Oct. 11 -- Following
a Senate hearing yesterday regarding the tightening of security in hazardous
material shipments by truck, transportation secretary Norman Mineta answered
with proposed legislation that would beef up the authority of DOT.
If passed, the legislation
would: Strengthen DOT inspectors' authority to inspect packages in transportation;
provide those inspectors with authority to stop seriously unsafe transportation;
increase the maximum civil penalty for hazardous materials violations from
$27,500 to $100,000; expand requirements for training those involved in the
transportation of hazardous materials;strengthen the enforcement authority
of DOT's state enforcement partners;provide the U.S. Postal Service with civil
penalty authority to enforce its regulations on mail shipments of hazardous
materials; address the current overlap of hazardous materials transportation
regulations between DOT and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration;
and allow participation by states in a coordinated program of hazardous material
carrier registrations andpermits.
"We are proposing
tough actions to address the serious problem of undeclared or hidden shipments
of hazardous materials," said Mineta. "We are also asking for more
authority to stop and inspect shipments,important to both security and safety."
At Senate committee hearing
earlier in the day, DOT officials testified on safety issues. After hearing
of some of the problems that have made trucking vulnerable, lawmakers asked
DOT officials why longstanding recommendations have not been implemented.
One suggestion was made that Congress should consider stripping the agency
of its powers unless swift action is taken.
DOT vowed to develop tougher security measures and regulations. Among the
federal regulations being considered include an English proficiency requirement
for all hazmat drivers, fingerprinting or other identification technology
to validate hazmat haulers and eliminating third-party assistance for obtaining
CDLs and endorsements.