Transportation Nominees on Senate’s To-Do List

Hutcheson's Departure as FMCSA Leader Adds to Work to Be Done by Commerce Committee
Maria Cantwell
Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell and her colleagues will be tasked with nominating a leader for FMCSA. (Mariam Zuhaib/Associated Press)

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Robin Hutcheson’s departure from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will add to a list of transportation nominations the U.S. Senate will be tasked to consider during an election year.

Hutcheson stepped down as FMCSA administrator effective Jan. 26.

Sue Lawless, the agency’s executive director and chief safety officer, was tapped as acting deputy administrator to lead the trucking industry’s regulatory body.

“I thank Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg for his leadership and confidence and recognize the dedicated team of professionals at the Department of Transportation who work hand in hand with industry partners to serve the American people and keep our country moving forward,” Hutcheson said in a statement Jan. 19. The Biden administration credited her with developing some freight-centric provisions included in 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan law is facilitating the completion of projects related to safety, climate change and supply chain connectivity.

Robin Hutcheson


Stakeholders lauded the former FMCSA administrator’s tenure. American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear observed, “Administrator Hutcheson led FMCSA through a critical time as the pandemic, natural disasters, workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions challenged the freight economy in ways never seen before.”

“America’s trucking industry is the heartbeat of this nation,” Spear continued, “and we depend on partners in government like administrator Hutcheson who value data and stakeholder input to meet real-world needs and ensure the safe movement of freight across our nation’s highways. We applaud her communication, transparency and commitment to ATA and our members, and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The White House has yet to send the Senate an FMCSA nominee that would succeed Hutcheson. Senior commercial transportation nominations are referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the panel’s chairwoman, led Hutcheson’s confirmation process.

Amtrak logo

Relatedly, Cantwell recently touted the confirmation of nominees to serve on Amtrak’s board of directors. On Jan. 23, the Senate confirmed Christopher Koos, Anthony Coscia and Joel Szabat to Amtrak’s board.

“I applaud today’s confirmations of [Normal, Ill.] Mayor Christopher Koos, Anthony Coscia and Joel Szabat and look forward to the work they will do to enhance the passenger experience and improve reliability,” Cantwell said soon after their confirmation in the Senate. “Amtrak’s service is essential for travelers all across the country and provides an economic boost to the rural and urban communities it serves, including along the Amtrak Cascades, Empire Builder and Coast Starlight in the Pacific Northwest.”

“As travel continues to rebound, the bipartisan infrastructure law’s investments will allow Amtrak to purchase new railcars, improve stations and upgrade tracks,” the senator went on. “The new board members will help ensure these investments are spent wisely and benefit the entire nation.”

Meanwhile, awaiting action in the upper chamber are two nominees for the National Transportation Safety Board. The nominations of J. Todd Inman and Alvin Brown were approved by the Commerce committee.

J. Todd Inman and Alvin Brown

Inman and Brown 

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Inman, formerly a senior U.S. Department of Transportation official, received committee approval last month. If confirmed, he would serve on the independent board through 2027. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking member on the panel, endorsed the nominee, saying, “Mr. Inman knows how to lead a major organization, having recently served as Florida’s secretary of management services, where he administered a $1 billion budget and led a 1,000-person workforce. I strongly urge my colleagues to support Mr. Inman’s nomination to this important safety position.”

Brown gained committee approval last summer. If confirmed, the former mayor of Jacksonville, Fla., would serve on the board through 2026. Of Brown, the White House indicated, “Under his leadership, Jacksonville became one of America’s leading cities for innovation and improving quality of life. Brown achieved numerous successes in Jacksonville with bold and collaborative approaches to many modern challenges.”

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