FMCSA administrator Joseph Clapp has laid out an ambitious schedule for his agency in 2002.
Speaking at the weekly Transportation Table meeting at the National Press Club in Washington, Clapp said FMCSA will focus on several key areas this year, including opening the U.S. border to Mexican trucks, security issues and CDL system improvements, all while handling normal inspection and regulatory duties.
"Right now we are heavily involved in completing activities associated with opening the southern border to Mexican truck traffic," said Clapp. "Under new rules, a Mexican carrier applying for provisional authority to operate beyond the existing commercial zone will undergo a safety audit prior to receiving that authority."
After passing it, Clapp said these carriers would be monitored through roadside inspections of vehicles and drivers during the subsequent 18 months.
In addition, he said FMCSA will conduct a compliance review of the carrier during that period and that the Mexican carrier must receive a satisfactory rating in order to receive permanent authority. The agency plans to hire and train 214 new people to inspect vehicles and drivers, and perform these safety audits and compliance review - bringing its total border enforcement staff to 274.
Clapp added that funding for those efforts should not be a problem, with $66 million being provided in 2002 for state inspection facilities and $2.3 million for building federal facilities.
Security issues will still high on FMCSA's agenda this year. Clapp noted that the agency now tracks 38,000 carriers involved in hazardous materials transportation. Clapp added that FMCSA inspected 36,000 hazmat carriers in the last four months and reported 126 of them to the FBI for false personnel information, inappropriate comments, unexplained disappearances, and citizenship irregularities. FMCSA plans more in-depth compliance reviews of hazmat carriers this year.
As required under the USA Patriot Act signed last year, Clapp added that CDLs will be more closely scrutinized for all persons seeking issuance, renewal, upgrade, or transfer of a hazardous materials endorsement. Criminal background checks of all hazmat-endorse CDLs will be done from now on, meaning that, between the issuance of new licenses and renewals, close to one million checks will need to be done each year.
Clapp also said the agency would endeavor to return to its normal course of duty, conducting 10,000 motor carrier inspections per year, while wrapping up a variety of regulatory efforts. Those efforts include wrapping up proposed cargo securing rules, as well as revising the Uniform Carrier Register, tightening CDL requirements and issuing an interim final rule on household goods. FMCSA will also start reviewing the nearly 50,000 comments it received for its proposed revisions to Hours-of-Service regulations.