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September 26, 2019 12:30 PM, EDT

FMCSA Issues $77 Million in Grants Supporting Truck Safety, Driver Training

FMCSA issues grants. A young driver trains. (Corey Gray)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced more than $77 million in grants to states and training institutions to improve commercial motor vehicle safety.

The grants, announced Sept. 25, stem from the agency’s commitment to working with all of its state and local partners to reduce crashes and improve safety on America’s roadways.

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez

Martinez

“These important grants demonstrate the agency’s commitment to providing local areas with the resources they need to make a difference for commercial motor vehicle safety,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said.

The agency is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Safety is the department’s top priority and these grants will further assist state and local officials in their efforts to prevent commercial motor vehicle crashes,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

The grants announced fall into three classes:

  • High Priority: $43.3 million to improve states’ commercial motor vehicle safety efforts, as well as advance technological capability within states
  • Commercial Driver License Program Implementation: $32 million to help states improve the national commercial driver license program
  • Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training: $2 million to various education institutions to help train veterans for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers

The High Priority program consists of both commercial motor vehicle grants for safety efforts and Innovative Technology Deployment grants to aid the advancement of intelligent transportation system applications for truck operations.

Recipients of the High Priority program included police divisions, universities and state departments of transportation.

Among them was South Dakota’s Department of Transportation, which was awarded $1.1 million. Spokeswoman Kristi Sandal said the grant will support inspection systems meant to check tires and thermal brakes, as well as upgrades to the Department of Revenue’s International Registration Plan and International Fuel Tax Agreement information systems.

“The funding made available by U.S. DOT will allow us to continue our commitment to motorists and the trucking industry to provide a safe and efficient state transportation system,” added Joel Jundt, deputy secretary of transportation for South Dakota. “The detection system to be installed will alert truckers to problems they may not be aware of and the upgrades to the registration system will make it easier for interstate truckers to register, report and pay fees.”

The grants for Commercial Driver License Program Implementation help states achieve compliance with federal rules regarding licensing standards and programs. Funds also are awarded to national groups who aid states in compliance efforts. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles each received more than $5 million.

The Delaware Department of Transportation received about $1.8 million through both the High Priority and Commercial Driver License Program Implementation grant programs. Delaware DOT spokesman Charles McLeod said the funding will support several safety initiatives, including a tire abnormality detection system and a “trucker portal” to serve as a centralized repository of the state’s commercial motor vehicle systems information.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training grant is divided among 16 educational institutions that provide commercial truck and bus driving training. Recipients include community colleges, vocational-technical schools and truck driver training schools. The grants are meant to help members of the military transition to the trucking industry.

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FMCSA has been exploring programs that would encourage drivers — especially young people and those with military backgrounds — to join the industry.

Joliet Junior College received more than $169,000 to support its CDL training program.

Amy Murphy, dean of applied arts, workforce education and training at the college, described the school as military friendly. She said the college, 50 miles southwest of Chicago, serves an area with more than 35,000 veterans.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear

Spear

“One of the greatest things about this program is that veterans can receive this training at no cost and the college provides assistance with job placement,” Murphy said. “This grant opportunity is one way to give back to the men and women who served to protect us.”

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear has identified veterans as a group of people who can offset the driver shortage. ATA indicated the industry was short 60,000 drivers as of last year.

FMCSA announced June 3 a pilot program that would allow those between the ages of 18 and 20 with the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver license to operate trucks in interstate commerce.