CVSA Testifies at Senate Committee Hearing on ‘Opportunities and Challenges for Improving Truck Safety on our Highways’

On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security held a hearing on the opportunities and challenges to addressing truck safety on our highways.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Past-President Major David Palmer of the Texas Department of Public Safety testified to the Committee on behalf of the Alliance.

The purpose of the hearing was to examine efforts to address truck safety concerns, implementation of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), hours of service (HOS) and fatigue, and initiatives of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and trucking stakeholders.

Major Palmer outlined a number of recommendations to improve safety, such as:

  • Minimize the number of exemptions; exemptions often compromise safety and complicate enforcement
  • Electronic logging devices (ELD) regulations must be written with all end users in mind, including the enforcement community, and inspectors must be given the tools needed to properly utilize the devices.
  • States must be given funding commensurate with their responsibilities
  • The administrative burden associated with grant applications and reports should be minimized
  • The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) should provide States with additional flexibility in how they spend their basic MCSAP grant funds

Although the topic of the hearing was truck safety, the bulk of the testimony focused on the heavily debated hours-of-service and restart rules and Senator Susan Collins’ (R-Maine) proposed amendment to suspend enforcement portions of the current hours-of-service restart rule.

“As inspectors and law enforcement officers, it is critical that we have clear, enforceable regulations in order to have uniform, effective enforcement,” said Major Palmer. “The recent effort to suspend enforcement of a portion of the hours-of-service regulations while a study is conducted is an example of practices that needlessly complicate the regulations and enforcement.”

“While we recognize that the hours-of-service regulations must be written in a manner that meets the nation’s safety needs and is respectful of the needs of the trucking industry, meeting these needs by shifting the burden to the enforcement community is not a responsible solution,” Major Palmer added.

Major Palmer relayed CVSA’s position regarding hours of service to the Senate Committee:

CVSA supports a comprehensive study on the safety and operational impacts of the HOS regulations, but while the current rules remain in place. Once this analysis has been completed, only then would it be appropriate to consider any changes or adjustments through the rulemaking process.

Another topic discussed during the hearing is the issue of traffic enforcement. Dave Osiecki, Executive Vice President and Chief of National Advocacy at the American Trucking Associations, focused heavily on the issue of traffic enforcement during his testimony, arguing that a larger portion of States’ MCSAP funds should be spent on traffic enforcement activities, rather than roadside inspections.

Major Palmer responded, pointing out that traffic enforcement is just one piece of the comprehensive approach States employ as part of their programs.

Other official witnesses at the hearing (and links to their testimony) are listed below:

Members of the Senate Committee in attendance were:

  • Chairman: Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
  • Ranking Member: Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)
  • Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska)
  • Senator Time Scott (R-South Carolina)
  • Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire)
  • Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey)

Read Major Palmer’s full testimony.

Read the majority statement by Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV.

View the full webcast of the two-hour hearing.