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The Information Super Highway Meets the REAL Highway

Truckers and bus drivers get online to save time and lives on America’s roads in one of the government’s most impressive and effective uses of the internet. One new Department of Transportation site reduced the truck and bus registration process from 4 weeks to 20 minutes. And it saves lives by keeping unsafe vehicles and untrained drivers off the road.

by Hans Petersen

It’s a federal agency that most Americans outside the transportation industry had not heard of until some rather remarkably efficient things started to happen. Established just in January of 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s job is to prevent fatalities and injuries involving trucks and buses. It’s a job with tragic urgency. There were 5,362 deaths in truck and bus accidents in 1999.

Two of the primary ways to prevent these accidents and deaths are to make sure that the people driving trucks and buses are qualified and trained and then to certify that the vehicles have been inspected and licensed and are determined to be safe enough to be rolling across America’s highways.

Do-It-Yourself Online Registration Eliminates Delays

Given the huge number of trucks and buses out there, it’s easy to see how this process could take a long time, how delays and backlogs could get stacked up.

Well, no longer. According to George Molaski, chief information officer at DOT, those delays have disappeared. In the first 12 weeks of the well-wired agency’s new Do-It-Yourself online site, the process of registering motor carriers has gone from four weeks to 20 minutes.

Trucking companies and independent drivers can sign on and apply for passenger carrier, commercial carrier and other licenses, pay fines and reinstate licenses.

As Molaski points out, "There are benefits for everybody in the way we are using this information technology. The motor carriers get fast, convenient, user-friendly service. It saves time and money as well as eliminates paper forms, checks and postage fees. And it’s secure and reliable.

"The taxpayers of America benefit because our Do-It-Yourself program reduces paperwork, staff hours and overhead, including data entry costs. Most of all, it dramatically cuts back on processing delays, allowing same day entry of credential requests. And it obviously improves our overall customer service. The motor carrier industry loves it."

The FMCSA performs a wide range of licensing and regulatory functions and currently does 60% of its business with customers online and expects that number will grow to 70% in 2001.

The running number for this year so far is 20,000 forms processed each month using the Internet compared with 10,281 forms processed manually. Since the Do-It-Yourself site signed on, an estimated 120,000 transactions have been processed on this new super efficient cyber highway.

"Our estimated cost savings from electronic processing is $2 million dollars annually," says Clyde J. Hart, Jr., acting deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), adding, "Every 100,000 forms processed electronically will reduce our workload by about 10 man-years, which we can now use on other important tasks."

Other Popular, Useful Sites

Two other supplemental destinations of the Do-It-Yourself innovation are the very popular (1.25 million page hits each month) License and Insurance Information page and the Truck and Bus Safety Information page. Here is where American citizens can check out a carrier’s safety record. Insurance companies can review their clients’ safety records and help them prepare safety improvement programs. The carriers and drivers can compare their own safety record to their industry peers.

"It’s a very powerful tool for encouraging safety today and into the 21st century," Molaski points out. "In the past, the major users of this Analysis and Information data had to rely on a variety of automated and manual data sources and on-site visits for this information. Now it’s immediately accessible and responsive to the public we serve."

E-Screening: Electronic Inspections

And if you’ve noticed that some big trucks just keep on trucking when those familiar freeway weigh stations are open, look. They are actually being inspected, at freeway speeds, electronically, as they drive past the inspection station.

The safe carriers are being inspected by E-Screening technology. This not only increases the productivity of safe and legal carriers, but also allows FMCSA to focus on high-risk carriers.

"The motor carrier industry is among the most technologically savvy in America and wanted government to be equally modern, " Molaski says. "These web sites and electronic services are saving business and government time and money and providing the best and latest information to the industry and the public."

About the Author

Hans Petersen is a writer/editor at the Health Care Financing Administration in Washington D.C. Currently writing for AccessAmerica E-Gov E-Zine, he can be reached at

November 2000



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