A spokesman for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has called on Congress and the White House for more rigorous and uniform federal standards for the commercial driver license (CDL) program, particularly in light of recent terrorist attacks on the United States and the need for enhanced security.
Paul Sullivan, CVSA president and a lieutenant with the Massachusetts State Police, offered the comments October 10 before the House Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine. Sullivan urged the legislators to appropriate resources to federal agencies and state governments necessary to accelerate CDL provisions.
Quoting recommendations compiled by CVSA members, he said new standards should be applied to CDL testing, examination, administration, data definitions, collection, and record keeping. He suggested that a "watch list" be established for CDL drivers with hazardous materials and passenger endorsements.
"This list would track wanted criminals and others on national, state, and local FBI wanted lists, and send a red flag to commercial vehicle enforcement personnel when such drivers are encountered at the roadside," he said.
The inability to access driving violations and criminal records from a nationwide data base has long frustrated motor carriers who are trying to screen driver applicants.
"Since the enactment of the CDL law, the states, despite some federal requirements, have largely been able to execute their own approaches to implementing the various components of the CDL program," he said. "The result has been inconsistencies in testing, examination, administration, and ultimately data."
CVSA recommends the creation of an authoritative information-consolidated data base for commercial driver information. In addition, a means should be established to deliver the information to the appropriate users, enforcement officers, and employers, Sullivan testified.
With the information available to motor carriers employees who are responsible for making personnel decision, the industry would be better prepared to police itself, he said. A means should be established to encourage motor carriers to investigate new customers, and work with and monitor their shipper’s practices for ensuring safety and security.
In addition, the association recommends that state licensing personnel perform criminal background checks on drivers attempting to acquire CDLs with hazardous materials or passenger endorsements. "Couple this with a photo ID requirement as well." he said.
Other recommendations include providing persons coming in contact with drivers the appropriate training to identify document fraud and making sure the newly-formed Homeland Security Office has strong representation from the transportation sector.
CVSA recommends procedures that should be used in border crossings and entry through seaports, including:
--Verification/certification of load and driver at the time of departure and throughout the shipment lifecycle.
--Integrate biometric identifiers with the CDL and provide technologies with reading capability to enforcement. Work with industry to develop a strategy for providing this capability to consignees to verify load and driver at the time of arrival.
--Exception-based reports to law enforcement in the event of a security breach, package integrity problem (ie, hazardous materials release), and when a driver strays from the intended route of travel.
--Integrate emergency response and automated collision notification information in the event of an incident or accident.
--Establish a wireless network and centralized data center for real-time data capture and communications capability with access made available on a need-to-know-basis to both industry and enforcement.
CVSA also wants a strategy developed that would address security concerns in the truck rental and leasing business that would reduce the risk of those vehicles being used by terrorists.
Finally, CVSA urges the development and implementation of a nationwide public education and outreach campaign to make the public more aware of the safety issues and how to deal with any problems they may encounter. "The same should be done for those involved in the transportation industry," Sullivan said.
"The primary tenet of the commercial drivers license program, which was fully implemented in 1992, is that each commercial driver, nationwide, have only one license and one driving record," he said. "In large part, this goal has been achieved. But as we now know, this goal is much too limited and does not meet current needs, especially in terms of what we must now do to address national security needs."