Biden’s DOT Nominees on Senate’s Agenda

Robin Hutcheson and John Putnam; building by U.S. Department of Transportation

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The nomination of Robin Hutcheson to be the next administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is on the U.S. Senate’s radar.

The Commerce Committee on freight affairs is expected to schedule a hearing on Hutcheson’s nomination sometime this spring, officials familiar with the chamber’s confirmation process recently told Transport Topics.

If Hutcheson’s hearing gains approval from a majority of members of the panel, her nomination advances to the Senate floor for consideration.



President Joe Biden nominated Hutcheson to become administrator of the trucking regulatory agency FMCSA on April 6. A former deputy assistant secretary for safety policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation, she serves as acting administrator of FMCSA.

Prior to joining the Biden administration, Hutcheson led Minneapolis’ public works division, and served as the transportation director for Salt Lake City. She previously was president of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“We congratulate Deputy Administrator Hutcheson on her nomination to head FMCSA, and we support her swift confirmation by the Senate,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said shortly after the White House announced her nomination. “She has deep experience in transportation administration, having previously served as director of public works for the City of Minneapolis and transportation director for Salt Lake City, which makes her well qualified and prepared for this vital role. Her commitment to working with our industry to improve safety is unwavering.”

Added Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, “As FMCSA’s acting administrator, Robin Hutcheson has demonstrated a genuine appreciation for the work of our members and an eagerness to help address some of the issues that are most important to them.”

In addition to Hutcheson, other nominees for senior transportation posts are awaiting votes in the Senate. They include John Putnam to become general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Putnam, whose nomination was approved by the Commerce Committee, serves as the department’s deputy general counsel. To policymakers, he has emphasized the trucking industry’s workforce concerns, pointing to potential benefits from the “Biden-Harris administration Trucking Action Plan to Strengthen America’s Trucking Workforce.” He also touted the enactment of the $1 trillion infrastructure law. “It makes the largest investments in public transit and rail passenger service in our history and improves transportation options for millions of Americans,” he said. “It will also strengthen supply chains and enhance resilience by making necessary investments in our ports, airports, rail and highways.”

He continued, “The law will help reduce carbon emissions, promote safety and prepare our economy for new and innovative technologies. The investments will create many good-paying jobs across the country for years to come.”

Cliff

Steven Cliff, Biden’s pick to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also was approved by the Commerce Committee. Cliff, currently NHTSA’s deputy administrator, has indicated he intends to dedicate efforts to examine the adoption of autonomous vehicle technologies, as well as enhance safety programs across the nation’s mobility corridors.

“While many stopped driving in the early days of the pandemic, those who remained on the road were more likely to engage in risky behaviors. As a result, we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in roadway fatalities. I am committed to turning this around,” Cliff told senators.

Additionally, the Commerce Committee approved the nomination of retired Rear Admiral Ann Phillips to become administrator of the Maritime Administration, Victoria Wassmer to become chief financial officer at USDOT, and Christopher Coes to be an assistant secretary of Transportation.

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