Scott Darling Makes Unscheduled Appearance But Keeps Low Profile

Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sporting a Boston Red Sox cap and a beige trench coat when he arrived, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head Scott Darling kept a low profile while visiting the Mid-America Trucking Show on March 27.

Agency spokesman Duane DeBruyne told Transport Topics that Darling, the agency’s chief counsel who is a lifelong New England sports fan, talked to several drivers at the agency’s information booth. FMCSA had about a dozen employees at the booth sharing regulatory information.

Darling, DeBruyne explained, was not scheduled to make the trip to Louisville for the show, but a scheduling window that had popped up recently afforded him the opportunity to attend MATS for the first time.

“Like everyone, once you’ve been to MATS, you can’t wait to return next year, so I am confident the chief counsel will be back,” added DeBruyne, who was not with Darling at the show. 

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Darling did not make himself available to the media and did not speak at a panel, an unusual move for the country’s top trucking regulator at the industry’s largest exhibition. His predecessor, Anne Ferro, often hosted listening sessions at the show and would speak to reporters.

Throughout MATS, several drivers who visited with FMCSA employees at its booth complained about the agency’s hours-of-service rule, health fitness requirements and other regulations — concerns shared by many GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Darling addressed the recently suspended HOS rule at a March 25 hearing of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, when he was pressed by Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

Darling indicated his staff was collecting data for a congressionally mandated study that would be completed “within the timeframe put out by Congress." The agency is required to make the study available by Sept. 30.

Darling also shot down an argument raised by industry leaders that the HOS rule has prompted drivers to shift their schedules, saying: "There's been no evidence that this rule would put more traffic on the roadways during the day."

"I've asked my team to look into this because it's been an issue, for us to look into the congestion issue that you raised. We'll need industry to work with us, and we're reaching out to industry," Darling told Joyce.

For fiscal 2016, the Obama administration is requesting $669 million for FMCSA — a nearly 17% increase from the fiscal 2015 funding level. In a prepared statement, Darling told the subcommittee the request “will allow FMCSA to strengthen our partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies and leverage our resources to create a safety culture based on data-driven safety rules, strong enforcement programs and comprehensive education and outreach.”

On March 23, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that Darling will continue to lead FMCSA but without the title of acting administrator. He had been acting administrator since last August when he took over for Ferro.