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December 7, 2021 3:00 PM, EST

USDOT Nominees Await Action in Senate

Meera Joshi Meera Joshi, nominee to become administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, testifies before the Senate Commerce Committee in September. (senate.commerce.gov)

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Nominees for senior roles at the U.S. Department of Transportation continue to await consideration before the U.S. Senate.

Democratic leaders in the chamber, rushing to finalize a year-end agenda centered on a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure budget package, have yet to proceed with votes on the nominees. Republican concerns pertaining to supply chain woes have slowed down their consideration.

The nominees include Meera Joshi to become administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Amit Bose for the role of administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration; and Victoria Wassmer to be chief financial officer at USDOT.

Committee Questions for Meera Joshi by Transport Topics on Scribd

The Senate Commerce Committee approved Joshi’s nomination in October. During her confirmation hearing, Joshi, currently the agency’s deputy administrator, told the Senate panel: “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.”

Responding to concerns raised by Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) about factors that could contribute to commercial drivers’ fatigue, Joshi said, “Fatigued driving is a critical factor in crashes involving large trucks and buses, and we are committed to a multipronged approach to combating it.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell

Cantwell

She added, “This will include outreach and education, the incorporation of advanced safety tools, such as automatic emergency braking, and targeted enforcement during high crash times and locations, especially work zones.

“We will also implement a data-driven approach to understanding how our rules and policy can support keeping fatigued drivers off the road.”

FMCSA oversees trucking regulations.

Most recently, the Commerce committee advanced the nomination of Christopher Coes to be assistant secretary for transportation policy at USDOT. Coes serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy. In October, he told senators that if confirmed he would commit to reviewing guidance on multimodal initiatives that enhance safety, advance equity and pursue proposals for addressing climate change.

Christopher Coes

Coes

“President [Joe] Biden and Secretary [Pete] 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 said.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R), a member of the Commerce Committee, recently indicated that it is his “intention to hold all Department of Transportation” nominees until the panel hears from the leadership at the Transportation and Commerce departments about the Biden administration’s response to national supply chain woes.

In a letter to Cantwell, Scott noted, “I have heard from families and businesses in my state that simply keeping shelves stocked is an everyday challenge, and I find it extremely concerning that members of the Biden administration seem to be focused more on playing TV commentator than finding real solutions to address these problems.”

Hardworking families deserve leadership that is accountable and responsive to their needs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

Rick Scott

The Florida senator continued, “The Biden administration continues to show a total lack of concern about the harmful impact its policies, mandates and rhetoric have on families, and the American people deserve better. Hardworking families deserve leadership that is accountable and responsive to their needs. That is what I’m fighting for every day. I hope we can work together to address these supply chain shortages caused by President Biden and his administration’s failed policies, and find real solutions to help the American people.”

The Commerce Committee hosted a hearing with freight stakeholders to examine disruptions in the supply chain. The Cabinet secretaries have not recently appeared before the committee. However, they regularly offer updates about comprehensive White House strategies for tackling supply chain disruptions.

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