FMCSA's Robin Hutcheson Promotes Workforce, Touts Industry’s Contributions
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SAN DIEGO — Recruiting and retaining women for jobs in the trucking industry is a goal the Biden administration is pursuing, the nation’s top trucking regulator said Oct. 22.
Robin Hutcheson, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s newly confirmed administrator, pointed to resources the $1 trillion infrastructure law is providing to amplify and create roles for women in the freight workforce. Specifically, a Women of Trucking Advisory Board, initiated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is scheduled to host its initial meeting next month, the administrator told a packed room at American Trucking Associations’ 2022 Management Conference & Exhibition.
“We are very excited to kick this off. Equity is a priority for us and it is both for the Biden-Harris administration and for the Department of Transportation,” Hutcheson said. “We’re very hopeful for the work of this first-of-its-kind board,” she continued. “It will support women to pursue careers in trucking.”
We’re honored and grateful to have @FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson join us in San Diego for #ATAmce22 to meet with our members and discuss the issues impacting our industry. pic.twitter.com/u0UP08rWfp — American Trucking (@TRUCKINGdotORG) October 22, 2022
FMCSA describes the board as a forum for “reviewing opportunities to enhance safety, training, mentorship and education for women in the trucking industry.”
In July, ATA launched its own effort, Women In Motion, to highlight women’s contributions to the industry as well as recognize companies adopting female-centric hiring practices.
At the conference, Hutcheson also pointed to the contributions of the trucking workforce during the post-pandemic economic recovery; notably, assisting with ensuring the viability of grocery stores, businesses and hospitals. As she put it, “Seventy-five percent of everything that is delivered comes on a truck. We understand this so much better now.”
The administrator also emphasized efforts to enhance access to parking nationwide. She pointed to Department of Transportation efforts designed to connect state officials with additional guidance and resources for tackling truck parking challenges. The department recently awarded freight-centric grants to Florida and Tennessee to expand parking facilities, and transportation agencies in both states were awarded nearly $40 million for the expansion projects.
Specifically, the truck parking grants were approved as part of the $1 trillion IIJA. The American Transportation Research Institute, in its 2022 “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” report, ranked truck parking concerns third. ATRI is a firm that provides an annual chronicle of industry affairs.
“When drivers can’t find an appropriate place to park — you know better than we do, I think — they park where they can,” Hutcheson told the MCE audience. “Our goal is to really understand these problems at a root-cause level.” She added, “We have dedicated resources to researching the effects of not having enough truck parking.”
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Additionally, Hutcheson stressed her objective to establish collaborative rapport with industry stakeholders.
“All of our goals, I believe, are shared goals,” she said. “And our success really does depend on our close collaboration with you and with our partners at the American Trucking Associations. I believe we are going to achieve these outcomes in this unprecedented time with good policy and the resources to do it.”
Aspects of FMCSA’s policy agenda this fall consists of establishing a task force on truck leasing patterns, as well as providing input for national roadway safety programs and initiatives. Additionally, the agency intends to proceed with comprehensive studies specific to compensation and detention time.
“We kicked them off this summer,” Hutcheson told executives in the crowd, referring to the studies. “They are long-term studies because anything with good data takes time. But we plan to give you updates along the way on both of those studies.”
Hutcheson’s U.S. Senate confirmation occurred this fall. FMCSA is tasked with implementing key freight programs approved in the bipartisan infrastructure law. Enacted by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15, the law dedicates about $350 billion for federal highway programs through 2026.
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