A Senate committee approved measures on Wednesday that would establish a multimodal freight program, mandate electronic onboard recorders on all trucks, and tighten hazardous materials regulation.
The bills, part of a slew of transportation items led by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, also would give federal regulators more power to pull unsafe carriers off the road and make it harder for fleets ordered out of service to get new authority under new names.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bills, introduced by Democratic Sens. John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey in a 13-11 party line vote, with Republicans opposing the legislation.
“While most drivers and companies put safety first, crashes still happen,” Lautenberg said. He said the CMVSEA would give regulators “the tools to kick unsafe drivers and carriers out of the industry and keep America’s roadways safe.”
The CMVSEA would require onboard recorders on all trucks to improve compliance with driver hours of service rules and require new applicants for trucking authority to pass a safety proficiency exam and submit a safety management plan.
The bill also includes the FREIGHT Act, which would create a national multimodal freight program, and it would give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration more power to pull unsafe trucking and bus companies off the highway.
The committee also approved the Hazardous Materials Transportation Improvement Safety Act, which would give the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration more power to punish shippers that break its rules.
The third bill approved by the committee reauthorizes the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the Department of Transportation, and would create a National Travel Data program to collect national freight and passenger data.
The measures move to the full Senate but they face uphill battles winning approval there and, especially, in the Republican-controlled House.
Contact William B. Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc