Chairman Stevens’ remarks at Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee Hearing on Highway, Motor Carrier, and Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety, and Transportation of Household Goods
April 5, 2005
Mr. Chairman, I do apologize for coming in late and being called to a leadership meeting. But, I do hope we’ll pursue some concepts of incentives to the states to increase their safety precautions and the requirements for safety. My State is one that doesn’t have a primary state seatbelt law, safety belt law, which I regret. Those of us who are pilots just automatically get in anything and lock up, you know, it becomes second nature. I’m saddened to see that this is the case. I would urge us to consider giving advantages to those states that have records of compliance in terms of safety features – both safety belts and guide rails and let them have more discretion in how they use their funds, but at the same time have some basic mandates for use of funds where there is no apparent attempt to adopt some of the approaches that have in fact reduced injuries and deaths on the highway. I want to particularly be able talk to you and members of the Committee about the increasing problem that Mr. Mead has mentioned in terms of motorcycles. They are wonderful vehicles for enjoyment and seeing the outdoors, but the increased accident rate bothers me considerably and I think we have to find some way stimulate greater safety education for those who use motorcycles. I thank you very much for the hearing.
Daniel K. InouyeSenator
Good morning. I want to welcome our witnesses and thank Chairman Lott for focusing our attention on the reauthorization of the highway programs under this Committee's jurisdiction.
We have a lot of work ahead of us and we need to work together as we craft our portion of the highway bill, and work to reduce accidents and improve safety.
Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan version of the highway bill, SAFETEA, but no bill was enacted because of disagreements over overall funding levels. We are using the Senate bill as our starting point and will improve upon it where possible.
I wish to note that while traffic fatalities declined dramatically during the 1980's and early 1990's due to states enacting and enforcing tougher seat belt and drunk driving laws, we still had approximately 42,000 people killed on our highways in 2003. Further, the trend line for reducing traffic fatalities has flattened during the past several years, which means new safety strategies must be employed. This year's highway bill presents an opportunity to adjust our safety programs for greater impact.
As we prepare for the upcoming debate, it would be helpful to hear from the witnesses about a number of key issues, including:
What is the appropriate level of funding for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP), border safety enforcement, and new entrant safety?
How can we improve the process for issuing Commercial Drivers Licenses and create a better medical review program for commercial drivers?
What are the appropriate hours of service for truck drivers?
What action should we take to encourage increased use of seat belts, and reduce alcohol-related fatalities?
How can we reduce hazardous materials incidences and accidents?
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about these important issues.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Annette M. SandbergAdministratorFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
STATEMENT OF ANNETTE SANDBERG, ADMINISTRATOR FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AND MERCHANT MARINE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION UNITED STATES SENATE April 5, 2005Chairman Lott, Senator Inouye, and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for inviting me today to discuss the successes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has had in enhancing safety on our nation’s highways, particularly as they relate to the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and their operators. I last appeared before this committee in June 2003, just one month after my confirmation hearing. Nearly two years later, I am pleased to report that CMV safety has greatly improved during my tenure as Administrator. FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION OVERVIEW As Secretary Mineta has said many times, safety is the centerpiece of the Administration’s Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA). FMCSA is committed to that goal. Our agency was conceived out of the need for stronger CMV safety – it is our mandate. More than that, our agency consists of a group of dedicated professionals to whom safety is the highest priority. Toward that goal, FMCSA is working to reduce the unnecessary loss of life on our nation’s highways. FMCSA is committed to achieving the Department’s highway safety goal of reducing the fatality rate in all motor vehicle crashes by 41 percent from 1998 to 2008. Our part of that goal is to reduce commercial vehicle crash fatalities to 1.65 fatalities per 100 million miles of truck travel. Achieving our safety goal will be challenging, as commercial vehicle miles traveled are increasing at a rate faster than that of passenger cars. I am pleased to report that the FY 2003 CMV fatality rate of 2.3 is the lowest recorded since the Department initiated tracking in 1975. Safety improvements like these cannot be accomplished without sound programs and adequate enforcement across all levels of government. Enforcement is the cornerstone of motor carrier safety. In FY 2004, Federal and State safety enforcement operations that ensured compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations included the following: more than 25,000 new entrant safety audits; over 11,000 safety compliance reviews; and nearly 3 million roadside inspections. As a result, FMCSA initiated more than 5,000 enforcement cases. In 2003, an Office of Management and Budget assessment found that FMCSA has achieved reductions in the large truck fatality rate in each of the past five years and is on track to achieve its ambitious long-term safety goals. The Administration’s SAFETEA proposal, transmitted to Congress in 2003 and updated in adjustments this February, proposes important advances to our motor carrier safety program. I am pleased that items we believe critical for safety continue to be addressed by your Committee. They include: the penalty for denial of access to records, increased penalties for out-of-service violations, and safety fitness. We have also been working with Committee staff on some of our SAFETEA adjustments, specifically patterns of safety violations by motor carrier management and intrastate operations of interstate motor carriers, and we appreciate their willingness to work with us to increase safety in these areas. However, in order for FMCSA to fully achieve its safety mission, we ask the Committee to address the following issues: the codification of the existing hours of service rule for interstate CMV drivers, Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) improvements, the safety and security of the Southern Border, increasing penalties for unscrupulous household goods brokers, establishment of the medical review board and medical registry, mandatory fuel surcharge, and hazardous materials transportation safety. OURS OF SERVICE With regard to hours of service, I would like to report on the progress made since the most recent extension of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), on September 30, 2004. In the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004, Part V, Congress provided that the current hours-of-service rule will stay in effect until the Agency publishes a final rule addressing the factors in the July 2004 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, or September 30, 2005, whichever is earlier. I established a dedicated hours-of-service task force that reports directly to me. This task force consists of some of the most highly respected professionals in our agency. Its work has already proved exceptional – since its creation the task force has issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the new rule and is on track to meet the September deadline. However, the new rule, like the old rule, will not please everyone. I am concerned that the revised rule will open the Agency and the Department to the same kinds of legal challenges we have experienced already. These challenges keep the industry and others in a constant state of uncertainty. For this reason, the Administration seeks the inclusion of language in the Senate reauthorization bill that will make the 2003 rule permanent and allow FMCSA the opportunity to revise the rule, if necessary. Another issue of concern is the number of proposed exemptions to the hours of service rule. The old rule on hours of service contained statutory exemptions for various industries. These exemptions have been retained in the new rule. New blanket statutory exemptions for various industries increase the likelihood that tired drivers will be on the roads endangering the driving public. Overall, these exemptions compromise safety. They create enforcement problems, hamper accurate recordkeeping, encourage other industries to seek exemptions, and dilute the objective of providing drivers a more regular schedule to coincide with circadian rhythms. As Administrator of the Agency, I am charged with fulfilling its mandate of improving the safety of these drivers and the traveling public with whom they interact. Exemptions to the hours of service rule without data and research to support the exemptions hamper the Agency’s ability to fulfill our safety mission. IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM Another important initiative is the Commercial Driver’s License improvement program. Critical to the safety and security of the United States, the CDL grant program is the latest in a series of efforts by our agency to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the CDL program. Since implementation of the CDL program in 1986, FMCSA has promulgated regulations addressing State compliance with the CDL requirements, initiated judicial outreach, expanded State CDL compliance review, and most recently developed a CDL anti-fraud program. In 2004, FMCSA conducted 16 compliance reviews of State CDL programs, strengthened oversight of annual State self-certification of CDL programs and allocated $22 million in grant funding for States to address compliance, fraud, and security issues. Also in 2004, FMCSA organized a working group of motor vehicle administrators and law enforcement staff to address anti-fraud initiatives. The group has made several recommendations to eventually be included in a model law enforcement program for preventing CDL fraud. This program, when fully implemented, will establish a framework for motor vehicle and law enforcement agencies to work collaboratively in addressing CDL fraud. FMCSA is also partnering with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to coordinate CDL fraud investigations by providing CDL-specific investigative expertise to State agencies, and where warranted, Federal prosecution for criminal violations. With FMCSA’s assistance, the OIG is preparing training materials for their field investigators to assist in CDL-related investigations. Finally, the CDL compliance review program now includes a specific anti-fraud component. The agency has included anti-fraud priorities as an eligible funding activity for CDL improvement grant funds. Not only has FMCSA elevated fraud issues with States during CDL compliance reviews and with CDL grant awards but also will continue to emphasize fraud awareness training to State law enforcement and motor vehicle personnel. HOUSEHOLD GOODS ENFORCEMENT The Administration has requested greater enforcement of violations by movers of household goods (HHG). I know that the Chairman and members of this Committee have noticed an increase in consumer complaints about household goods carriers. The Administration’s proposal establishes more visible enforcement through increased investigations and expanded outreach. Our efforts seek to increase consumer awareness and help citizens make better-informed decisions when moving across State lines. Additionally, we seek authority for State Attorneys General to enforce Federal household goods regulations against interstate carriers. We believe this authority will help reduce abusive practices and makes sure there is consistency in enforcement across the country by having one set of regulations rather than many state regulations. For FY 2005, FMCSA is conducting strike force activity in States where we have seen the highest level of complaints, with a goal of 300 investigations. These states are Florida, New York, New Jersey, and California. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, the Agency has conducted over 100 investigations, three times as many as in FY 2004, and is on target to meet its annual goal. FMCSA used the $1.3 million appropriated to hire Federal employees to investigate HHG complaints and to conduct concentrated strike force activities, bringing together investigators from throughout the country to operate in a specific area for a short period of time. Currently, the Agency has 10 full-time safety investigators devoted to HHG enforcement and we have trained an additional 37 investigators to support this effort. Our agency is committed to eradicating this threat to American consumers. MEDICAL REVIEW BOARD Another important aspect of our reauthorization proposal is the creation of a standing medical review board to provide the Agency with expert medical advice on driver qualification standards and guidelines, medical examiner education, and research, thereby enhancing our ability to adopt medically sound and up to date regulations. In the past, we have assembled expert medical specialists on an ad hoc basis to review the standards and guidelines for qualifying truck and bus drivers. Many of the standards in place now were adopted in the 1970s or earlier. A standing review board will greatly enhance the Agency’s ability to adopt regulations that reflect current medical advances. Establishment of a medical registry would respond to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which issued eight safety recommendations in September 2001, requiring that FMCSA establish comprehensive standards for qualifying medical providers and conducting medical qualification exams. Last Congress, S. 1072 established a medical review board based on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) model for pilot standards. Neither FMCSA nor FAA believes the FAA model to be an appropriate one for CMV drivers. The sheer number of drivers and differences in the age and health characteristics of the driver population make this model an untenable one for FMCSA. The FAA has 6,000 authorized aviation medical examiners to perform yearly exams on approximately 270,000 pilots. FMCSA estimates that approximately 300,000 medical examiners perform exams on approximately 6.4 million CMV drivers on a biennial basis. While I appreciate the Committee’s inclusion of the medical registry provision, I urge the Committee to rework the review board model and provide adequate funding to maximize our ability to set appropriate medical standards for CMV drivers. SAFETY AND SECURITY AT THE SOUTHERN BORDER The Administration is committed to implementing fully the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) land transportation provisions. In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Administration’s favor in a suit that would have required environmental analyses of the rules. The most recent Inspector General audit for NAFTA implementation, released in January 2005, stated: “FMCSA has sufficient staff, facilities, equipment and procedures in place to substantially meet the eight Section 350 provisions for Mexican long haul trucks.” In preparation for allowing Mexican carriers beyond the commercial zones and in response to the mandates of Section 350 of the FY 2002 DOT Appropriations Act, FMCSA has deployed 274 inspectors, auditors, and investigators along the border to process these carriers. FMCSA has provided funds to the four southern Border States to hire additional inspectors and construct inspection facilities. As of December 10, 2004, 693 Mexican carriers have applied for authority to operate beyond the commercial zones. Of the 693 applications, 314 are ready for the mandated safety audit. One of the requirements in Section 350 of the FY 2002 DOT Appropriations Act, which has been adopted in all subsequent DOT appropriations acts, makes the inspection procedures and decal of a non-governmental organization mandatory for Mexican CMVs. In one of the Administration’s SAFETEA Adjustments, we propose that the required inspection decal be issued or approved by the Secretary of Transportation. We feel that this is an important function for which the Federal Government should be responsible. HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION FMCSA has implemented a comprehensive Hazardous Materials (HM) Security Program to improve the secure transportation of hazardous materials on our highways and protect the country from the threat of terrorism. The program includes an enforcement/compliance component as well as an outreach component. A major element of the FMCSA HM Security Program involves FMCSA’s new HM Permit Program. Carriers of extremely high-hazard materials are required to obtain a permit from FMCSA. This permit is contingent upon the carrier’s developing and maintaining a satisfactory security program that meets the requirements of the HM Regulations and includes a communication component for permitted loads. FMCSA will validate the adequacy of the security plan for 1,200 carriers during FY 2006 using a Security Contact Review (SCR). The SCR includes an in-depth assessment of the adequacy of a carrier’s security plan and its implementation as well as security training, communication requirements, and other requirements of the HM permit program. MANDATORY FUEL SURCHARGE The Nation has benefited enormously from our economic deregulation of the transportation industry. In the last 25 years, the free market for motor carrier services in particular has made important contributions to the growth and efficiency of our economy and helped to sustain its remarkable ability to create new jobs. Although the price of diesel fuel has risen sharply in the past few years, the allocation of those costs among the buyers and sellers of transportation is best accomplished through the working of the marketplace, not by government prescription. The mandatory fuel surcharge for truckload transportation prescribed by section 4139 of H.R. 3 would insinuate government into commercial relationships in a way that is ill-advised and that would reverse a quarter-century of U.S. economic policy. For these reasons, the Administration strongly urges the members of this Committee, and other Senators, not to include language supporting a fuel surcharge in its reauthorization bill. REGULATORY BACKLOG Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to report that FMCSA’s progress has been steady and our future is bright. One aspect of our progress of which I am particularly proud is how we have addressed our Congressional regulatory and reporting requirements. When I began as Administrator, there was a tremendous regulatory backlog. During my tenure, I have reduced this backlog by over 40%. I have met with your staff to update them on our progress. I ask that no mandated rulemakings be added to the Committee’s bill. FMCSA needs to be able to set rulemaking priorities based on safety, not mandated timelines. CONCLUSION I wish to thank you for inviting me to discuss the achievements FMCSA has made toward reducing fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. This reauthorization represents the first opportunity for our five-year old agency to step forward, stand on its own, and chart our course. I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
The Honorable Kenneth MeadInspector GeneralU.S. Department of Transportation
The Honorable Jeffrey RungeAdministratorNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration
THE HONORABLE JEFFREY W. RUNGE, M.D. ADMINISTRATOR NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION Before the SUBCOMMITTEE ON SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AND MERCHANT MARINE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION UNITED STATES SENATE April 5, 2005Chairman Lott, Senator Inouye, Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Administration’s proposal to reauthorize our highway safety programs in the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003” or “SAFETEA.” My staff and I look forward to working with this Subcommittee and the rest of the Senate to shape the proposals that will reauthorize our programs and address the highway safety challenges facing the Nation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) mission is to save lives and prevent injuries. Motor vehicle crashes are responsible for 95 percent of all transportation-related deaths and 99 percent of all transportation-related injuries. They are the leading cause of death for Americans for every age from 3 through 33. Although we are seeing improvements in vehicle crash worthiness and crash avoidance technologies, the numbers of fatalities and injuries on our highways remain staggering. In 2003, the last year for which we have complete data, an estimated 42,643 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes. This number represents a slight decrease of 362 fatalities from 2002 (43,005), but we need to continue and accelerate that downward trend. The economic costs associated with these crashes seriously impact the Nation’s fiscal health. The annual cost to our economy of all motor vehicle crashes is $230.6 billion in Year 2000 dollars, or 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. This translates into an average of $820 for every person living in the United States. Included in this figure is $81 billion in lost productivity, $32.6 billion in medical expenses, and $59 billion in property damage. The average cost to care for a critically injured survivor is estimated at $1.1 million over a lifetime, a figure that does not begin to account for the physical and psychological suffering of the victims and their families. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2003 was at an all-time low of 1.48. Secretary Mineta has set a goal of reducing this rate even further, to no more than 1.0 fatality for every 100 million VMT by 2008. President Bush and Secretary Mineta have made reducing highway fatalities the number one priority for the Department of Transportation and for the reauthorization of NHTSA’s programs. As the statistics indicate, traffic safety constitutes a major public health problem. But unlike a number of the complex issues facing the Nation today, we have at least one highly effective and simple remedy to combat highway deaths and injuries. Wearing safety belts is the single most effective step individuals can take to save their lives. Buckling up is not a complex vaccine, doesn’t have unwanted side effects and doesn’t cost any money. It’s simple, it works and it’s lifesaving. Safety belt use cuts the risk of death in a severe crash in half. Most passenger vehicle occupants killed in motor vehicle crashes are unrestrained. If safety belt use were to increase from the 2004 national average of 80 percent to 90 percent—an achievable goal—nearly 2,700 lives would be saved each year. For every 1 percentage point increase in safety belt use—that is 2.8 million more people buckling up—we would save hundreds of lives, suffer significantly fewer injuries, and reduce economic costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. States recognize these lifesaving benefits, and have enacted safety belt laws. However, as of March 2005, only 21 States plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary laws, which allow police officers to stop and issue citations to motorists upon observation that they are not buckled up. Other safety belt laws, known as secondary laws, do not allow such citations unless a motorist is stopped for another offense. In 2004, belt use in States with primary safety belt laws averaged 84 percent, 11 points higher than in States with secondary laws—a statistically significant difference. If all States enacted primary safety belt laws, we would prevent 1,275 deaths and 17,000 serious injuries annually. Enacting a primary safety belt law is the single most effective action a State with a secondary law can take to decrease highway deaths and injuries. The Administration’s SAFETEA proposal builds on the tremendous successes of previous surface transportation legislation by taking some important next steps. I’d like to highlight one very important component of this proposal that creates a strong incentive for States to enact primary safety belt laws or achieve high safety belt use rates, while at the same time streamlining NHTSA’s grant programs to make them more performance-based. The Administration's SAFETEA proposal, transmitted to Congress in 2003 and adjusted this February, proposes a major consolidation of NHTSA highway safety grant programs that would provide authorizations over the 6-year period to fund the basic formula grant program to the States under Section 402, but add two important new elements—a Safety Belt Performance Grant and a General Performance Grant. The Safety Belt Performance Grant provides up to $100 million each year to reward States for passing primary safety belt laws or achieving 90 percent safety belt use rates in two consecutive years. Under our proposal, a State that has already enacted a primary safety belt use law for all passenger motor vehicles (effective by December 31, 2002) would receive a grant equal to 2.5 times the amount of its FY 2003 formula grant for highway safety. A State that enacts a new primary belt law or achieves 90 percent belt use for two consecutive years will receive a grant equal to five times the amount of its FY 2003 formula grant for highway safety. This significant incentive is intended to prompt State action needed to save lives. States achieve high levels of belt use through primary safety belt laws, public education using paid and earned media, and high visibility law enforcement programs, such as the Click it or Ticket campaign. A State that receives a Safety Belt Performance Grant for the enactment of a primary safety belt law can elect to use all of those funds for a wide range of highway safety programs, including infrastructure investments eligible under the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Highway Safety Improvement Program in accordance with the State’s Comprehensive Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Under another provision of the Safety Belt Performance Grant, a State can receive additional grants by improving its safety belt use rates. This incentive, alone, would provide up to $182 million over the 6-year authorization period. Any State that receives a grant for improved safety belt use rates is permitted to use up to 50 percent of those funds for activities eligible under the new Highway Safety Improvement Program. The six-year General Performance Grant component of our consolidated highway safety grant program not only eases the administrative burdens of the States but also rewards States with increased Federal funds for measurable improvements in their safety performance in the areas of overall motor vehicle fatalities, alcohol-related fatalities, and motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian crash fatalities. Any State that receives a General Performance Grant is permitted to use up to 50 percent of those funds for activities eligible under the new Highway Safety Improvement Program. These grants reflect a different approach to addressing the Nation’s substantial highway safety problems. While formulating the Department’s reauthorization proposal, the FHWA and NHTSA embraced the guiding principle that States should receive resources to address their own, unique transportation safety issues, should be strongly encouraged to increase their safety belt use rates—the single most effective means of decreasing deaths and injuries—and should be rewarded for performance with increased funds and greater flexibility to spend those funds on either infrastructure safety or behavioral safety programs. But with the flexibility comes the accountability. States will be held accountable for setting realistic and appropriate performance goals, devising corresponding plans, and ultimately improving performance and achieving the goals. These guiding principles of flexibility and accountability underlie all aspects of the Administration’s highway safety reauthorization proposal. In fact, our Nation’s governors speak with one voice on this issue – and they all want maximum flexibility to distribute highway safety funds where the need is the greatest. Mr. Chairman, the single most important safety measure Congress could pass this decade is SAFETEA's proposal to provide incentive grants for States to pass primary belt laws. As the Nation’s chief highway safety official, I urge you to pass a bill that gives States the strongest incentives possible to enact primary belt laws. No vehicle safety mandate, no elaborate rulemaking, no public relations campaign that NHTSA could undertake would have the life-saving impact of Congress providing meaningful incentives to the States to pass primary belt laws. I’d like to give you a brief overview of some of the other provisions of our SAFETEA proposal transmitted to Congress in 2003. SAFETEA would establish a new core highway safety infrastructure program, in place of the existing Surface Transportation Program safety set-aside. This new FHWA program, called the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), would more than double funding over comparable TEA-21 levels, providing more funds for safety projects over the 6-year authorization period. In addition to increased funding, States would be encouraged and assisted in their efforts to formulate comprehensive highway safety plans. Those States with such comprehensive plans could flex up to 50 percent of their HSIP funds for behavioral safety programs. SAFETEA also is designed to help the States deter impaired driving. Reducing the number of impaired drivers on our roadways is a complex task requiring interconnected strategies and programs. In 2003, an estimated 17,013 people died in alcohol-related crashes (40 percent of the total fatalities for the year), a 29-percent reduction from the 23,833 alcohol-related fatalities in 1988, and a decline of 3 percent over 2002. Our data show that 2003 was the first year since 1999 that the number of alcohol-related fatalities decreased. The proportion of traffic deaths of individuals with a blood-alcohol content above .08—the legal limit in every State—was highest in 2003 for 21-24 year olds, at 32 percent, followed by 25-34 year olds, at 27 percent. A component of our revised Section 402 program would focus significant resources on a small number of States with particularly severe impaired driving problems by creating a new $50-million-a-year impaired driving discretionary grant program. The grant program would include support for up to 10 States with an especially high number of alcohol-related fatalities and a high rate of alcohol-related fatalities relative to vehicle miles traveled and population. A team of outside experts would conduct detailed reviews of the impaired driving systems of these States to assist them in developing a strategic plan for improving programs and reducing impaired driving-related fatalities and injuries. Additional support would be provided for training, for technical assistance in the prosecution and adjudication of driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases, and to help licensing and criminal justice authorities close legal loopholes. NHTSA believes that this targeted State grant program and supporting activities, together with continued nationwide use of high-visibility enforcement and paid and earned media campaigns, would lead to a continuation of the downward trend in alcohol-related fatalities. Also, through the comprehensive safety planning process, all States could elect to use a significant amount of their FHWA Highway Safety Infrastructure funding, in addition to their consolidated highway safety program funds, to address impaired driving. SAFETEA’s highway safety title includes a key provision to authorize a comprehensive national motor vehicle crash causation survey to enable us to determine the factors responsible for the most frequent causes of crashes on the Nation’s roads. This comprehensive survey would be funded at $10 million a year out of the funds authorized for our highway safety research and development program. The last comprehensive update of crash causation data was generated in the 1970s. Congress has recognized the importance of this survey and so far has appropriated $14 million for this effort. Appropriations have been used to develop protocols and methodology, procure equipment, hire and train new researchers, establish data collection methodology and structure and begin field data collection. SAFETEA also would create a new $50-million-a-year incentive grant program that builds upon a TEA-21 program to encourage States to improve their traffic records data. Accurate State traffic safety data are critical to identifying local safety issues, applying focused safety countermeasures, and evaluating the effectiveness of countermeasures. Improvements are needed for police reports, driver licensing, vehicle registration, and citation/court data to provide essential information. Additionally, deficiencies in data negatively impact national databases including the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, General Estimates System, National Driver Register, Highway Safety Information System, and Commercial Driver License Information System. For the past 20 years, Federal support for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has been both scarce and uncoordinated. As a result, the capacity of this critical public service has seen little growth, and support for EMS has been spread among a number of agencies throughout the Federal government, including NHTSA. Except for NHTSA, most of the support offered by these agencies has focused only on specific system functions, rather than on overall system capacity, and has been inconsistent and ineffectively coordinated. SAFETEA would establish a new $10 million-a-year State formula grant program to support EMS systems development, including 9-1-1 nationwide, and would provide for a Federal Interagency Committee on EMS to strengthen intergovernmental coordination of EMS with NHTSA providing staff support. The States would administer the grant program through their State EMS offices and coordinate it with their highway safety offices. Enactment of this section would result in comprehensive support for EMS systems, and improved emergency response capacity nationwide. SAFETEA also would provide a total of over $500 million for NHTSA’s highway safety research and development program. This program supports State highway safety behavioral programs and activities by developing and demonstrating innovative safety countermeasures and by collecting and disseminating essential data on highway safety. The results of our Section 403 research provide the scientific basis for highway safety programs that States and local communities can tailor to their own needs, ensuring that precious tax dollars are spent only on programs that are effective. The States are encouraged to use these effective programs for their ongoing safety programs and activities. Highway safety behavioral research focuses on human factors that influence driver and pedestrian behavior and on environmental conditions that affect safety. This research addresses a wide range of safety problems through various initiatives, such as impaired driving programs, safety belt and child safety seat programs and related enforcement mobilizations, pedestrian, bicycle, and motorcycle safety initiatives, enforcement and justice services, speed management, aggressive driving countermeasures, emergency medical services, fatigue and inattention countermeasures, and data collection and analysis efforts. These efforts have produced a variety of scientifically sound data and results. Finally, SAFETEA would provide a total of over $23 million for the National Driver Register. This system facilitates the exchange of driver licensing information on problem drivers among the States and various Federal agencies to aid in making decisions concerning driver licensing, driver improvement, and driver employment and transportation safety. Overall, SAFETEA is a groundbreaking proposal that offers States more flexibility than they have ever had before in how they spend their Federal-aid safety dollars. It reduces State administrative burdens by consolidating multiple categorical grant programs into one. It would reward States for accomplishing easily measurable goals and encourage them to take the most effective steps to save lives. It is exactly the kind of proposal that is needed to more effectively address the tragic problem of highway fatalities. On the motor vehicle safety side of NHTSA's mission, we focus our efforts on actions offering the greatest potential for saving lives and preventing injury. In 2003, we published the first ever NHTSA multi-year vehicle safety rulemaking priorities and supporting research plan. It sets forth the agency's rulemaking goals for 2003 through 2006. We have transmitted to Congress the January 2005 update of the plan, which covers the years 2005 through 2009. In addition, we are committed to reviewing all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards systematically over a 7-year cycle. NHTSA is a data-driven and science-driven agency, and we decided that such a review is needed in light of changing technology, vehicle fleet composition, safety concerns and other issues that may require changes to a standard. Our regulatory reviews are in keeping with the goals of the Government Performance and Results Act, to ensure that our rulemaking actions produce measurable safety outcomes. Several decades of vehicle safety rulemaking have demonstrated that quality data and research produce regulations that are technically sound, practicable, objective, and repeatable. Our rulemaking priorities plan was crafted with these principles in mind. NHTSA’s priority rulemakings for the immediate future include enhanced side crash protection; improved rollover crash protection through advanced prevention technologies, reduced occupant ejection, and upgraded roof crush protection; reduction in light vehicle tire failures; and shorter stopping distances for heavy trucks. Our longer-term priorities include research and rulemaking decisions to address vehicle “aggressivity” toward other vehicles; improved visibility through enhanced mirrors and other technologies; reduction in crashes associated with driver distraction; improved heavy truck tires; ensuring the safety of hydrogen, fuel cell, and alternative-fueled vehicles; and advancing crash avoidance technologies, such as driver-assist systems. We have integrated our rulemaking priorities plan and our supporting research plan to ensure that research is available when needed to conduct rulemakings that advance safety. I would ask the Subcommittee not to include rulemaking mandates in your bill to reauthorize NHTSA's programs. Mandates take away NHTSA's ability to prioritize its work based on its most important safety priorities, to revise those priorities as circumstances change, and to have the time needed to ensure that our regulations are based on sound science. Mandates that dictate timelines and the regulatory approach impair our ability to provide the public with the best safety solutions. Mr. Chairman, the Secretary named the Administration's proposal "SAFETEA" for a very good reason. This Subcommittee literally has the power to save thousands of lives in the years to come at no cost to the consumer. I urge you to support the Administration's SAFETEA proposal, and especially to give the States the necessary incentives to pass primary belt laws. It is worth repeating that nothing Congress will do in this bill will have a greater and a more lasting impact on safety. Thank you for your consideration of my views. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Ms. Stacey GerardActing Assistant Administrator / Chief Safety OfficerPipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
STATEMENT OF STACEY L. GERARD ACTING ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR/CHIEF SAFETY OFFICER PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AND MERCHANT MARINE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION UNITED STATES SENATE April 5, 2005Mr. Chairman, I am Stacey L. Gerard, the Acting Assistant Administrator/Chief Safety Officer of PHMSA, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. With me is Robert McGuire, PHMSA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the Department’s ongoing efforts to improve the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials. Before I begin, I would like to note an important milestone. This is the first appearance of an official of the new Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration before your Committee. Our new organization reflects the Department’s longstanding commitment to the safety of our Nation’s pipeline infrastructure and our continuing emphasis on the safety and security of commercial shipments of hazardous materials by all modes of transport. The importance of this new organization is underscored by the fact that our regulatory authority for safety covers 28% of the ton freight moved annually in the United States. PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety is responsible for a comprehensive, nationwide program designed to protect the Nation from the risks to life, health, property, and the environment inherent in the commercial transportation of hazardous materials. Hazardous materials are essential to the economy of the United States and the well-being of its people. Hazardous materials fuel automobiles, and heat and cool homes and offices, and are used for farming and medical applications and in manufacturing, mining, and other industrial processes. More than 3 billion tons of regulated hazardous materials – including explosive, poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and radioactive materials – are transported in this country each year. There are over 800,000 daily shipments of hazardous materials moving by plane, train, truck, or vessel in quantities ranging from several ounces to many thousands of gallons. These shipments frequently move through densely populated or sensitive areas where the consequences of an incident could be loss of life or serious environmental damage. Our communities, the public, and workers engaged in hazardous materials commerce count on these shipments being safe and secure. Safety continues to be Secretary Mineta’s highest priority, and it is the first priority for the hazardous materials safety program. Overall, the safety record for the transportation of hazardous materials is excellent. Over the past ten years, 221 fatalities were caused by incidents involving hazardous materials in transportation, and half of those were due to a single event, the Valujet tragedy in 1996. While every casualty is one too many, in the context of 800,000 daily shipments, this is a remarkable record. Since 9/11, we have moved aggressively to recognize and address security issues associated with the commercial transportation of hazardous materials. In the wrong hands, hazardous materials could pose a significant security threat. Hazardous materials in transportation are frequently transported in substantial quantities and are potentially vulnerable to sabotage or misuse. Such materials are already mobile and are frequently transported in proximity to large population centers. Further, security of hazardous materials in the transportation environment poses unique challenges as compared to security at fixed facilities. Finally, hazardous materials in transportation often bear clear identifiers to ensure their safe and appropriate handling during transportation and to facilitate identification and effective emergency response in the event of an accident or release. Hazardous materials safety and security are two sides of the same coin. Congress legislated its intent that “hazmat safety [was] to include hazmat security” when it enacted the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Section 1711 of that act amended the Federal hazardous materials transportation law to authorize the Secretary of Transportation to “prescribe regulations for the safe transportation, including security, of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce” and to provide that the Hazardous Materials Regulations “shall govern safety aspects, including security, of the transportation of hazardous material the Secretary considers appropriate.” DOT shares responsibility for hazardous materials transportation security with the Department of Homeland Security. The two departments consult and coordinate concerning security-related hazardous materials transportation requirements to assure that they are consistent with the overall security policy goals and objectives established by DHS and that the regulated industry is not confronted with inconsistent security regulations promulgated by multiple agencies. PHMSA’s hazardous materials transportation safety and security program is focused on four principal areas. First, we have in place comprehensive regulations for the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials. Second, we help shippers and carriers understand the regulations and how to comply with them. Third, we identify those persons who refuse or neglect to comply with safety and security requirements and stop their illegal activities. Finally, we assist the Nation’s response community to plan for and respond to hazardous materials transportation emergencies. Throughout the remainder of my testimony, I will highlight actions we have taken in all of these areas to enhance hazardous materials transportation safety and security. Regulations Development The Hazardous Materials Regulations – or HMR – are designed to achieve three goals: (1) To ensure that hazardous materials are packaged and handled safely during transportation; (2) To provide effective communication to transportation workers and emergency responders of the hazards of the materials being transported; and (3) To minimize the consequences of an incident should one occur. The hazardous material regulatory system is a risk management system that is prevention-oriented and focused on identifying a safety or security hazard and reducing the probability and quantity of a hazardous material release. We collect and analyze data on hazardous materials – incidents, regulatory actions, and enforcement activity – to determine the safety and security risks associated with the transportation of hazardous materials and the best ways to mitigate those risks. Under the HMR, hazardous materials are categorized by analysis and experience into hazard classes and packing groups based upon the risks they present during transportation. The HMR specify appropriate packaging and handling requirements for hazardous materials, and require a shipper to communicate the material's hazards through use of shipping papers, package marking and labeling, and vehicle placarding. The HMR also require shippers to provide emergency response information applicable to the specific hazard or hazards of the material being transported. Finally, the HMR mandate training requirements for persons who prepare hazardous materials for shipment or who transport hazardous materials in commerce. The HMR also include operational requirements applicable to each mode of transportation. In 2003, we published a final rule to require shippers and carriers of certain highly hazardous materials to develop and implement security plans. The security plan must include an assessment of possible transportation security risks and appropriate measures to address the assessed risks. At a minimum, the security plan must address personnel security, unauthorized access, and en route security. For personnel security, the plan must include measures to confirm information provided by job applicants for positions that involve access to and handling of the hazardous materials covered by the plan. For unauthorized access, the plan must include measures to address the risk that unauthorized persons may gain access to materials or transport conveyances being prepared for transportation. For en route security, the plan must include measures to address security risks during transportation, including shipments stored temporarily en route to their destinations. The final rule also included new security awareness training requirements for all hazardous materials employees and in-depth security training requirements for employees of persons required to develop and implement security plans. We continue to seek ways to assure the security of hazardous materials shipments. For example, we are working with DHS to examine ways to enhance the security of rail shipments of materials that are classified as Toxic by Inhalation (TIH). Under the HMR, TIH materials are gases or liquids that are known or presumed on the basis of tests to be toxic to humans and to pose a hazard to health in the event of a release during transportation. TIH materials play a vital role in our society, including purifying water supplies, fertilizing crops, providing fundamental components in manufacturing, and fueling the space shuttle. TIH materials pose special risks during transportation because their uncontrolled release can endanger significant numbers of people. Because of the importance of ensuring their safe and secure transportation, TIH materials are among the most stringently regulated hazardous materials. DHS and DOT are examining the feasibility of specific security enhancements, including potential costs and benefits. Security measures being considered include improvements to security plans, modification of methods used to identify shipments, enhanced requirements for temporary storage, strengthened tank car integrity, and implementation of tracking and communication systems. In addition to a new focus on security issues, PHMSA’s hazardous materials regulatory program has recently finalized regulations in a number of important areas. For example, in December 2004, we amended the HMR to prohibit the transportation of primary lithium batteries and cells as cargo on board passenger aircraft. Primary lithium batteries and cells pose an unacceptable fire risk for passenger aircraft. Further, we amended the incident reporting requirements in the HMR to improve the usefulness of data collected for risk analysis and management by government and industry. The new incident reporting regulations include a requirement for carriers to report undeclared shipments when they are discovered. International Standards Harmonization The continually increasing amount of hazardous materials transported in international commerce warrants the harmonization of domestic and international transportation requirements to the greatest extent possible. Harmonization serves to facilitate international transportation while helping to assure the protection of people, property, and the environment. The HMR provide that both domestic and international shipments of hazardous materials may be offered for transportation and transported under provisions of international standards applicable to air or vessel transportation of hazardous materials or the Canadian hazardous materials standards. In this way, carriers are able to train their hazmat employees in a single set of requirements for the classification, packaging, communication of hazards, handling, stowage, and the like, thereby minimizing the possibility of improperly transporting a shipment of hazardous materials because of differences in national regulations. Basic requirements of the HMR and these international standards are based on the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Indeed, most national and regional regulations, such as the European road and rail regulations, are based on the UN Recommendations, as are the regulations of some of our largest trading partners, including Mexico, Canada, and Japan. DOT represents the United States at meetings of international standards-setting organizations concerned with the safe transportation of hazardous materials with the goal of promoting a uniform, global approach to the safe transportation of hazardous materials. Our participation is essential to ensure that U.S. interests are considered in the development of the standards issued by these organizations. We recently completed a rulemaking to harmonize the HMR with international standards applicable to the transportation of hazardous materials by air and vessel and to the transportation of radioactive materials. We are currently engaged in rulemaking to harmonize HMR cylinder requirements and requirements applicable to the transportation of infectious substances with international requirements. Outreach and Training Developing rigorous safety regulations that protect the public and workers engaged in hazardous materials commerce is critical to safe transportation. But regulations cannot be effective if shippers and carriers do not understand them. Therefore, we invest significant resources to help shippers and carriers know the regulatory requirements and how to comply with them. Our comprehensive hazardous materials website and Hazardous Materials Information System allow easy access to vital hazardous materials data and information by industry, the public, DOT employees, hazardous materials workers, and Federal and state agencies. We also operate a toll-free hotline service every day from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm; the hotline answers over 130 calls per day. We hold training workshops, and we develop and provide industry and the public with many publications and training modules. Since 9/11, PHMSA’s hazardous materials outreach and training program has devoted substantial time and effort to assisting shippers and carriers to comply with the new security plan requirements and to generally enhance hazardous materials transportation security. To assist hazardous materials shippers and transporters in evaluating security risks and implementing measures to reduce those risks, we developed a security template for the Risk Management Self-Evaluation Framework or RMSEF. RMSEF is a tool we developed through a public process to assist regulators, shippers, carriers, and emergency response personnel to examine their operations and consider how they assess and manage risk. The security template illustrates how risk management methodology can be applied to security issues. We also developed a Hazardous Materials Transportation Security Awareness Training Module directed at law enforcement, industry, and the hazmat community. The training module is computer-based, posted on our website and is available free of charge on CD-ROM. To date we have distributed over 68,000 copies of the training module. In addition, we have developed security information, including a sample security plan, to assist farmers to comply with security plan requirements. Finally, PHMSA’s outreach staff has conducted numerous training sessions to assist the regulated community to understand and comply with hazardous materials transportation security requirements. Enforcement Although training and education are valuable tools for enhancing compliance, there will always be people who, through ignorance, negligence or as a result of knowing or intentional actions, do not comply with the hazardous materials transportation safety regulations. Compliance enforcement efforts are thus key to PHMSA’s efforts to reduce incidents that result from unsafe operations by companies or individuals who ship or transport hazardous materials or who manufacture or test hazardous materials containers and packagings. PHMSA enforcement specialists at our headquarters and five regional offices conduct 1,900 inspections annually of hazardous materials shippers, freight forwarders, container manufacturers and packaging requalifiers. Since the implementation of new security requirements in the HMR, our inspectors have conducted nearly 700 inspections in which the company was required to have a security plan. To date, 57 percent of the companies are in full compliance. We are aggressively enforcing against those who are not. Our sister DOT operating administrations – the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration – together with the United States Coast Guard, also conduct modal inspections of shippers and carriers. To further leverage our resources, we conduct joint inspections with other Federal agencies and States. Emergency Response Despite best efforts, accidents will occur. We have a responsibility to reduce the consequences of transportation accidents involving hazardous materials. Thus, we play a major role in assisting the emergency response community to plan for and respond to hazardous materials transportation incidents. Every four years, PHSMA and our partners in Canada and Mexico publish an updated version of the Emergency Response Guidebook. We developed the Guidebook for use by “first responders” – those public safety personnel first dispatched to the scene of a hazardous materials transportation incident, such as fire fighters, police, and emergency services personnel. The Guidebook provides first responders with a guide for initial actions to be taken in those critical first minutes after an incident to protect the public and to mitigate potential consequences. The Guidebook has been widely hailed as the single most valuable reference for initial response to hazardous materials emergencies. We work with our Canadian and Mexican partners and with the emergency response community and hazardous materials industry to assure its continuing accuracy and utility. To date, we have published and distributed over 2.1 million copies of the 2004 edition of the Guidebook for first responders and others responsible for handling hazardous materials transportation emergencies in the U.S. The Guidebook is also globally recognized and in addition to the English, French and Spanish editions produced by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, it has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Thai and Turkish. We also operate a planning and training grants program to assist local responders at hazardous materials incidents. The possible consequences of a serious incident, even if unlikely, require that all communities develop response plans and train emergency services, fire and police personnel to assure an effective response. The importance of planning and training cannot be overemphasized. To a great extent, we are a nation of small towns and rural communities served by largely volunteer fire departments. In many instances, communities’ response resources already are overextended in their efforts to meet routine emergency response needs. Our Emergency Preparedness Grants program provides assistance to States, territories, and Indian tribes, and, through them, to local communities. Planning grants are made for developing, improving, and implementing emergency plans. Training grants provide for training public sector employees to respond to accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials. Planning and training grants are funded through registration fees paid by the hazardous materials industry. Since the program’s inception, grantees have developed or updated an average of 3,759 plans per year with HMEP planning grant funds. Grant program funds have been used to train over 1.7 million first responders and to compile over 43,000 local hazardous materials response plans. Hazardous Materials Program Reauthorization You invited me here today specifically to discuss reauthorization of the hazardous materials transportation safety program. We hope that the Committee’s proposal will include the proposals submitted in prior years by the Administration, as did S. 1072 in the 108th Congress. For example, we urge you to consider reallocating responsibilities for sanitary food transportation among the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Transportation to ensure that each aspect of the food transportation safety mission is made the responsibility of the most qualified agency. Similarly, to address the problem of undeclared hazardous materials shipments in the mail, we support measures to provide authority for the United States Postal Service to collect civil penalties and recover costs and damages for violations of its hazardous materials regulations. In addition, we would support revisions to the terms under which exemptions from the HMR may be granted. The exemptions program permits shippers and carriers to take advantage of new technologies and improved business methods by applying for permission to deviate from existing regulatory requirements. Applicants for exemptions must demonstrate that the new technology or improved way of doing business maintains a safety level equivalent to current regulatory requirements. The exemptions program provides an opportunity for the testing and evaluation of technological improvements in a real-world transportation environment. Exemptions that result in demonstrated safety and efficiency benefits are frequently converted into regulations of general applicability. We suggest a provision to change the term “exemption” to “special permit;” we believe that this change appropriately conveys that hazardous materials transportation conducted under what are now termed exemptions is required to be conducted in accordance with the terms and conditions established by PHMSA. In addition, revising the effective period for which a renewal of a special permit may be issued from two years to four years will eliminate a great deal of unnecessary industry and government processing time and will enable PHMSA staff to focus attention on significant special permit issues rather than routine renewals. We hope you will also consider measures to enhance our ability to enforce the hazardous materials regulations and to take swift action to identify hidden shipments and remove unsafe shipments from transportation. Hidden hazardous materials pose a significant threat to transportation workers, emergency responders, and the general public. Moreover, it is likely that terrorists who seek to use hazardous materials to harm Americans will move those materials as hidden shipments. Expanding our inspection authority to permit an enforcement officer to open and examine packages suspected to contain a hazardous material will help us to address the pervasive problem of undeclared hazardous materials shipments in transportation. Authorization for enforcement officials to remove packages from transportation if the package poses an imminent safety hazard or to issue emergency orders to stop unsafe practices that present an immediate threat will materially enhance our ability to prevent unsafe movements of hazardous materials and possible accidents resulting from such unsafe movements. And increasing the maximum civil penalty from $27,500 to $100,000 for each violation will provide us with the flexibility to assess appropriately high civil penalties in cases involving significant non-compliance with the regulations and especially those resulting in death, serious injury, or significant property or environmental damage. We do not support proposals to revise the registration fee program that funds the Emergency Preparedness Grants program. Specifically, we are concerned that a cap on the maximum annual registration fee, when coupled with the significant increase to the grant program being considered by both the Senate and the House, may require us to modify our current two-level fee structure and impose substantial registration fee increases on small entities. We are also concerned that reductions in the authorization levels for elements of the grant program may limit our ability to administer that program effectively. Finally, we request that you consider our proposal to reduce the area of overlap between DOT’s regulation of hazardous materials transportation and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) regulation of worker protection. The Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990 gave OSHA duplicative regulatory authority over hazardous materials training, handling criteria, registration, and motor carrier safety. In consultation with OHSA, we propose to correct the extent of shared DOT/OSHA jurisdiction by eliminating dual jurisdiction over handling criteria, registration, and motor carrier safety. DOT and OSHA would retain their respective jurisdiction over employee training, and OSHA would retain its jurisdiction over the occupational safety or health protection of employees responding to a release of hazardous materials. Conclusion We look forward to working with the Members of this committee and with Congress to enhance the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials. At the same time, we will continue to evaluate and implement additional safety and security measures, and we will continue to work with the hazardous material transportation community and our Federal, State, and local partners to maximize the contribution that hazardous materials make to our economy while minimizing their safety and security risks. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear today and respond to your questions and concerns.