Robin Hutcheson told senators that if she’s confirmed to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, she will work to keep “a spotlight on the trucking and motorcoach industry” and focus on roadway safety.
The current acting administrator of FMCSA joined two other Biden Administration nominees before the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee on June 8. President Biden nominated Hutcheson, currently deputy administrator of the trucking industry regulator, to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation division on April 6. She became acting FMCSA head in January.
“Now, more than ever, Americans are acutely tuned in to how our goods get to our homes—from the flour for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in—we all have a better understanding that it probably came on a truck,” Hutcheson told senators during the nomination hearing. “People—in this case, drivers—are the most important part of the industry. It is a difficult job, and men and women have been working long hours to literally keep our economy rolling in the face of unprecedented challenges.”
Hutchison was joined at the hearing by Michael Morgan, nominee for assistant commerce secretary for environmental observation and prediction, and Sean Burton, nominee for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s board of directors.
ATA backs nominee
Citing her experience in transportation, American Trucking Associations urged the Senate committee to support Biden’s nomination.
“Since her appointment as acting administrator in January, Ms. Hutcheson has worked closely with the trucking industry to confront supply chain, workforce, and safety challenges, while pressing forward with the implementation of vital programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” Chris Spear, ATA's president and CEO, wrote in a letter to the committee on June 7. “Ms. Hutcheson’s response to the challenges facing our industry has been timely and effective, and we are confident she will bring that same focus to her role as the administrator of the FMCSA.”
Before taking over as acting FMCSA leader, Hutcheson was deputy assistant transportation secretary for safety policy, where she led the National Roadway Safety Strategy. That strategy focused on making roadways safer for the men and women operating commercial vehicles, she noted during the hearing.
“For FMCSA, such actions include increasing our investigations in high-risk carriers and technology investments to close registration loopholes that would prevent unsafe drivers from ever being on the road,” she said.
She cited the recent uptick in roadway fatalities, such as the more than 38,000 traffic deaths in 2021. “Of those lost, 800 were commercial motor vehicle drivers,” Hutcheson said. “Roadway safety affects not only those whose lives were lost but the family members and loved ones who suffer the grief of loss. We must do better, and I am committed to working with FMCSA, our stakeholders, and member offices to reverse this unacceptable trend.”
While senators and Hutcheson focused on the driver shortage and under-21 apprenticeship program, there was no mention of truck parking—all of which disappointed the head of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
"Ms. Hutcheson’s testimony acknowledged that enhancing driver compensation, reducing excessive detention time, eliminating predatory truck leasing schemes, and bringing in more women into the industry are all 'long-term' solutions that FMCSA is working on," Todd Spencer, OOIDA president, said in a statement issued after the hearing. "However, if the agency is serious about reversing staggering crash numbers and improving driver retention, then these actions and many others must come before ensuring that younger drivers can enter the profession."
With more than 500,000 interstate carriers and 4.7 million commercial driver's license (CDL) holders across the nation, FMCSA and its 1,100 employees have overseen significant changes for drivers and carriers. Lately, the freight transportation industry has become a focal point of Biden administration initiatives, including current plans to boost truck driver jobs and strengthen supply chains.
FMCSA, which is DOT's interstate trucking and busing regulatory agency, has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since President Trump's appointee Raymond Martinez stepped down in 2019.
“Throughout Ms. Hutcheson’s tenure as acting and deputy administrator of FMCSA, we have been particularly impressed by her candid, collaborative, and valuable engagement with motor carriers, drivers, and stakeholders throughout the industry,” ATA’s Spear said.