Ray Martinez is leaving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and will be replaced by current FMCSA Chief Counsel Jim Mullen, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today (Oct. 10).
According to a DOT source, Martinez’ departure – which came as a surprise by most inside and outside the agency – was prompted by Martinez’ desire to be closer to family in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
Originally from New Jersey, Martinez’s role within DOT will transition to overseeing an ongoing $500 million redevelopment project at DOT’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 28.
“We are grateful for Martinez’s service and glad that he will keep serving the Department in this capacity, while also meeting his long-held wishes to be located closer to his family,” according to a DOT statement.
Mullen, who was immediately named Deputy Administrator, is expected to assume the role of Acting Administrator on October 28. “As Chief Counsel, Mullen has a strong track record of engaging with all relevant government and industry stakeholders on significant rulemakings that FMCSA is undertaking,” DOT stated.
Current Deputy Administrator Alan Hanson will replace Mullen as the agency’s chief counsel. DOT noted that Hanson, who had formerly served as Chief of Staff to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), has been “closely involved in many rulemakings and will continue to use his legal background to ensure that the important work FMCSA has been doing continues apace.”
Also at FMCSA, Wiley Deck, Director of Government Affairs, was named Senior Policy Advisor for DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.
“We wish Administrator Martinez well in his new role at the Volpe Center, and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with FMCSA’s new leadership as we work on our shared goal of improving highway safety,” commented American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear.
Todd Spencer, President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, called Martinez “the most active and responsive” FMCSA Administrator since FMCSA became a standalone agency within DOT in 2000.
“He created a regulatory atmosphere that valued input from the men and women in the trucking industry above all else and we hope that will continue after his departure,” Spencer said in a statement. “We will certainly miss his leadership and his willingness to listen and learn about issues that impact small-business truckers.”
The hours-of-service regulation took up much of Martinez’ time since he was sworn in as the sixth FMCSA Administrator in February 2018. He felt obligated to hold public listening sessions on the issue not only in Washington, D.C. but out in the field, both in the leadup to the proposed changes during 2018 and after the official proposal was rolled out this year for comment in mid-August. A listening session held in Joplin, Missouri, in September 2018 was viewed by many as a turning point in the relationship between the administration and the trucking industry.
In addition to overseeing the initial progress of electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, other significant regulations Martinez helped guide and promote during his short tenure have been the industry’s transition to ELDs from the Automatic On-Board Recoding Device; the FMCSA’s push for a Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which is scheduled to begin operating on January 6, 2020, and a pilot program to allow drivers under 21 to haul interstate freight.
In other key changes announced within DOT, Mala Parker, who was named Acting Deputy Administrator at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in July, was named Deputy Administrator of the agency. Alex Etchen, currently Senior Advisor at DOT, was named Associate Administrator for Highway Policy and External Affairs at FHWA.