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DOT to Enforce Truck Safety Rules

Trucking companies with unsatisfactory safety ratings from\r\nfederal regulators will be threatened with shutdown under new\r\nDepartment of Transportation rules.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater announced Friday that trucking companies with unsatisfactory safety ratings from federal regulators will be threatened with shutdown under new Department of Transportation (DOT) rules.

Before this rule, motor carriers that move passengers or hazardous materials could be shut down if they get poor ratings, but regular cargo shippers could not.

"This rule will save lives by applying our fitness standards to all large trucks, instead of only passenger buses and trucks hauling hazardous materials, said Slater. "This strong enforcement tool provided for by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century (TEA-21) will help in our efforts to reduce truck- and bus-related deaths by half in the next 10 years and improve safety."

The final rule becomes effective Nov. 20 and prohibits any motor carrier found to be unfit from operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

Federal inspectors periodically check and rate shippers, looking at their maintenance and safety programs, recordkeeping, drug and alcohol programs and other factors.

An unsatisfactory safety rating means that motor carrier does not have adequate safety controls in place.

Most motor carriers will have 60 days after being rated unsafe to improve their safety fitness or shutdown operations.

The agency may extend the compliance period another 60 days only if the motor carrier is making a good faith effort to improve its safety fitness.

Under the new rule:

  • Passenger and HAZMAT carriers will have 45 days to correct deficiencies.
  • The regulation will not be applied retroactively. It applies only to motor carriers rated unsatisfactory on or after the effective date of the final rule.
  • Carriers holding an unsatisfactory rating at the time the rule becomes effective are not subject to immediate shutdown. However, if, after a follow-up visit, the carrier is still unfit as determined by an inspector, the new provisions will apply.
  • Under a provision of TEA-21, federal agencies will be prohibited from using a motor carrier to provide interstate transportation if it has been rated unsatisfactory on or after the effective date of a final rule.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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