million miles. By way of comparison, from 1982 to 1992 the fatality rate for auto-
mobiles fell from 2.7 to 1.7 per 100 million vehicles miles traveled. The higher fatal-
ity rate for heavy trucks is largely a result of their size and weight.
Many agencies and groups as well as individuals contributed to the remarkable
reduction of overall fatality rates on our highways. This reduction is a product of
safety belts and airbags, crackdowns on drunk and drugged driving, enhanced motor
carrier safety enforcement, better driving, the use of state-of-the-art technology to
improve roadway design and vehicle safety standards â€” and more.
Just last month I went to Tampa, Florida, to attend an annual international com-
petition of commercial motor vehicle inspectors. Fifty-five competitors representing
every State, the Canadian provinces, and Mexico competed in the event to test in-
spectors' abilities to detect mechanical defects and other trucking safety hazards.
Ims competition, won by a senior state highway trooper from Virginia, dramatically
demonstrated what some 5,000 State enforcement officials do every day in their im-
portant roadside vehicle and driver inspections. Their efforts serve to keep poten-
tially unsafe commercial vehicles and operators off the roads, to the benefit of every
We must also recognize the tremendous safety impact of the Interstate System it-
self. The fatality rate on Interstate highways is less than half the rate for other
highway systems, despite the fact that it carries 22 percent of all highway travel
in this country and 49 percent of our heavy truck traffic. It's not that people are
extra cautious on the Interstates. Rather, modem design standards and access con-
trol have made the difference and they can be applied to any roads on or off the
Interstate System. Constructing or reconstructing non-Interstate highways to stand-
ards appropriate for their function and the type and volume of traffic they serve will
make a difference. We are committed to making that difference. You don't have to
go all the way up to fiill Interstate standards to really improve highway safe-
ty.Designation of the NHS will allow us to take the next step forward in highway
MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY
Mr. Chairman, I'd like now to discuss with you and the members of this sub-
committee our pro-active agenda for truck safety. This is a direct outgrowth of the
Secretary's Strategic Plan â€” safety being our highest priority.
Although the safety of commercial vehicles has improved, we will not be satisfied
until we have a crash-free environment. One might laugh at this notion, but our
vision for truck safety is to put programs in place to make this a reality in the long
Let me discuss the areas of emphasis I believe will help us get there:
First, human factors. We believe strongly that more emphasis must be given to
this part of the equation. National Transportation Safety Board statistics show that
across all modes of transportation 80 - 85 percent of the causative and contributing
factors in crashes is human failure. We need to recognize this fact in our existing
programs by widening them to include speed management, impaired driving, safety
belt and motorcycle nelmet usage, increased emphasis on fatigue research, and
motor carriers' safety policies and procedures. We are currently doing in-depth re-
search on fatigue to determine the magnitude of the problem as well as appropriate
countermeasures. There is also some promising "in-cab" technology that may help
in the long term. The FHWA is also working with the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration on some of these issues.
Mr. Chairman, we firmly believe that enhancing driver performance is a critical
factor in improving commercial motor vehicle safety. Our joint efforts in the Com-
mercial Driver's License program arp proof that we can, along with our State part-
ners, ensure that only qualified drivers are operating on our highways. With this
in mind, we were very disappointed by the recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling stop-
ping our waiver program for '^rivers who currently could not meet the Federal vision
requirements. This is part of our comprehensive research effort to study possible re-
visions to certain driver medical qualification requirements. We believe the waiver
program would greatly increase our knowledge of the ability of drivers with certain
vision conditions to operate commercial motor vehicles safely and is in accordance
with the principles oi the Americans With Disabilities Act. We designed into the
program medical and experience safeguards to ensure that only drivers with clean
bills of health from a medical expert and a demonstrated safe driving record would
be able to participate.
We are also collecting considerable data on motor carriers and drivers. This in-
cludes accident and fatality data as well as the results of vehicle and driver inspec-
tions conducted at the roadside. In the future, we will place a very high priority on
analyzing these data. We need to know causes, as well as relationships. For exam-
ple, what is the relationship between out-of-service rates and accidents? What are
the characteristics of good and bad drivers? These are just a couple of the critical
questions we are pursuing and that we will get answers to.
The questions that we can answer should be spearheading our program. They
should be the underpinning for our efTorts. I have spoken of one of those already â€”
human factors. The critical questions we cannot answer should be resolved through
research and evaluation.
That is our next area of emphasis â€” a very focussed research program that seeks
to answer questions on human factors as well as technology.
Finally, we must pursue technology utilizing IVHS concepts so that we are effec-
tive and efficient in our woric and allow safe drivers, vehicles, and motor carriers
to be more efiicient. There are other state-of-the-art technologies outside of IVHS.
For example, we know that disc brakes, which dissipate heat better than drum
brakes, are in much wider use in Europe than in the United States. We plan to ex-
pand, with the cooperation of NHTSA, the role of the Federal Government in en-
couraging the use of new technology.
This is the thrust of our new motor carrier initiatives. Let me discuss some impor-
tant issues we have on-going or have completed in the last nine months.
â€¢ First, let me say that in all of our safety initiatives, we work hand-in-hand with
those of our modal partners within the Department who are involved in related sur-
face transportation safety matters. Our cross-modal safety efforts were highlighted
in hearings before the House Public Works and Transportation Committee's Inves-
tigations and Oversight Subcommittee earlier this year.
â€¢ Last December, the Secretary took a strong safety position by banning the use
of radar detectors for interstate commercial vehicles.
â€¢ We completed the rulemaking on private motor carriers of passengers, which
extended the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to a class of operators not
previously subject to Federal regulation. Now, buses operated by churches, civic as-
sociations. Scouts, and other charitable institutions will be subject to the safety
standards. This was a contentious issue (since at least 1982), but we did the right
thing for safety.
â€¢ We initiated a Washington, D.C., Beltway Task Force designed to make this
road safer. Facilitated by our efforts, we have the appropriate people from the con-
tiguous jurisdictions, not only talking with each other, but formulating substantive
recommendations that will make a difference. The States have already approved
elimination of trucks from the left lane of the Beltway. We held a follow-up meeting
of this group in August to review accomplishments and plan future actions. We hope
this effort in our own back yard will serve as a model for other cities.
â€¢ We have finished the first phase of our "zero-based review" of our motor carrier
regulations, which seeks to take a fresh look at our regulatory program, to find out
what the major problems are, and to create a new set of regulations primarily based
on analysis, research, and uniformity.
â€¢ We are developing a five-State pilot study to determine the feasibility of imple-
menting a Commercial Vehicle Information System to tie commercial vehicle reg-
istration to the safety fitness of motor carriers. A Steering Committee comprised of
pilot State and industry representatives has been formed to oversee the study,
which is scheduled to begin in early 1995. The potential benefits of this System in-
clude fewer accidents, improved data on carriers, more eflective enforcement, and
improved safety compliance. We believe that State and industry cooperation and
support are crucial in making this effort a success.
â€¢ We have issued alcohol and drug testing regulations which cover over 550,000
motor carriers and over 6 million drivers, both inter- and intrastate.
â€¢ In cooperation with officials of the Maryland Department of Transportation, a
few months ago we unveiled the "Sharing the Road" campaign with the distribution
of over 500 TV public service announcements, 1,000 radio announcements, and near-
ly 2,000 press kits containing campaign information and print announcements. All
of these are designed to improve the operation of vehicles, including trucks, on our
â€¢ We have formally established an IVHS/Commercial Vehicle Operations unit
within the Office of Motor Carriers to direct and manage successful implementation
of the commercial vehicle operations program nationwide.
â€¢ As part of a plan to conduct analysis of motor carrier and driver data, we have
created a new Analysis Division. This Division is responsible for implementing the
Office of Motor Carriers Analytic Strategic Plan. A cornerstone of the Plan is the
Motor Carrier Safety Summit to be held next March in Kansas City. This summit
will provide a forum for the Department and other interested parties: to present
viewpoints on industry safety issues; to promote the use of data and analysis in
identifying and addressing safety problems; to promote additional emphasis on driv-
er and other human factors issues; and to identify industry perceptions regarding
our program strategies.
â€¢ In June, the Secretary delivered to the Congress proposed legislation and a
comprehensive, multi-modal Action Plan to reduce rail-highwray grade crossing and
trespasser accidents and fatalities.
â€¢ Lastly, we have issued important regulations on: the longer-combination vehicle
freeze, State compliance with tne 22 provisions of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Act
of 1986, and with regard to sanctions for drivers who violate an out-of-service
order â€” that is, who move their vehicle before the needed repairs have been made.
Mr. Chairman, our changes create a program that is preventive in nature, ele-
vates the human part of the equation to a higher level and uses technology as our
partner in achieving a more effective and eflicient program.
TRUCK SIZE AND WEIGHT
Now let me turn to one of the principal subjects of this hearing â€” relationships be-
tween truck length and safety, highway investment requirements, and economic
productivity. Since, in practice, truck length issues cannot be separated from those
involving truck weight, my remarks will cover both truck size and weight. As I will
explain in a moment, we do not possess the necessary data and other information
to allow us to completely answer all questions on these matters. We are now insti-
tuting a plan to analyze all available aata.
Truck size and weight issues are extremely complex; they relate not only to local,
State, and national economic performance but to questions of safety and manage-
ment of our highway infrastructure. A basic characteristic of highway networks is
that automobiles, trucks, and buses share the common highway. The combination
of large freight vehicles with smaller, lighter passenger cars causes special safety
risks. Large vehicles impose great demands on their drivers and those sharing the
road with them. Their size and handling characteristics demand consideration in the
design of roadways. Increasingly, the environment in which the vehicle is operated
is congested. The FVHS strategies I mentioned earlier hold great promise to address
safety and congestion concerns associated with freight vehicles. So does the increas-
ing number of long-haul shipments by rail.
At a time when transportation is becoming a larger part of the goods production
as well as distribution systems, the effects of changes in regulation on productivity
take on renewed significance. Good truck size and weight policy should ensure safe
and efficient freight movement on our Nation's highway and intermodal systems.
More and more, U.S. businesses are turning to intermodal solutions to their trans-
portation needs. We in the public sector are working to foster this growing trend.
To this end, I have been working closely with my colleague. Federal Railroad Ad-
ministrator Jolene Molitoris, on how our Nation's highway and rail systems can be
better used to meet our transportation needs.
More specifically, changes in truck size and weight policy should to the extent
possible, address: highway and vehicle safety through a performance-based regu-
latory approach; eflicient interstate and international commerce through advanced
highway and vehicle technologies; streamlined, uniform, and enforceable adminis-
trative procedures and requirements for permitting and taxation purposes; compat-
ible vehicle and infrastructure design; and equitable recovery of puolic costs.
Whether a given trailer length is safe depends mainly on inherent design prop-
erties, condition of maintenance, and the conditions under which it is used. Truck
safety is a function of many things, for example, the amount and speed of trafTic,
the performance characteristics of the vehicles, the drivers' ability to avoid unsafe
situations, and highway design and performance. The importance of the roads to be
traveled is illustrated by the fact that while virtually all States now allow 53-foot
trailers, some have adopted route limits for them. Many, perhaps a majority, also
specify the maximum allowable distance between the kingpin and the center of the
rear tandem axle (usually 38-41 feet). Route and kingpin restrictions serve to match
vehicle maneuvering capabilities with the physical and dimensional limitations of
a given route. Many of our city streets and intersections cannot accommodate such
extraordinarily long semitrailers. This does not, in itself, mean that trailers more
than 53 feet long cannot be operated satisfactorily on many highways, but we must
be mindful of the constraints that exist in many urban areas.
COMPREHENSIVE SIZE AND WEIGHT OTUDY
In recent years, truck size and weight issues have come up in many different con-
texts. Previous studies typically have focused on a limited set of truck size and
weight options â€” limited in both the specific truck size and weight options inves-
tigated and in the highway systems to which those options would apply. The most
recent study is the General Accounting OfTice's (GAO) August 1994 report, Longer
Combination Trucks: Potential Infrastructure Impacts, Productivity Benefits, and
Safety Concerns, which examined economic and safety issues related to longer com-
bination vehicle (LCV) use. The GAO study concludes that economic benefits of ex-
tending LCV operations appear to outweigh added infrastructure costs, but that
safety questions concerning LCVs are less easily answered. The report goes beyond
most other studies, however, in recommending that the Secretary of Transportation
be authorized to take several specific safety-related actions if LCV use is to be ex-
On June 14, I testified at a hearing on "Motor Carrier and Highway Safety Is-
sues" before the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation. At that
hearing I noted how fragmented our truck size and weight laws have become and
how complex the interrelationships are among, safety, various modes, infrastructure
investment requirements, and productivity. I committed the FHWA to conduct a
comprehensive study of truck size and weight issues, the first such comprehensive
study by the agency since 1964. This study, which is now under way, will provide
the framework needed to rationalize our truck size and weight laws within the
broader context of important safety, intermodal, and economic productivity goals.
I would like to outline important elements of our truck size and weight study for
you today. A Multimodal Advisory Group within the Department has been estab-
lished to review study plans and products. This advisory group includes representa-
tives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad
Administration, the Office of Intermodalism, and the Office of Economics in the Of-
fice of the Secretary. Outreach with afiected parties will be an important part of
the study. For instance, the study plan will be published in the Federal Register
for comment, and input will be requested from the Federal Highway Administra-
tion's National Motor Carrier Advisory Committee. Other opportunities for public
input will be provided.
The FHWA plans to conduct the study in three phases. The first phase, which is
currently underway, will synthesize information from previous studies and on-going
research concerning various truck size and weight issues including:
â€¢ Current State truck size and weight regulations;
â€¢ Safety, including operating restrictions (e.g., lower speed limits, etc.);
â€¢ Vehicle handling and performance characteristics;
â€¢ Pavement and bridge impacts;
â€¢ Regional economic and industry impacts;
â€¢ Impacts on carrier and shipper productivity;
â€¢ Impacts on modal competition; and
â€¢ Environmental and global climate considerations.
An interim report summarizing results of this synthesis will be prepared and
should be available in early 1995. The FHWA stall is now using all possible re-
sources to accomplish the significant task of synthesizing the extensive literature in
this area as well as tapping research that is currently under way in allied areas.
The second phase will use these findings to make a preliminary evaluation of the
policy options that we have identified from previous major studies of truck size and
weight policy options as well as recent proposals. The focus will be on updating
these studies and evaluating their findings based on consistent key assumptions
such as baseline forecasts of travel. We will also look at alternatives to moving
goods by truck.
We consider a third phase to be necessary to extend that impact analysis to the
demand for freight transportation that is expected to be placed on the system in the
short and long runs. For example, the restructuring that is going on in our global
economy has significant implications for freight transport. Commodity movements
have changed in terms of their location, mode, and sensitivity to characteristics such
as reliability of delivery times. The freight fiow data which we have available today
are old, vintage 1977, and thus do not capture today's use or tomorrow's trend. Be-
ginning in 1996, various system data and network modeling capabilities will become
available so that we can address the full implications of various options in the con-
text of modern freight demand. We expect that the products of that analysis will
be available at the end of 1996.
The FHWA's departmental partner, the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminis-
tration (NHTSA) agrees with the GAO that the safety of LCVs could be improved
by driver training and by restricting the routes on which LCVs are permitted to
travel. NHTSA suggests that another area of concern, namely improved engineering
and design to enhance vehicle safety characteristics, should be added to this list.
Over the past 15 years, NHTSA has conducted extensive research, testing, and
analysis on the braking, handling, and stability of heavy vehicles, including LCVs.
This worii has led the agency to conclude that a number of technologies and design
approaches can significantly enhance the safe performance of heavy vehicles.
For example, the braking performance of LCVs will be significantly improved
when these vehicles are equipped with antilock brake systems (ABS). In response
to Section 4012 of ISTEA, NHTSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM),
in September 1993, proposing that trucks, tractors, trailers and buses be equipped
with antilock brake system to reduce deaths and injuries caused by jack -knifing and
other losses of directional stability and control during braking. NHTSA earlier is-
sued another NPRM, in February 1993, proposing high-speed stopping requirements
for heavy vehicles. NHTSA has completed its review of extensive comments on both
proposals and is now in the last stage of preparing the final rules.
Improved braking systems that include antilock systems will enable LCVs and
other combination trucks to be optimally braked without losing directional stability
or control due to wheel lockup. The safety risk of wheel lockup on an LCV is more
critical due to the greater number of axles, brakes, and articulation points it has
in comparison to other trucks.
In addition, NHTSA has developed two analyses and testing methods for evaluat-
ing the static roll stability and obstacle-avoidance maneuvering capability of heavy
trucks. This research demonstrated that by judicious design choices, heavy vehicles
can be designed to be more roll-stable, and that connecting multiple-unit vehicles
with double drawbar dollies will enhance lateral stability and make them less sus-
ceptible to rollovers during evasive maneuvers.
NHTSA and FHWA also have jointly undertaken LCV studies, mandated by Sec-
tion 4007(d) of ISTEA, that include a series of LCV road tests. The objective of these
tests is to determine whether Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations should be
changed to respond to the operating characteristics of LCVs and the special de-
mands they may impose on their drivers.
NHTSA and FHWA are conducting two studies to meet these objectives. One is
examining the operating characteristics of LCVs with regard to selected tech-
nologies, such as antilock brakes and double drawbar dollies. The, second study is
an evaluation of how operating LCVs affect driver stress and fatigue. Extensive
progress has been made in both studies.
Once these varied and comprehensive studies are completed, we in the Depart-
ment will be able to address more fully the issues being discussed today. I wish to
assure you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, that we will keep you
informed of our progress on these important projects.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning. I am glad to
be able to discuss with you issues so important to the prosperity and well being of
our country. I will be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.
Senator ExoN. I just want to take a moment to say I appreciate
your fine statement, and I appreciate the work you are doing in
We are trying to get the facts and how these facts affect safety,
No. 1, and economics. No. 2. All of this has to be put into the mix
as we make a determination on what is right and what is wrong
in these very controversial areas.
I also wish to thank all of you, and especially Secretary Pena,
with whom we have worked in a very constructive manner ever
since he has been the Secretary of Transportation. The testimony
that you have given this morning gives me new confidence in the
thorough job you and others under the direction of the Secretary
do in seeking to give us information and your best judgment on
what that information means to safety and the transportation in-
dustry as a whole.
Thank you for your comments, and I will have a few questions
Mr. Kenneth Mead, we are very pleased to recognize you at this
time. Thank you for coming here, and we are glad to have you be-
fore the committee once again.
STATEMENT OF KENNETH M. MEAD, DIRECTOR, TRANSPOR-
TATION ISSUES, RESOURCES, COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT DIVISION, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE;
ACCOMPANIED BY KENNETH LIBBEY
Mr. Mead. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Slater, I would like to publicly send GAO's appreciation for
the work the Department did in helping GAO conduct the series of