FMCSA chief nominee’s truck lobby past haunts
President Obama’s pick for head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is haunted by her most recent job as head of the Maryland truck lobby.
During her nomination before the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday, Anne Ferro was peppered by statements and questions from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the committee’s surface transportation and merchant marine infrastructure, safety and security subcommittee.
“Given Ms. Ferro’s ties to the trucking industry as head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, I am concerned about her ability to take the bold action needed to keep Americans safe,” Lautenberg said in his opening remarks.
Lautenberg is particularly concerned about changes proposed by the previous administration to the hours of service regulations. “These regulations would increase the time drivers can operate trucks without rest by 40 percent, increasing risk of fatigue and putting impaired drivers behind the wheels of trucks weighing 80,000 pounds or more,” he said.
The senator pressed the FMSCA nominee to commit to the requirement for electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in all large trucks to ensure that drivers operate within the hours of service regulations.
“Yet the FMSCA has failed to require these recorders on all trucks, instead proposing a rule that would require only 930 out of 700,000 carriers to use them,” Lautenberg said. “We need the current administration to mandate EOBRs on every large truck. And we need Ms. Ferro’s support for this mandate.”
Ferro said that if confirmed she would study the EOBR test data before outright supporting an industry-wide implementation, but emphasized her dedication to industry safety. “My position on safety is firm,” she said.
Lautenberg expressed his concern about Ferro’s answer to EOBRs, stating that he would have preferred “a more definitive answer to that question.”
When the White House first announced Ferro’s nomination earlier this summer, the Teamsters protested. “We cannot support a candidate who represents the Bush administration ‘status quo’ rather than embracing your call for change,” Teamster President James Hoffa wrote in a June 5 letter to President Obama.
“It was wrong, as several committee members noted at the time, for the Bush White House to install people from the trucking industry to regulate their own industry. It is no less wrong for Mr. Obama’s to do it,” the New York Times said in an editorial published Tuesday.
In specific, the Times noted that Ferro co-wrote a letter to the Baltimore Sun in January that supported the Bush administration’s efforts to loosen the hours of service rules.
“Ms. Ferro’s record, we believe, is disqualifying,” the Times editorial said. “With more than 5,000 fatal truck crashes a year, Americans cannot afford conflicts of interest in the running of their truck safety agency.” ' Chris Gillis