January 19, 2017 3:15 PM, EST

Darling Emphasizes Safety Partnerships During FMCSA Farewell

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
On his final full day as Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Scott Darling said his biggest regret of his 2½ years in charge was not being able to fully implement the Unified Registration System.

Those are the regulations intended to streamline the registration process for carriers, property brokers, freight forwarders, intermodal equipment providers and cargo tank facilities.

“What I’d like [the new administration] to finish is the full implantation of the URS system [which was suspended Jan. 14],” Darling said during a Jan. 19 conference call with reporters. “I think that’s a real game-changer for the industry; making sure that folks … who are re-incarnating [corporately] on a daily basis don’t get to do that.”

As has been the case throughout his tenure, safety was the main theme of Darling’s farewell.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve emphasized that safe trucking moves our economy,” said Darling, who noted that he’s looking forward to the full implementation of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program after a National Academy of Sciences study is completed later this year. “Safety and the commercial interests should not be two separate pieces. They’re together. Improving safety cannot be done by the federal government alone, or by the states or by industry. It must be done by all of us. Technology is vital, but it cannot stand alone as a solution.”

Darling didn’t express any concern about the perceived antiregulatory outlook of the incoming Trump Administration or possible changes to the Obama Administration’s rules governing electronic logging devices, speed limiters or driver training.

“I think we’re going to continue to move forward and to continue to make sure that the rules we put in place … are sensible [and] meet the objectives,” said Darling. “[Transportation Secretary-Designate Elaine] Chao has a lot of experience working in the federal government. She’s been very successful. I believe that’s not going to change when she gets to DOT.”

Darling, who paused a couple of times during the session because he said he was teary-eyed about his looming departure from FMCSA, said he’s unsure of his next career step after upcoming eye surgery. Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson will replace Darling until a long-term successor is named.

Darling, the agency’s chief counsel before being promoted in August 2014, advised his long-term successor “to continue to partner with all the stakeholders. Everything looks clear from the sixth floor of 1200 New Jersey [Avenue]. ‘Get out there. Talk to folks. Figure out what their concerns are.’ We need everybody’s voice.”

Darling doesn’t expect there to be fewer voices in trucking anytime soon despite the rising tide of automation.

“Trucks are not going anywhere,” Darling said. “They’re going to be a key linchpin to making sure this economy moves forward. I can’t see it being any different five years from now than it is today. You may have some new technology, but hours of service will always be important because we want to make [sure] that drivers have adequate rest; that they’re not fatigued when they’re on the road. We want to make sure that they’re well-credentialed and healthy. I don’t see any change in that.”