WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate is considering changes in a law that now bars the Transportation Department from enforcing civil penalties against truckers who violate safety rules.

The measure passed the House by voice vote on Tuesday.

Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., chairman of the House ground transportation subcommittee, said fixes a ``serious unintended effect'' of language aimed at shifting safety operations away from the Federal Highway Administration.

The fiscal 2000 Transportation Department spending bill, signed by President Clinton on Saturday, included a provision that cut off funding for the Office of Motor Carriers, the office that oversees commercial vehicle safety, unless the office is transferred from the Federal Highway Administration.

On Saturday, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater moved OMC operations away from the Federal Highway Administration and into his office so its staff could continue its safety inspection work.

But federal law states that only the Federal Highway Administrator may assess civil penalties for safety violations, and until the law is changed such penalties may not be levied.

Mike Russell, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said his group supported both Tuesday's move to restore enforcement authority and the larger bill to restructure how the Transportation Department oversees safety matters.


The bill is H.R. 3036.