Testimony

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Before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Before the Sub Committees on Highways and Transit Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
July 9, 2002

Statement of Joseph M. Clapp, Administrator
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Good afternoon Chairman Petri and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee to discuss activities that support the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and ongoing efforts to improve the safety and security of the commercial motor carrier industry.

FMCSA was created by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (MCSIA). As we carry out our statutory mission and implement the statutory national transportation policy, the FMCSA considers safety as the highest priority. We accomplish this through a multi-faceted program of regulations, enforcement, outreach and technology. Over the past two-and-one-half years, we have made significant strides towards accomplishing our mission. In light of the catastrophic events of September 11, we have also added security of the motor carrier industry as a priority of the agency.

Saving lives by improving safety is an important goal for the Administration. FMCSA has established a safety goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries resulting from truck- and motorcoach-related crashes by 50 percent by the beginning of the year 2010. This goal translates into approximately 2,500 lives saved and 65,000 injuries prevented each year. FMCSA's strong enforcement programs and aggressive goals are helping to substantially reduce the number of commercial vehicle-related fatalities. Fatalities continue to decline -- from 5,398 in 1997 to 5,192 in 2001. This is the fourth consecutive year we have seen such a decline.

In addition to our ambitious goal of reducing injuries and fatalities, other major initiatives for the agency this fiscal year are the safe and secure opening of the southern border, improving security in the truck and bus industry, improving the commercial drivers licensing (CDL) program, advancing our regulatory agenda, addressing household goods-related issues, continuing our research and technology activities, and developing our motor carrier reauthorization proposal.

Southern Border Safety and Security

Currently, FMCSA is engaged in completing the few remaining activities associated with the opening of the southern border to Mexican truck traffic. Two weeks ago, Secretary Mineta testified before the United States Senate on the progress that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made in implementing the requirements of Section 350 of the 2002 Transportation Appropriations Act (P.L. 107-87) with respect to establishing safety controls for long-haul Mexican carriers.

Section 350 provided guidance and required that numerous conditions be met before DOT could process applications for Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate outside the border commercial zones this year. It also required the DOT Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review of our border operations within 180 days of enactment of the legislation.

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of staff at FMCSA and the Department, the coordination with the DOT Inspector General, and the diligence and commitment of our Federal, State and private sector partners, I am pleased to report that FMCSA has completed all of the actions required by the Appropriations Act to allow the agency to process applications to operate beyond the commercial zone. I commend all of these agencies and individuals for their fine work.

Secretary Mineta is now reviewing the Inspector General's report which was issued on June 27. Once the Secretary has evaluated it, he will determine if he can certify that opening the border does not pose an unacceptable safety risk. Only if this certification is made and if the President lifts the current moratorium on granting operating authority to Mexican carriers, will Mexico-domiciled motor carriers be allowed to operate outside the commercial zones. I want to assure you, on behalf of Secretary Mineta, that the border will not be opened unless it can be opened safely. We do expect to fully address all issues identified in the IG's report and to open the border in the near future.

One of the most significant challenges posed by Section 350 was to hire, train, and deploy enforcement staff for border operations. As of June 30, we have hired and trained 144 individuals to perform critical border inspector functions. In addition, we have hired 67 individuals to perform safety audits and conduct compliance reviews - all of whom will be trained and deployed by July 29. We also have begun to hire Safety Investigators. These Safety Investigators will conduct compliance reviews of Mexican-domiciled carriers within their first 18 months of operations - after they have established an operating history. By mid-summer, we will have 274 enforcement personnel in place, more than four times the number of personnel we had at the border in mid-2001.

On March 19, we issued final regulations to ensure that Mexico-domiciled carriers do not operate in the U.S. unless they can meet the same Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that U.S. and Canadian carriers must satisfy. Mexican carriers will be required to demonstrate that they have a drug and alcohol testing program, a system of compliance with U.S. hours-of-service requirements, valid insurance with a U.S. registered insurance company, qualified operators, and adequate vehicle maintenance and driver records, all before receiving operating authority.

The regulations also require that DOT conduct a safety audit of each carrier prior to the issuance of provisional operating authority, and a compliance review prior to granting the carrier permanent operating authority. In addition to the safety audit and compliance review requirement, our oversight includes a process for expedited enforcement action against those carriers committing specified offenses, such as operating without a commercial driver's license (CDL), operating vehicles that have been placed out of service, and operating an uninsured vehicle.

FMCSA's regulations also require Mexican vehicles operating beyond the commercial zones to be inspected every 90 days and to display a valid Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection decal. This provision applies to the provisional operating authority period and for 36 months after receiving permanent authority. In addition, FMCSA has signed agreements with all four border States requiring State inspectors to conduct inspections of all Mexico-domiciled vehicles not displaying a valid CVSA decal during the provisional period, and for a period of three years after permanent authority has been issued to the carrier.

In addition, Section 1012 of the USA Patriot Act requires a security check on any holder of a commercial drivers license that has a hazardous materials endorsement. The Act applies to new applications and mandates a renewal period. The regulation to implement this security check is currently under Departmental review. FMCSA is actively working with both Mexican and Canadian officials on the requirements of the law. Once the regulations are implemented, both Mexican and Canadian CMV drivers operating vehicles transporting hazardous materials beyond the commercial zones will be subject to the same background checks as those performed on U.S. drivers.

FMCSA is working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Customs Service to address overall security aspects of cross-border operations. FMCSA will continue to meet with TSA, Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other government agencies involved in border security, to ensure that our safety programs are consistent and integrated with the security-focused initiatives of these other agencies.

We are confident that we have achieved our shared goal of setting a firm safety foundation for expanded cross-border operations. When provisional operating authority is granted, Mexico-domiciled carriers, as well as U.S. and Canadian carriers, will be governed by the same safety standards when operating in the United States.

In May 2002, the Department awarded grants in the amount of $54 million to the four southern border States for infrastructure improvements. Congress appropriated these funds from the Federal Highway Administration's Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) program. The President's FY 2003 budget also requests $18 million in grants for States to maintain inspection operations, plus an additional $8 million in grants from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) to support State enforcement personnel at the border.

Truck and Motorcoach Security

Prior to September 11, 2001, FMCSA had set an ambitious goal for conducting compliance reviews and we have exceeded those goals. Federal compliance reviews (CRs) have increased from 6,285 in FY 1999 to 10,084 in FY 2001. Enforcement cases have increased from 2,946 to 5,486 during this same period.

Immediately after September 11th, FMCSA refocused the efforts of its field staff from conducting CRs to visiting all carriers of placarded or high consequence hazardous materials. Our objectives were to increase the level of awareness of motor carriers to terrorist threats, identify potential weaknesses in carrier security programs, and, if appropriate, report potentially serious security issues to the authorities.

I am pleased to tell you that, with the assistance of our State partners, we have personally visited over 30,000 hazardous materials carriers, shippers, training schools and other entities to assist in the implementation of security measures. These contacts have resulted in 280 findings of suspicious activities with 126 referrals to the FBI. False names or personnel information, suspicious inquiries, inappropriate comments, and citizenship irregularities are among the activities that provide a basis for referral. FMCSA has received overwhelmingly positive feedback and outstanding cooperation from the industry in this endeavor.

FMCSA has also developed outreach materials and a training course to raise awareness of law enforcement officers to the threats that commercial vehicles may pose as terrorist weapons. The training course is being offered, free of charge, to law enforcement agencies,. In conjunction with CVSA and local law enforcement, FMCSA developed a Security Awareness for Enforcement Checklist (SAFE) which is being distributed to 500,000 law enforcement officials across the country. We are also developing an outreach program targeted at educating truck drivers on measures they can take to protect themselves from being the victim of a hijacking by possible terrorists.

Yet another element of our efforts to enhance security is the implementation of the requirements of Section 1012 of the USA Patriot Act which I touched on briefly in the discussion on border safety and security. The Act requires FMCSA to issue new regulations relating to hazardous materials endorsements on CDLs. Coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), FMCSA is developing procedures for performing a security risk review for all persons seeking issuance, renewal, upgrade, or transfer of a hazardous materials endorsement for a CDL.

As required by the Act, States will submit requests for a background records investigation to the Department of Justice before licensing an individual to haul hazardous materials. Based on the results of background records checks performed by the Department of Justice, the DOT will make a security risk determination and notify the requesting State of the result. FMCSA expects to issue an interim final rule to implement this process very shortly. Between the issuance of new CDLs and renewals, we estimate that on average, close to 1 million checks will need to be done each year.

Physical attacks on motorcoach drivers in recent months have demonstrated the vulnerability of the motorcoach industry to acts of violence. Passengers travel without requirements for identification, and baggage is not routinely screened. Yet motorcoaches travel in close proximity to some of the Nation's most visible and populous sites, such as national monuments, arenas and other tourist attractions. Motorcoaches carried almost 8 million passengers in 1999 and are often the only commercial transportation available in rural areas.

The Department is working very closely with the motorcoach industry to determine the best approach to implement system-wide security protocols. I have personally met with representatives of the motorcoach industry on several occasions to discuss the security risks, and measures to improve security of over-the-road buses.

While FMCSA has placed special emphasis on border safety programs and increased security, critical safety enforcement activities have continued, including issuance of out-of-service orders, and performance of compliance reviews and complaint investigations.

Commercial Drivers License Program and Fraud

The Inspector General (IG) has reviewed the CDL program and recently issued a report on the weaknesses that exist in State CDL programs. I am concerned about licensing fraud and want to ensure that the CDL program works from beginning to end. Many States have either experienced instances of fraudulent activities within their CDL programs, or have testing and licensing practices that make them susceptible to fraud.

The Department has been working closely with the States and the AAMVA to instruct driver's license personnel, examiners, supervisors, law enforcement and other government officials in the detection of fraudulent activities and fraudulent documents that are used by applicants in the driver licensing process. We recently issued a policy memorandum to FMCSA field offices to meet with State licensing experts to develop covert monitoring practices for CDL testers and to provide examples of successful State covert operations.

FMCSA's CDL grants to States give high priority to correcting identified program deficiencies, enabling them to take actions to improve the security of their programs. Since 2001, over $10.8 million in CDL grant funds have been provided to States for activities to detect fraud ($10 million for State CDL program improvements and $1 million from TEA-21 for Driver Programs). In FY 2002, Congress provided $15.8 million for the CDL program. To further detect and combat CDL fraud, FMCSA has proposed an additional $8 million in the FY 2002 emergency supplemental budget request for research, training and implementation of fraud detection and prevention techniques for State licensing agencies.

FMCSA has developed a CDL final rule which will provide guidance to States on what additional responsibilities they must undertake. As required by the provisions of MCSIA, it addresses such items as non-commercial vehicle violations by a CDL holder, new major disqualifying offenses, masking of convictions, and hardship exceptions. The rulemaking is being reviewed within the Department and will be published shortly.

Regulations

We continue to make progress in our rulemaking activities. We recently published the three NAFTA-required rules, rules for certification of safety auditors, the New Entrant program rule, and certification of compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs). I have already mentioned the USA Patriot Act rule and the rule implementing CDL improvements required by MCSIA. Additional rulemakings underway include:

Camionetas: The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking closed in April of last year. The rule is in the final stages of preparation and we expect to issue it shortly. This NPRM is in response to Section 212 of MCSIA. Camionetas are vans designed to transport 9-15 passengers for direct compensation in interstate commerce (more than 75 miles).

Cargo Securement: We have also reviewed all of the comments on the proposed cargo securement (tiedown) rule and expect to issue a rule during FY 2002. We will ensure that shippers, motor carriers, and enforcement officials would have sufficient time to become familiar with any new requirements before they take effect.

Younger Driver Petition: Due to the chronic shortage of drivers, the Truckload Carriers Association filed a petition for approval of a pilot program to train certain drivers between the ages of 18 to 21 to operate trucks in interstate commerce. Their proposal was published in the Federal Register on February 20, 2001. Current Federal regulations require that drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) must be at least 21 years of age. The FMCSA staff has reviewed all of the 1,670 comments received on the Younger Driver Petition and the decision on that petition will be out soon.

Uniform Carrier Registration (UCR): We expect to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the UCR system by the end of this year. This rule will streamline and update our registration process. The UCR is a single on-line Federal system to be used for all motor carriers, freight forwarders, and transportation brokers in interstate commerce. The ICC Termination Act of 1995 requires that the agency unify the registration process into a single system.

Hours-of-Service: FMCSA recently concluded its analysis and review of the more than 50,000 comments received in the Hours-of-Service docket, as well as the results of eight public meetings and three "roundtables" conducted in 2000 to obtain additional public comments. We are moving forward with additional work on regulatory evaluation under contract. The contractor is tasked with evaluating the costs to industry and the societal benefits of a range of scenarios on the principal areas addressed in the NPRM. This will give the agency the full picture it needs to take the next steps in the rulemaking process.

Household Goods: We plan to issue an interim final rule on household goods that will update the current regulations and consumer protection publications to improve the public's understanding of the rules and help consumers prevent and resolve disputes. The interim final rule is expected to be issued by the end of FY 2002.

Household Goods

Let me discuss with you briefly, the household goods issue. As you are aware, FMCSA's jurisdiction over household goods comes from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) Termination Act of 1995, which abolished the ICC and transferred certain of its motor carrier economic regulatory functions to DOT. Among the functions transferred were the registration of for-hire motor carriers, freight forwarders, and property brokers, and enforcement of Federal Household Goods (HHG) regulations. No funds and very few ICC staff accompanied the transfer. FMCSA has oversight over interstate moves only -- FMCSA does not have jurisdiction over moves totally within a single State.

FMCSA also has no jurisdiction over consumer complaint resolution. Congress clearly stated in the ICC Termination Act that the U.S. DOT was not to become a mediator (as the ICC had been) in resolving disputes between consumers and shippers. For this reason, no ICC enforcement or complaint resolution staff accompanied the transfer of functions to DOT (the ICC had more than 50 FTE dedicated to settling consumer complaints).

Congress envisioned that consumers would settle disputes with HHG shippers through the courts and by use of mandatory arbitration established by the ICC Termination Act. This has not happened, due in part to the difficulty in pursuing settlement in State courts. FMCSA receives a high volume of consumer complaints connected with interstate moves. This prompted the GAO to recommend changes in FMCSA's oversight and led to a congressional hearing in July 2001. Unfortunately, no matter how well FMCSA carries out its industry oversight functions, our agency's enforcement actions against the carriers offer the individual consumer no financial redress; i.e. refund for fee overcharges, damage awards.

To better educate the public, and promote awareness of what consumers can do to protect themselves when they are moving across State lines, FMCSA is in the process of developing a comprehensive outreach plan for HHG. This plan will include the development of educational brochures and materials for HHG consumers. We will be revising "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" booklet for the general public to help them understand their rights as a shipper and the moving company's responsibility. Consumers can download the current document from FMCSA's web site (www.fmcsa.dot.gov).

Research, Technology and Outreach

FMCSA's safety goal for reducing the number of deaths and injuries resulting from truck- and motorcoach-related crashes is 50 percent by the year 2010. Using a 1998 baseline, this goal translates into approximately 2,500 lives saved and 65,000 injuries prevented each year. To reach this ambitious goal, we must develop and implement a strong research and technology program. Growth in FMCSA's R&T program is critical to making future reductions in fatalities in crashes involving commercial motor vehicles. Recognizing that highway crashes are often the result of several interrelated factors and not just a single cause, the R&T program provides critical data and research to identify and address those causal factors. The program supports FMCSA's diverse safety initiatives and emphasizes delivering safety in new ways, particularly through the development, evaluation, and deployment of advanced safety technologies.

We are currently developing technologies and testing their effectiveness for adoption by carriers. Operational tests of warning systems for collisions, rollovers, and lane departures are already underway. This year, we began tests of electronically controlled braking systems to reduce stopping distances and enhance stability, as well as tests of drowsy driver detection and warning devices.

Because driver-related factors are the major contributors to fatal crashes involving large trucks, educating all motorists about safely sharing the Nation's highways is an important focus for FMCSA. "Share the Road Safely" is a cooperative effort by government, safety, labor and industry organizations to educate drivers of all types of vehicles about safe driving habits. "Highway Watch" is a successful safety program which we sponsor with industry that engages commercial motor vehicle drivers to act as eyes and ears for law enforcement on the road. It has recently been updated to include a security component.

The R&T program also emphasizes the demonstration of positive cost-benefits for safety systems, and FMCSA is implementing a broad-based "Safety is Good Business" program to promote the full range of safety-effective practices that fleet owners and managers can implement immediately to reduce crashes and improve their bottom lines.

As I stated before this Committee earlier this year, FMCSA will implement the national rollout of a safety outreach initiative to improve the transportation of students to and from events away from their school. FMCSA will promote the adoption of best safety practices in selecting private bus companies for student transportation to school events, field trips, and other activities that require travel by bus.

Reauthorization of the Motor Carrier Program

Finally, let me address reauthorization of the motor carrier program. Together with our modal counterparts and the Office of the Secretary, we are deeply involved in preparing for this critical activity. In approaching reauthorization, the Department has established several key principles to guide our actions. Among these are: providing predictable funding, maximizing the return on Federal investment, providing programmatic flexibility, streamlining program structure, encouraging partnerships, and promoting public participation in the process.

Last year, FMCSA received input at a number of outreach meetings at which our partners and stakeholders provided us with invaluable comments on the direction of our program for the future. We at DOT look forward to working with this Subcommittee as we move forward on this important piece of legislation.

In closing, let me say that I continue to look for ways to encourage improvements in our programs. FMCSA strives to be the benchmark for government agencies and we are proud of our achievements. I look forward to working with this Committee in the months ahead as we seek other ways to make continuous improvements at FMCSA. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. 

Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014
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