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President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the federal agency on trucking affairs was easily approved by a U.S. Senate panel on June 22.
The Commerce Committee voted to back the nomination of Robin Hutcheson, picked for the top job at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Her nomination advances to the Senate floor for consideration. Floor managers have yet to schedule that vote.
During her confirmation hearing, Hutcheson, FMCSA’s acting leader, pledged to pursue safety initiatives, help to alleviate supply chain bottlenecks, and review technological advancements. She also highlighted the contributions of truckers to the national economy. As she put it, “Now, more than ever, Americans are acutely tuned in to how our goods get to our homes — from the flour for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the bed we sleep in — we all have a better understanding that it probably came on a truck.”
“People, in this case, drivers, are the most important part of the industry. It is a difficult job, and men and women have been working long hours to literally keep our economy rolling in the face of unprecedented challenges,” she added.
Responding to a questionnaire from the committee, she cited federal data on transportation safety, as well as pointing to workforce concerns.
“Nearly 40,000 people lost their lives on the nation’s roadways in 2021, and approximately 5,000 of those crashes involved a commercial motor vehicle. Roadway safety, and the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles, will continue to be the top challenge, and opportunity for the agency,” she wrote.
“The vulnerabilities of the supply chain have highlighted the need for a stable and recognized commercial motor vehicle workforce,” she went on. “Recruitment and retention continue to be a challenge that will be met with a deeper understanding of the barriers to quality work environment and compensation, including ensuring the profession is welcoming to women and people of color.”
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Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) praised Hutcheson’s record on safety matters during a career that included stints in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City before arriving at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Strong federal leadership is needed as the nation faces a tragic rise in highway fatalities, including a dramatic increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks,” the chairwoman said.
According to background about the nominee on the White House’s website, Hutcheson served as the director of public works in Minneapolis where she oversaw a division of 1,100 individuals. Prior to that, she was the transportation director at Salt Lake City. American Trucking Associations is among the stakeholders calling on senators to confirm the nominee.
“Since her appointment as acting administrator in January, Ms. Hutcheson has worked closely with the trucking industry to confront supply chain, workforce and safety challenges, while pressing forward with the implementation of vital programs included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “Ms. Hutcheson’s response to the challenges facing our industry has been timely and effective, and we are confident she will bring that same focus to her role as the administrator of the FMCSA.”