Congress May Require Safety Technology in 2009 Highway Bill, FMCSA’s Hill Says

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the Oct. 29 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

ORLANDO, Fla. — John Hill, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, suggested the 2009 highway reauthorization package could include a mandate for fleets to install safety technology on their trucks, regardless of who wins the next presidential election.

“I think it definitely will be part of the next reauthorization discussion,” Hill told Transport Topics in an Oct. 22 interview here at American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition. I’m not sure whether the next administration will . . . want to say that it’s going to be required, but there may be pieces
. . . that will be talked about in the next reauthorization.”

“I’m sure that as we go through the process of compiling our hot topics for the next administration [technology mandates are] going to be one of them,” he said. “Because frankly, the safety potential, the safety gains, from applying these technologies is so significant.”

During the interview, Hill reiterated his support for the use of incentives to promote the adoption of safety technology by fleets.

“My experience has been, when you want to see widespread deployment of these kinds of technologies, it is very important to have some kind of financial incentive for companies,” he said. “And it works.”

Hill said the incentives are needed to get some fleets to adopt technologies such as collision avoidance and lane departure warning systems, but many fleets already have voluntarily moved toward using them.

“People who are thinking about safety or are committed to safety are already making those kinds of investments,” he said, “but people who are looking at the bottom line more than safety, we need to help incentivize that to help win them over.”

Earlier this month, legislation was introduced that would provide carriers a 50% tax credit on four types of technology (10-15, p. 82). Absent mandates and incentives, Hill said word-of-mouth would help expand the use of safety technology.

“The forward-thinking businesses in the motor carrier industry are figuring this out,” he said.

Hill noted that he recently spoke with a safety director from a major company who said the firm was looking at safety technology as a way to increase efficiency.

“These devices not only have safety benefits, but they have environmental benefits because of reduced fuel consumption, and that’s also an economic issue,” he said. “They save millions of dollars over time.”