SPECIAL REPORT: Bills place chassis responsibility on owners - not drivers

| 11/6/2003

Bills introduced recently in the U.S. House and Senate place the responsibility of chassis inspection and repair on equipment owners and not truck drivers, as has been the practice.

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-CO, introduced SB1776 Oct. 23. The bill would require owners of chassis interchanged with truckers at ports and rail terminals to be held responsible for maintaining them to federal safety requirements.

Campbell holds a commercial driver's license. He described his bill as the companion bill to HR2863, introduced by Rep. Henry Brown, R-SC. Campbell’s bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“Every day, literally hundreds of unsafe intermodal chassis carrying containers leave U.S. ports and travel on our public roads and highways, endangering not only the drivers of these vehicles but also the general public, which shares the road with them …

“This legislation places responsibility for equipment safety and compliance with federal and state regulations squarely where it belongs -- with those who own or control the equipment,” Campbell said.

Under current law, the brunt of responsibility for equipment safety and compliance is placed on port drivers. The trucking companies and commercial drivers that service the ports do not own chassis, but are obligated by terminal operators to use the chassis provided to transport intermodal containers to and from the ports.

“This bill would require equipment controllers to inspect and repair intermodal equipment to meet all safety regulations prior to offering it for interchange, and to certify and document that such inspections have been performed,” Campbell said. “In addition, it gives the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the authority to enter a port facility to review the inspection process and assure compliance.”

This bill also requires that citations issued for violations related to the defective condition of an intermodal chassis that is not owned by that motor carrier or driver will not affect the motor carrier's overall safety rating or the motor carrier's driving record.

Rep. Brown’s bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Highways Transit and Pipelines.

-- by Dick Larsen, senior editor