The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Deadline Near on Truck-Driver Safety Standards in Pennsylvania

May 16, 2005

HARRISBURG, PA – The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has failed to comply with a federal law, on the books for several years, that requires states to adopt tougher uniform regulations covering truck drivers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper. If the General Assembly doesn't act by Sept. 30, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation could forfeit up to $40 million in federal highway funds and, possibly, its authority to issue and renew commercial driver's licenses. The impact would be far-reaching: More than 400,000 people hold CDLs in Pennsylvania, about one out of every 20 drivers in a state where trucking is the fourth largest industry, said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The new regulations, mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, would improve screening and record-keeping, thereby making it tougher for those who present security risks to get and keep CDLs. The federal government is threatening to withhold from $36 million to $40 million in highway funds on the first day of the 2005-06 federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and to withhold twice as much for every succeeding year of noncompliance. The U.S. Department of Transportation is requiring all states to comply with 15 provisions of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress in 1999. The final rules for states to implement the provisions within three years became effective Sept. 30, 2002, in the aftermath of terrorists' attacks on the United States. PennDOT said the enabling legislation had been drafted and a consultant had been hired to make extensive computer system changes necessary to implement the tougher, updated regulations. The purpose of the federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act is to reduce the number and severity of crashes involving large trucks through more vehicle and operator inspections, motor carrier compliance reviews, strong enforcement measures against violators and effective CDL testing, record-keeping and sanctions. Here are some things the Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants PennDOT to do differently:

  • Obtain the out-of-state driving records for the past 10 years for CDL applicants and reflect their driving history electronically. Now, a Pennsylvania CDL applicant surrenders his license from the previous issuing state, but not all states where the applicant was previously licensed, and not a comprehensive driving record.
  • Count traffic violations committed in personal vehicles, such as a car, the same as if the violation occurred in a commercial vehicle, including improper passing, reckless driving and exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph or more in a work zone.
  • Do not defer or hide convictions for any kind of traffic violation (except parking tickets) of state and local traffic laws in Pennsylvania. For instance, a record of entering an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for drunken driving must not be expunged from permanent CDL records.

    As of mid-February, Pennsylvania was among 22 states with three or more major items of noncompliance with the new law. Nine states still had one or two items to address, while 14 states were in compliance.

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