Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Mid-America Trucking Show
Friday, March 29, 2019
Thank you, Ray.
Welcome to my hometown! I really hope you enjoy your stay in Louisville. And please spend lots of money – the city will appreciate it!
This is such an exciting time for our country – and the U.S. trucking industry.
- In 2018, the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 2.9 percent;
- The economy has added more than 5.3 million jobs since the 2016 election;
- In February, the unemployment rate dropped to a historically-low 3.8 percent;
- And, the labor force participation rate is 63.2 percent – the highest in over 5 years.
These economic milestones are reflected by growth in trucking as well.
- Trucking moves 70 percent of domestic freight, connecting U.S. consumers to manufacturers, our ports, and the world.
And, this Administration is rebalancing our trade relationship with our neighbors.
- On October 1, 2018, the President signed the new U. S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which will replace NAFTA.
- It secures a stronger deal for American farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers.
By facilitating trade flows across borders, it will help grow the U.S. economy and the trucking industry.
So there has never been a more important time to invest in the future of trucking – which includes our country’s infrastructure.
Let me share my priorities at the Department:
First, safety is my number one priority. It is the foundation of everything the Department does. The second priority is rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s infrastructure to enable the growth of a vibrant economy, keep our country productive and competitive, and improve quality of life for everyone.
The third priority is preparing for the future, by engaging with new, emerging technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy without hampering innovation.
Infrastructure investment is so important – especially for the trucking industry.
- 1 out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is rated in poor condition
- And one third of America’s bridges are 50 years or older.
That’s why, in his February 5th, 2019 State of the Union address, the President again called upon Congress to deliver new infrastructure investment to build a modern transportation system. The Administration hopes that new infrastructure investment will be enacted on a bipartisan basis, and looks forward to seeing what Congress will suggest.
The Department is also listening closely to the priorities of truck drivers and industry stakeholders. Through close collaboration, the Department is helping implement innovative solutions to the biggest challenges you face. These innovations will help strengthen the trucking industry, increase safety and save lives.
At last year’s Show, you told the Department you wanted flexibility in Hours-of-Service regulations. And we listened.
After careful analysis, consultation and review, the Department published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on August 23, 2018 to address this issue. This Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking helped the Department gather more input and data from stakeholders. This was key to assessing if a change would ease unnecessary burdens on the industry while maintaining safety on our nation’s roadways.
The Advance Notice requested comments on:
- the short-haul Hours-of-Service limit;
- the Hours-of-Service exception for adverse driving conditions;
- the 30-minute rest break provision;
- the rule allowing drivers to split their required off-duty time in a sleeper berth;
- and, petitions filed by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and Trucker Nation on rest breaks and the 14-hour rule.
Thanks for your participation. The Department received more than 5,200 comments, which have been carefully noted and considered.
So I’m pleased to announce today that the Department is moving forward with the next step: a Notice of Proposed Rule Making regarding Hours-of-Service rules. This NPRM on Hours-of-Service was just sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
And while I can’t go through the specifics of this proposal, let me note that the Department understands the strong interest in increasing flexibility and is giving it serious consideration. Once the NPRM is published in the Federal Register, the Department looks forward to receiving your comments and feedback. So stay tuned.
Let me share a few thoughts on another key issue for the trucking community-- available truck parking. This is key to public safety, by helping ensure well-rested and safe drivers.
The National Coalition on Truck Parking has identified best practices and innovative solutions based on input from truck drivers, truck stop owners, law enforcement and state departments of transportation. These solutions identify funding for additional parking spaces, and the application of real-time technology. The Coalition will continue to host workshops on truck parking across the country this year to address this important safety issue.
The Department of Transportation also works with truck drivers and industry leaders to enhance driver safety and accident prevention. On August 1st, 2017, the Department launched the “Crash Preventability Demonstration Program.” The initial program will run for 24 months and ends July 30, 2019.
As you know, this program is a response to industry concerns that crashes caused by factors outside of a driver’s control are still shown on the driver’s record. Based on positive feedback from industry stakeholders, the Department will propose to make this demonstration program permanent. And, the Department will propose to add even more of these scenarios for prevention reviews.
The Department is also working to strengthen the industry by helping military truck drivers access opportunities in commercial truck driving as they transition to civilian life.
The Department of Defense trains nearly 15,000 heavy truck drivers each year. So to help the industry tap this pool of available workers, the Department launched the “Under-21 Military Driver Pilot Program.” This program will study the safety impact of allowing qualified current and former military personnel under 21 to operate commercial motor vehicles across state lines. And, it will help ensure that the men and women who have served our country can begin a long and rewarding career in the trucking industry.
Let me close by noting that the Department is your partner in helping to ensure a safe, robust future for truck drivers and the trucking industry. You are the backbone of our economy. Without you, our economy would come to a halt, and quality of life would suffer. So I look forward to continuing to work with you, to address the needs of the industry, to increase safety, and to ensure a bright future for America’s truckers.