IIJA, Workforce and Parking Top FMCSA’s Fall Agenda
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The implementation of the $1 trillion infrastructure law and proceeding with workforce and parking programs for the trucking industry will headline the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s fall agenda.
During a recent interview with Transport Topics, Robin Hutcheson, the agency’s newly confirmed administrator, described her to-do list as “really big buckets of work.”
Specifically, she said an aspect of the agency’s role in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act implementation represented “a mix of policy, research and funding.”
FMCSA is proceeding with its planning and review of a new round of grants for commercial driving operations. An influx of funding resulting from the IIJA, often referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law, is expected to improve safety along the nation’s freight corridors, as well as connectivity at commercial supply chains, the administrator explained. Enacted in mid-November by President Joe Biden, the law dedicates about $350 billion through 2026 for federal highway programs.
The infrastructure law also established recruitment and retention programs targeting women in the trucking industry. Hutcheson announced that the newly formed Women of Trucking Advisory Board intends to meet this fall to formally begin to amplify women’s roles. The group plans to advance programs focusing on career opportunities, training, mentoring, education and outreach for women. Earlier this year, Hutcheson said the board’s work would result in “many great ideas” to “help expand equity and safely provide access to careers in trucking.”
Members of the board include American Trucking Associations Executive Vice President Elisabeth Barna, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Deputy Director Enjoli DeGrasse, Boyle Transportation’s manager of recruiting, retention, and driver development, Laura Duryea, African American Women in Trucking Association Co-owner Nicole Ward, and Anne Balay with the Service Employees International Union.
Another element of FMCSA’s fall portfolio is collaborating with agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation to facilitate more access to parking. The move by federal agencies responds to concerns stakeholders have frequently raised about insufficient parking nationwide for the women and men who operate commercial trucks.
Last month, the department unveiled new comprehensive guidance meant to assist state agencies with truck parking expansion programs. FMCSA is central to addressing national parking concerns.
“I would like us to be removing the obstacles that truckers feel on a day-to-day basis,” Hutcheson told TT. “By removing those obstacles we might make them the safest drivers on the road and by removing those obstacles we might retain them.”
Secretary Pete Buttigieg offered a similar viewpoint last month: “I’ve heard from countless truckers across the country about how the shortage of truck parking costs them time and money — not to mention making our roads less safe and weakening our supply chains.”
“We’re using funds from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law,” the secretary continued, “to help address truck parking shortages, and we’re working with state and industry leaders to develop more parking that will improve safety and quality of life for our nation’s truck drivers.”
“Truck parking is a safety issue — both for truck drivers and all other road users, which is why FHWA has updated our guidance to ensure there is no question about eligibility for truck parking projects in new formula and discretionary grant programs authorized under the bipartisan infrastructure law,” added Federal Highway Administration Acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack.
FMCSA’s fall agenda also consists of studies specific to compensation and detention time, establishing a task force on truck leasing and providing input for national roadway safety initiatives. As the administrator put it, “Those are some really good things this fall.”
Hutcheson had been managing the agency in an acting capacity prior to her confirmation on Sept. 22.
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