Update – March 4th Senate Commerce Hearing

On Wednesday, March 4, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security held a hearing, entitled “Surface Transportation Reauthorization – Oversight and Reform of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

Witnesses included:

  • Mr. Scott Darling, III, Acting Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Mr. Joseph W. Comé, Deputy Principal Assistant Inspector General for Auditing and Evaluation, Office of the Inspector General
  • Ms. Susan Fleming, Director, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • The Honorable Christopher Hart, Acting Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board

Senator Fischer, the new Chair of the Committee, kicked off the hearing by announcing that she would be introducing legislation to reform FMCSA. Her top priorities are regulatory reform, including updating guidance, a new cost-benefit analysis approach at FMCSA, and more transparency.

Senator Booker, the new Ranking Member, used his opening remarks to focus on overturning the HOS suspension, prohibiting heavy and larger vehicles, minimum insurance requirements, and driver pay.
FMCSA Acting Administrator Darling’s prepared comments focused on how the agency’s reauthorization proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, will help FMCSA raise the bar to enter the motor carrier industry; require high safety standards to remain in the industry; and remove high-risk carriers, drivers, and service providers from the industry.

Mr. Comé focused on necessary improvements to CSA and targeting reincarnated carriers.
Ms. Fleming first praised FMCSA for making improvements, and then highlighted two ongoing challenges that GAO has identified – the SMS’s unreliability in predicting crashes and the agency’s ability to identify chameleon carriers.

Mr. Hart commented on fatigue, ELDs, deficiencies with the compliance review process, the need for FMCSA to incorporate SMS data into motor carriers’ safety rating, noting that the SFD should be out as quickly as possible, and, finally, the agency’s support for safety technologies.

Questions from the Subcommittee focused on the need to improve CSA, hours of service, minimum insurance standards, and traffic enforcement.

An archived video of the hearing, along with written statements from the witnesses can be found here.