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October 20, 2021 3:00 PM, EDT

Senate Commerce Panel Approves FMCSA Nominee

Meera Joshi FMCSA deputy Administrator Meera Joshi honors truck drivers at a National Truck Driver Appreciation Week event on Sept. 16. (U.S. Department of Transportation via Twitter)

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WASHINGTON — The nomination of President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advanced to the floor of the U.S. Senate on Oct. 20.

By a vote of 22 to 6, the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees trucking and freight policies, approved the nomination of Meera Joshi.

The agency’s current deputy administrator, Joshi would take on the role of administrator if confirmed by the chamber.

Senate Commerce by Transport Topics

Her nomination has garnered the endorsement of Senate transportation leaders. As committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) put it, “If confirmed, Joshi would be responsible for directing the agency’s national safety and enforcement program.”

Democrats tasked with managing Senate floor matters have yet to schedule a vote on Joshi’s nomination.

Appearing before senators during her confirmation hearing in September, Joshi promoted safety provisions, calls for infrastructure investments and greater communication with stakeholders. As a vital officer on freight workforce affairs, she pledged to help ensure the efficiency of supply chains in regard to commercial truck drivers.

Acknowledging the presence of autonomous technologies throughout the freight industry, the nominee told the panel vehicles equipped with certain modern features have the capability of modernizing the commercial landscape.

She explained to senators that such technologies, particularly those linked to self-driving vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, bring potential safety benefits while achieving mobility improvements for freight and passenger operations.

Joshi placed specific emphasis on artificial technologies. She observed, “The transition from mechanical to [artificial intelligence] occurs but for FMCSA, the mission of safety is the No. 1 priority, stays the same. So our challenge is to ensure that our regulations to uphold roadway safety translate into an [artificial intelligence] world.”

Just as many Biden administration nominees have done, Joshi called on policymakers to approve physical and social infrastructure provisions outlined in the president’s Build Back Better multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda. Congress has yet to sign off on either tranche.

Christopher Coes

 Coes

Before joining FMCSA during the Biden administration, Joshi led the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Her academic pedigree includes degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

After the favorable vote on Joshi’s nomination, the Commerce Committee turned its attention to Christopher Coes, nominated for the post of assistant secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The nominee serves as the principal deputy assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.

He told senators during a hearing Oct. 20 that his input entails contributing to the guidance Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg receives. Such guidance pertains to the update to federal transportation policies, as well as multimodal initiatives that enhance safety, advance equity, pursue climate change action plans and promote innovation.

“President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg have made combating COVID-19, creating high-quality American jobs, fixing our crumbling roads, bridges and rail infrastructure, reconnecting long divided communities and combating climate change as this administration’s top priorities,” Coes told senators. “If confirmed, it would be an honor to continue to work with Congress on these efforts.”

Cliff

Cliff

The panel has yet to schedule a vote on his nomination.

Separately, the White House recently nominated Steven Cliff to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cliff serves as the agency’s acting administrator. In that capacity he oversees vehicle safety standards, identifies defects and manages recalls. The agency also contributes to fuel economy regulations and facilitates testing and deployment of advanced technologies.

His experience includes a tenure at the California Air Resources Board, or CARB. A Senate committee of jurisdiction has yet to schedule a hearing to consider Cliff’s nomination.

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