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November 16, 2009 8:00 AM, EST

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro

This Editorial appears in the Nov. 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Welcome aboard Anne Ferro as the fourth-ever administrator of trucking’s chief U.S. regulator, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

And by the way, Ms. Ferro, you’re late, your homework’s overdue and you need to understand that every time you make a decision that in any way is positively received by the trucking industry, you will be accused of being a stooge.

Having watched the Washington dance surrounding her nomination, we wonder anew why competent professionals such as Anne Ferro are willing to serve in government.

In the end, the Senate Commerce Committee approved Ferro’s nomination with little dissent, and the full Senate unanimously approved her nomination, but she was forced to endure months of statements questioning her competence, her professionalism and her motivations.

Anne Ferro has had a distinguished career, including 11 years at Maryland’s Department of Transportation — the last six years as the head of the agency — and six years as the leader of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, that state’s affiliate of American Trucking Associations.

The unrelenting and undeserved criticism of Ferro from certain “advocacy groups” stems from the simple fact that she has worked within the trucking industry.

When did it become a liability for a regulator to have actually worked in the industry that he or she is asked to oversee?

Is our nation really better served by a class of professional regulators who have no working knowledge of the industries they are asked to manage?

Ferro inherits a full menu, including the latest twist in the yearslong fight to reform the hours-of-service regulations; a new requirement for electronic onboard recorders; and a new initiative to restrict text-messaging by commercial drivers.

Because of her vast experience, she’ll be ready to tackle them from her first day on the job.

One of trucking’s chief complaints in the past has been that proposals emanating from the U.S. Department of Transportation or Congress, no matter how well-intended, often suffer from a lack of understanding of how the freight transportation system really works.

Regulation is by necessity a compromise between conflicting priorities. In FMCSA’s case, much of that conflict is between efficiency and safety.

We believe Anne Ferro is just the kind of overseer who can strike a balance between those conflicts and can help trucking operate more safely at the same time the industry fulfills its job of supplying the nation’s consumers with the goods they need in a timely and efficient manner.