Hutcheson confirmed as FMCSA head, ending agency’s yearslong void

Dive Brief:

  • The Senate confirmed Deputy Administrator Robin Hutcheson on Thursday to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  • The move comes amid a push from industry associations and federal policy efforts to bring an end to roadway deaths.
  • Hutcheson was named the acting administrator and deputy administrator in January 2022. The agency said Friday that she’s slated to be sworn in early next week.

Dive Insight:

Hutcheson’s confirmation means the FMCSA, which regulates commercial motor vehicles, will have its first permanent leader since Ray Martinez announced his departure from the post in late 2019. A series of deputies served as acting administrator over the past three years.

Launched in 2000 through federal legislation, the agency has sought to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths connected to large trucks and buses. The Biden administration and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have supercharged that mission, seeking to eliminate roadway fatalities.

Despite that vision, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in May that an estimated 42,915 fatalities last year signaled a 16-year high in motor vehicle traffic deaths.

Robin Hutchenson was confirmed as the FMCSA’s next administrator on Thursday.

Hutcheson has already been working on improving safety. In a June Senate committee hearing, she outlined her efforts to develop the Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy, a policy plan to help make zero fatalities a reality. Regarding the FMCSA during her testimony, Hutcheson stated that the plan will increase investigations into high-risk carriers, as well as aid efforts to stop unsafe truck drivers from getting on the road.

“It would be an honor to lead FMCSA employees across the nation in carrying out our life-saving mission,” Hutcheson told the Senate’s commerce committee during her June 8 nomination hearing. “Fatalities are increasing dramatically on our nation’s roadways with recent data showing over 40,000 people lost their lives in 2021. Of those lost, 800 of them were commercial motor vehicle drivers.”

Hutcheson said she’s committed to working with FMCSA, stakeholders and others to “reverse this unacceptable trend” of roadway fatalities. According to the safety plan, fatalities involving trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds have been increasing faster than fatalities overall.

The American Trucking Associations had pushed for a swift confirmation process for Hutcheson, stating the need for her leadership amid supply chain challenges and workforce shortages persisted amid the pandemic.

“Whether it is addressing safety concerns, ongoing supply chain issues or workforce development, she has been open to engaging with our industry and we look forward to continuing our ongoing, candid dialogue about these challenges and to engaging with her and her agency to implement solutions that uphold safety and improve efficiency in trucking and across the supply chain,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement Thursday.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also supported her nomination.

Hutcheson previously served as the deputy assistant secretary for safety policy for the DOT, Minneapolis public works director and Salt Lake City transportation director, among other roles. FMCSA previously noted she “served as a consultant specializing in transportation and transit and has worked throughout the western United States, in London and France, and for the European Union Commission on Sustainability.”

“She has a strong track record on safety,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday before the vote. “During a time when our supply chains are being tested to their limits, I believe that her public and private experience as well as her experience at both the local and federal level will bring a unique perspective to the role and improve the safety of our transportation networks.”

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