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November 13, 2018 8:00 PM, EST

FMCSA’s Cathy Gautreaux Values Partnerships, Industry Perspectives

FMCSA's Cathy Gautreaux FMCSA's Cathy Gautreaux by Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics

FRISCO, Texas — Cathy Gautreaux, deputy administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, emphasized the value of partnership and industry input in an address to members of the trucking industry Nov. 13.

Gautreaux delivered remarks before a crowd of hundreds at the Women In Trucking Association’s annual conference exactly one year after she assumed her federal post.

Gautreaux stressed the importance of partnering with law enforcement organizations, state entities and industry representatives. FMCSA has partnered with more than 12,000 law enforcement and state agency partners. Gautreaux said that 56% of the agency’s budget goes into grant funding for state agencies.

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As of 2016, there were 543,061 regulated carriers operating in the U.S. There were 11.5 million large trucks registered and 976,161 buses registered as of that year. Gautreaux said officers from state agencies play an important role in supporting the enforcement efforts of FMCSA, which has 1,100 employees.

“We think, in this administration, that yes, there’s some people who need a big stick, but more often than not you can accomplish so much more in a positive way with a focus on partnership and collaboration,” Gautreaux said.

Such partnership and industry feedback allows FMCSA to assess the value of certain regulations, Gautreaux said. She acknowledged that the “one-size-fits-all” approach for regulations does not effectively serve every sector of the multifaceted trucking industry.

“This is reflective of the fact that the cookie-cutter approach to regulation is not effective. One size does not fit all,” Gautreaux said. “What’s good for truckload may not be good for less-than-truckload. What’s good for flatbed may not be good for refrigerated. That’s why partnership and feedback from the industry is so incredibly important.”

FMCSA officials are sifting through more than 5,000 online comments the agency received regarding potential changes to hours-of-service rules, many of which supported tweaking the regulations to increase flexibility.

FMCSA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Aug. 23 concerning the shorthaul HOS limit, the HOS exception for adverse driving conditions, the 30-minute rest-break provision and the split sleeper-berth rule to allow drivers to divide their required rest time in the sleeper berth. The agency then hosted five listening sessions around the country to get industry feedback on these rules.

“We read every single one,” Gautreaux said. “We really need to know about these issues. You’re the boots on the ground. You know what goes on.”

In addition to supporting partnerships, Gautreaux listed embracing technology as another one of FMCSA’s goals. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Oct. 4 unveiled AV 3.0, the agency’s policy update of autonomous vehicle technology guidelines. Gautreaux said that AV 3.0 ensures that safety remains the agency’s top priority.

Gautreaux also mentioned that HOS violations have dropped since the industrywide ELD mandate took effect in December of 2017.

“The secretary has embraced this and thank goodness she has because this technology is growing faster than we could ever imagine,” Gautreaux said. “We need to be in a leadership position.”

Gautreaux, who previously served as executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association for more than three decades, urged truckers to continue dialogue with FMCSA.

“I love what I do. I love the people I work for and the people I work for are the people in this room,” Gautreaux said. “I learn more from talking to you about what’s happening on the road than any conference I can go to.”