Stepping up to highway safety

May 1, 2005 By    

Commercial motor vehicle highway safety should become the next major state traffic initiative, the U.S. House of Representatives has decreed. It will get the same attention as drunk driving and seatbelt use if a House-passed transportation bill becomes law.

Charles Pekow
Charles Pekow

The House has approved the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (H.R. 3), a bill that would push states to prevent commercial vehicle crashes through enforcement and education. The measure failed in the last Congress.

The proposal would:

  • Expand motor carrier safety grants, making states include “performance-based activities” such as technology to improve efficiency and safety in their annual commercial vehicle safety plans.
  • Require states to prove that data used to rate and identify high-risk carriers is complete, up to date and accurate.
  • Require sections in each state’s driver’s license training manuals to cover cars and trucks sharing roads.
  • Push enforcement of rules prohibiting use of unregistered vehicles and those operating outside their registered use.
  • Make states conduct highly visible traffic enforcement programs in places prone to truck crashes.

The bill would allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to waive the matching requirement for grants to states to conduct safety audits of new entrant motor carriers.

A new grant program would be initiated to help states comply with the law. States could pay for training, computers, publications, testing, quality control and personnel. Before applying for money, states would have to assess shortcomings in their programs and ask for sums sufficient to correct deficiencies. They would have to put up a 20 percent match.

The bill would double fines for operators’ recordkeeping violations to up to $1,000 a day and up to $25,000 to carriers who allow drivers to work despite out-of-service orders.

It also would amend HAZMAT law to require registration of designers and inspectors of HAZMAT packaging and raise the maximum registration fee from $3,000 to $5,000. Shippers would have to retain papers for two years, twice the current requirement.

The comprehensive bill also would amend the Clean Fuels Formula Grant Program under which municipalities can buy propane-powered buses and related equipment and infrastructure. Two-thirds of the money would have to go to urban areas with a million or more people and the rest to smaller urban areas. Preference would go to the smoggiest areas. Grantees would have to put up a 10 percent match.

• Propane to be $1.55 per gallon

The Representative Average Unit Cost of propane should be $1.55 a gallon for use in consumer products, the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy decreed. Manufacturers use the figure in product labeling.

• Tax credits for efficient energy

Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) introduced the Resource Efficient Appliance Incentives Act, which would create tax credits for manufacturers who make energy efficient dishwashers and washing machines. The Ways & Means Committee gets the bill.

• Homeowner credits

Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL) introduced the Save America’s Valuable Energy Resources Act of 2005 to allow tax credits of up to $2,000 for homeowners making energy efficiency improvements and to builders of new homes and commercial properties of up to $2.25 per square foot.

• Benefits for seniors

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has introduced the Home Energy Assistance Targeted for Seniors Act (HR. 1210) to qualify any household below 150 percent of the poverty line (about $20,000) for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits.

• Hazardous materials regulations

The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration wants to adopt the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as part of its Hazardous Materials Regulations concerning cylinders and multiple-element gas containers. The PHMSA is taking comments on the matter until July 7 at http://dms.dot.gov. Refer to docket No. PHMSA-05-17463. See the March 9 Federal Register.

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