Hersman, 43, was appointed NTSB chairman by President Obama in 2009 and was re-appointed in 2011. Both times, she was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.
Hersman was named to the board of the NTSB by President George W. Bush in 2004. Her board position and chairmanship are set to expire at the end of 2013.
Before joining NTSB, Hersman was a senior advisor to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee from 1999 to 2004.
The NTSB, an independent agency, investigates air, rail, bus, and pipeline accidents, leaving truck safety to the Department of Transportation. However, Hersman, who holds a commercial truck driver's license, is seen as highly knowledgeable about the motor carrier safety issues that consumed much of the industry's attention during LaHood's four-year tenure.
A major source of that attention have been efforts by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a subagency of the Department of Transportation that oversees truck safety, to implement its CSA 2010 initiative. CSA 2010 was designed to remove substandard drivers from the road. Shippers, carriers, and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) complain that the methodology used under CSA 2010 to determine a driver's fitness is flawed and inaccurate and exaggerates the problems at generally roadworthy trucking companies.
FMCSA is also in the midst of a legal challenge to its proposed rules governing a driver's hours of service. The rules are reviled by the industry as costly, unnecessary, and a threat to highway safety. Meanwhile, safety advocates argue the new rules don't go far enough to protect motorists. Oral arguments to debate the rules are set for March 15 in a federal appeals court in Washington. The rules were finalized a year ago, and the FMCSA is scheduled to begin enforcing them on July 1.
Hersman's education and her gender may have been two factors that gave her the nod over other candidates. Among her academic credentials is a Master of Science from Virginia's George Mason University in "Conflict Analysis and Resolution," a valuable skill in a town that thrives on conflict and compromise and in an industry that has seen its own fair share of internecine warfare.
Hersman's nomination would further quiet the outcry from women's right groups that President Obama was surrounding himself in his second-term with an "all-boy" cabinet. The only other potential female cabinet member is Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc. (more commonly known as REI), who the president nominated on Feb. 6 to be Secretary of the Interior.
Created in 1967, the 400-employee NTSB is widely admired for its professionalism, work ethic, and integrity. Within the federal bureaucracy, it is considered one of the few agencies that give citizens a high-quality return on their tax dollars. The NTSB has an annual budget of more than $100 million.Classification : regulatory Companies: REI