Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Vice President Capt. Christopher Turner with the Kansas Highway Patrol testified on behalf of the Alliance on March 14, 2017, at the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security hearing titled “Continuing to Improve Truck Safety on our Nation’s Highways.”
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the subcommittee, convened the hearing to examine truck safety advancements in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and to discuss potential reforms moving forward. A range of perspectives on the implementation of safety programs and other opportunities and challenges facing truck safety were presented at the hearing.
During his testimony, Capt. Turner discussed the importance of stable, long-term funding. “It is imperative that states be able to rely on long-term funding at levels that match their efforts,” urged Capt. Turner. “The consequences of not addressing this funding issue are grave and extend well beyond this single fiscal year.”
In CVSA’s written testimony to the subcommittee, the Alliance urged Congress to identify sustainable, long-term revenue sources to ensure MCSAP stability and meet states’ enforcement needs.
When asked by Sen. Fischer about the real-world effects and challenges to law enforcement due to the uncertainty of long-term MCSAP funding, Capt. Turner cited examples from his agency such as job loss and the inability to fill vacancies due to uncertainty in funding levels. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver the expected program outcomes aligned with those vacant positions. Capt. Turner also explained that when faced with funding shortages, the first programs to be cut tend to be educational programs, which impedes law enforcement’s ability to proactively educate and interact with drivers and motor carriers in a positive and pre-emptive way.
Capt. Turner also stressed the importance of federal safety regulations and explained the inconsistencies, challenges and difficulties created by exemptions. “Exemptions have the potential to undermine safety and complicate enforcement,” said Capt. Turner.
Problems begin with the adoption of exemptions – a process that takes time. CVSA encourages Congress to consider implementing a three-year implementation window, similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s policy, or another mechanism that allows federal agencies enough time to provide necessary guidance on the exemption and the states enough time to adopt the changes and train inspectors and enforcement personnel.
During his testimony, Capt. Turner also addressed the enforcement community’s challenges with motorcoach safety. Currently, inspectors are restricted on when and where they can examine a passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle. CVSA supports giving states the authority to require that passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles report to an open weigh station while en route, specifically for weight enforcement purposes. “The ability to inspect a passenger-carrying CMV en route is an extremely important tool for effective enforcement,” said Capt. Turner.
Capt. Turner concluded his testimony by thanking the members of the subcommittee and stating, “We are committed to meeting our mission and ask only that we be given the tools we need to do it effectively.”
Other witnesses who presented testimony included:
- The Honorable Christopher A. Hart, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
- Dr. Paul P Jovanis, Professor Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University; Chair, Transportation Research Board Committee
- Jerry Moyes, Chairman Emeritus, Swift Transportation
- Adrian Lund, President, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety