Most of the major transportation industry groups today applauded U.S. Senate confirmation of the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) administrator, backing Robin Hutcheson’s goals to create more parking spaces for trucks, ease supply chain bottlenecks, and recruit and retain more drivers.
The Senate voted Thursday to name Hutcheson as the seventh leader of the federal body, which is charged with regulating the U.S. trucking industry and reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The unit is best known in supply chain circles for managing initiatives such as creating a clearinghouse of driver drug and alcohol testing results, applying the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, enforcing hours of service (HoS) caps, and occasionally easing those caps in times of emergency such as major storms and during the covid pandemic.
Hutcheson becomes the second FMCSA leader during the Biden Administration, following the departure of Meera Joshi, who left the position in January to serve as the Deputy Mayor for Operations for New York City. Before coming to Washington to join the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2021, Hutcheson served as Director of Public Works for the City of Minneapolis and as Transportation Director for Salt Lake City, Utah.
“America’s commercial motor vehicles are vital to our economy and our way of life, and I will dedicate myself to working with industry and stakeholders to support owners and operators while improving safety for all users of our roadways,” Hutcheson said in a release. “I will be placing particular emphasis on key issues including ensuring safe places for truckers to park and rest; reducing crashes among large trucks and buses to reduce fatalities under the National Roadway Safety Strategy, which I helped to develop; easing supply chain bottlenecks and getting the nation’s cargo where it needs to go; and recruiting and retaining safe, professional drivers for trucks and motorcoaches.”
Hutcheson has already formed a record of working with industry groups to confront trucking issues since she was nominated for the post in April, earning congratulations on her permanent appointment today from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). “I am pleased to see this confirmation come to fruition,” TCA President Jim Ward said in a release. “In the short time that she has been there, the Administrator has demonstrated a passion for safety improvement and a willingness to engage with the industry. We are looking forward to working with her on truckload related safety measures in the future.”
Despite that support, Hutcheson also drew some warning words from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which contested her support during nomination hearings for the idea that the industry is suffering from a persistent truck driver shortage. OOIDA has long argued that instead of citing a shortage of potential drivers, the trucking sector actually needs employers to support better working conditions.
OOIDA also said that Hutcheson should rethink her support of allowing younger drivers to enter the profession through initiatives like the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, which would test the use of under-21 drivers in interstate commerce. Warning that younger drivers could cause more crashes, OOIDA said that better ways to recruit more drivers include enhancing driver compensation, reducing excessive detention time, eliminating predatory truck leasing schemes, and bringing more women into the industry.