics, need to be explained.”
“This subcommittee is continuing to ramp up its efforts to reauthorize the federal surface transportation programs and policies,” said Congressman Davis. “So far, we’ve held two hearing to gather stakeholder feedback on possible changes to those programs and policies. Today, we’re turning our attention to the policies and programs that impact trucking. The trucking industry’s contribution to the country’s economy is very significant… Safety has and must continue to be a focus of the surface transportation reauthorization bill.”
During Deputy Chief Savage’s testimony to the subcommittee, he called attention to the near standstill pace of regulatory activity at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which results in inferior alternatives to definitive regulatory action, such as interpretations, letters, electronic communications, enforcement guidance, frequently asked questions and other means to provide enforcement and industry with clarity on issues that arise, with the expectation that regulations will be updated in the future.
“Unfortunately, that update often never takes place, resulting in an inconsistent understanding of the requirements,” said Deputy Chief Savage. “This lack of clarity in the regulations is further complicated by the growing list of exemptions issued to various segments of industry.”
Deputy Chief Savage discussed the challenges faced by the enforcement community regarding inconsistencies in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations caused by exemptions. CVSA is generally opposed to exemptions in legislation or regulations. The Alliance recognizes that there may be limited instances when exemptions are appropriate and do not compromise safety; however, overall, CVSA believes exemptions have the potential to undermine safety and complicate enforcement.
Deputy Chief Savage addressed the committee, “We encourage members [of Congress] to minimize the number of exemptions written in legislation and to consider the practical impacts of any new requirements or programs to the enforcement community’s ability to conduct our critical life-saving activities.”
“CVSA has a number of recommendations aimed at improving CMV safety,” said Deputy Chief Savage. “However, from our perspective, it all boils down to one thing: providing the motor carrier industry and the enforcement community with a regulatory framework that is clear, safety driven and enforceable.”
He added, “Those of us in the enforcement community, including FMCSA, as well as those in the regulated industry, cannot achieve our mutual goal of reducing crashes and saving lives without clearly written safety regulations based on unbiased data and designed with safety as the top priority.”
- Other witnesses who presented testimony included:
- Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- Chris Spear, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations
- Todd Spencer, President, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
- LaMont Byrd, Director, Health and Safety Department, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
- Jason Craig, Director of Government Affairs, C.H. Robinson
- Rodney Noble, Senior Director for Transportation Global Procurement, PepsiCo
- Andy Young, Truck Safety Advocate
Subsequent questions from committee members to the panel of witnesses included a wide range of topics, such as intrastate transportation for commercial motor vehicle drivers 18-21 years old, rear-end and side impact (underride) guards, speed limiters, electronic logging devices and hours-of-service regulations, automated and autonomous technologies, sleep apnea, chameleon carriers, etc.
The U.S. Subcommittee on Highways and Transit is responsible for the development of national surface transportation policy, construction and improvement of highway and transit facilities, implementation of highway and transit safety programs and research activities, and regulation of commercial motor vehicle operations. Within this scope of responsibilities, the subcommittee has jurisdiction over many U.S. Department of Transportation programs, including:
- Federal aid highway program administered by the Federal Highway Administration
- Federal transit programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration
- Highway safety grants and research programs administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Commercial motor vehicle safety programs and regulations administered by FMCSA