Aug. 3, 1999

Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook on the "Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1999"

"A proposal released today for markup tomorrow by Reps. Bud Shuster and James Oberstar to create a new National Motor Carrier Administration within the Department of Transportation does little to solve the serious truck safety issues faced every day on our highways by millions of Americans. It would do little to save the lives of the 100 people who die each week in crashes involving big trucks.

"Conspicuously absent from the title of the proposed agency is the word ?safety.? Perhaps the omission is purposeful. The bill slyly includes ?promotion? of the trucking industry in an obscure section. This is completely unacceptable. The problem with the current Office of Motor Carriers is that it does not have a regulatory culture but instead has a cozy relationship with the trucking industry. With that agency, we get ?partnering? and education efforts in lieu of strict enforcement. The sponsors apparently want to keep it that way.

"Another glaring weakness in the bill is the absence of any conflict-of-interest standards, which would prevent some of the gross abuses that were identified by the DOT?s inspector general reports on the OMC, such as research grants to the trucking industry to serve as a basis for regulation of that industry.

"Finally, the bill does not require that all rulemaking on motor vehicle safety, including trucks in use, be the sole province of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which already regulates the safety of new trucks. This is a minimum threshold for ensuring the safety of large trucks, because NHTSA has been an effective regulator and OMC has failed to do its job.

"Perhaps we shouldn?t be surprised. Rep. Shuster is the trucking industry?s best friend. He took $145,000 from the trucking industry over the past six years. And members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will mark up the bill Wednesday, received an average of more than $21,000 each from the trucking PACs over the past three elections.

"Members of the committee should remember that while the trucking lobbyists help pay for their campaigns, more than 5,300 Americans die and 141,000 are seriously injured in trucking-related crashes each year, partly because of the lax enforcement by the federal government."

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