Over $77 million in grants will be funneled into states and their training facilities in order to improve commercial vehicle safety.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced in late September that the purpose behind these grants is to perpetuate the organization’s commitment to reducing accidents and increasing overall road safety–and working with local partners to do so.
“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,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
These grant funds are divided into three classes:
1) High Priority: $43.3 million toward improving commercial motor vehicle safety and advancing states’ safety technology capabilities
2) Commercial Driver License Program Implementation: $42 million toward states’ improvement of the national commercial driver license program
3) Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training: $2 million for education groups working to train veterans for commercial bus and truck driving jobs
“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,” explained FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez.
High Priority Program funds–which are comprised of commercial vehicle safety effort and Innovative Technology Deployment grants–are being distributed to universities, police divisions, and state transportation departments.
One recipient, South Dakota’s Department of Transportation, was awarded $1.1 million from the High Priority grant for its tire and thermal brake inspection systems and for its Department of Revenue’s International Registration Plan and International Fuel Tax Agreement information system upgrades.
“The funding made available by U.S. Department of Transportation will allow us to continue our commitment to motorists and the trucking industry to provide a safe and efficient state transportation system,” said deputy secretary of South Dakota transportation, Joel Jundt. “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.”
For the Commercial Driver License Program Implementation grant recipients, funds will be applied in order to help states comply with federal licensing standards and program rules. Funds will also give a boost national groups who work with states in their compliance efforts.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles have both received over $5 million from this grant.
Additionally, The Delaware Department of Transportation was granted $1.8 million from both the High Priority and Commercial Driver License programs, to support its tire abnormality detection system as well as its “trucker portal,” which will act as a repository for Delaware’s commercial motor vehicle systems information.
Lastly, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training grant is given to 16 different community colleges, vocational schools, and truck driver training schools that specifically provide commercial driving training.
On top of these new grants, the FMCSA is working toward implementing new programs that would potentially encourage more drivers to join the industry–especially young people and veterans.
Joliet Junior College was given over $169,000 in support of its Commercial Driver’s License training program. The college’s dean of workforce education and training says the school serves an area southwest of Chicago with more than 35,000 veterans, and that the college is particularly military-friendly.
These efforts by the FMCSA come right around the time that the American Transportation Research Institute released its “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” list for 2019–which shows the concern of driver shortage at the top of the rankings for the third year in a row.
The American Trucking Associations says the trucking industry was 60,000 drivers short as of 2018. ATA President Chris Spear identifies veterans as a specific group that can help to offset this shortage.
However, several groups, such as the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, find that the driver shortage issue is a myth, backed by carriers not admitting to the bigger problems at hand: driver retention and recruitment, low wages, poor working conditions, and disappointing employee treatment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also published a study showing that the shortage in the long-haul trucking industry could be remedied with wages that finally meet trucker demands and that align with their working conditions.