FMCSA Chief Robin Hutcheson Prioritizes Parking, Workforce, Supply Chain

Robin Hutcheson
Robin Hutcheson by SunJae Smith/ATA

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Enhancing parking availability for the nation’s truck drivers and ensuring the workforce operates on an efficient supply chain top the priorities for the nation’s premier trucking official.

In a wide-ranging interview with Transport Topics, Robin Hutcheson, the newly confirmed administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, pointed to resources the Biden administration is directing to state agencies for alleviating parking concerns.

SPEAKING AT MCE: Hutcheson to address attendees Oct. 22

Lacking on-the-job available parking for the women and men driving commercial trucks has consistently ranked among the industry’s top issues. “We’re already starting to see some good movement, some good positive movement in our commitment to improving truck parking,” Hutcheson said during TT’s Newsmakers series, on Oct. 19.

“It’s a safety issue,” the administrator continued. “We’ve heard from drivers across the country they cannot find a place to rest. When they do they’re sometimes in places where they don’t feel safe or secure for that matter. So we have a safety imperative to continue to raise this up as a top priority.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation connected state officials with additional guidance and resources for tackling truck parking woes. Hutcheson pointed to recent federal freight-centric grants for Florida and Tennessee to specifically tackle parking challenges. Transportation agencies in the two states received nearly $40 million for expansion projects.

The grants were made available partly via the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law. The American Transportation Research Institute, in its 2021 “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry,” ranked truck parking concerns fifth. ATRI provides an annual chronicle about industry affairs.

Also linked to the infrastructure law are additional policy remedies for increasing diversity industrywide. To promote the representation of women, the Biden administration created the Women of Trucking Advisory Board. FMCSA described the board as a platform for “reviewing opportunities to enhance safety, training, mentorship and education for women in the trucking industry.” FMCSA also aims for the board to identify “opportunities to expand roles for women and increase the number of women” in the industry.

Endorsement of the board has been given by myriad stakeholders, such as American Trucking Associations. Relatedly, in July ATA launched Women In Motion to amplify the contributions of women, as well as recognize companies adopting and pursuing best practices in hiring women.

“One of the strongest ways we attract a diverse workforce is you can see yourself doing that job because someone that looks like you or sounds like you does that job,” Hutcheson explained. “That’s great recruitment and then that’s great opportunity for folks to join our ranks. It’s an amazing profession, top to bottom.”

She further emphasized: “If someone can see themselves doing that job, they’re more likely to want to join us. And we need that. We need that diverse workforce.”

Regarding the movement of freight, Hutcheson pointed to ongoing efforts by FMCSA, in collaboration with agencies throughout the federal government. Citing investments associated with the IIJA, the White House pointed to this year’s launch of the Freight Logistics Optimization Works, or FLOW. As the White House put it, “The FLOW initiative builds on previous successes of the Biden-Harris supply chain disruptions task force to ensure cargo is getting from ship to shelf.”

The information sharing initiative is meant as a forum for relevant freight information within aspects of the supply chain. U.S. DOT officials belong to the task force examining the supply chain.

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“Obviously, trucking is an incredibly important link in that supply chain. Seventy-five percent of goods move by truck,” Hutcheson said, noting an influx of IIJA funding dedicated for enhancing the nation’s commercial corridors. Specific to trucking, apprenticeships and recruitment and retention programs have been expanded during the Biden administration.

“We sit on the supply chain disruptions task force,” the administrator added, “playing our part there and that means that we look at it from all angles: How do trucks interact with ports. How do trucks interact as they’re moving through the country state-to-state.”

Enacted on Nov. 15 by President Joe Biden, the infrastructure law is designed to dedicate about $350 billion through 2026 for federal highway programs.