Federal agencies Transportation Leadership Transportation

Raymond Martinez faces Senate for first time as FMCSA administrator nominee

Photo: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

Washington – The upcoming federal mandate on electronic logging devices in commercial motor vehicles was one of the issues in the spotlight as Raymond Martinez, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Oct. 31.

Martinez told the committee that, if confirmed, he would work with all parties involved in the ELD mandate, noting that it could cause “serious hardship to some small, independent truckers, particularly those working in the agricultural sector.” The mandate – scheduled to go into effect Dec. 18 – has faced opposition, most notably from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The American Trucking Associations, meanwhile, has offered its support.

In response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Martinez said his goal as head of FMCSA would be “not to cripple commerce,” but to make the roads safer.

“Everything that we approach this with is through that lens of safety,” he said. “It would be my intention, if confirmed, to first and foremost abide by the law, but also to have an open-door policy and work with all the impacted stakeholders.”

In a series of questions from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martinez again was asked why the ELD rule is important.

“What we experienced in the past was it was paper-based, which means it was very susceptible to fraudulent entries and altered entries,” Martinez said.

He also affirmed that fatigue is a serious safety issue and a priority to address during questioning from Booker, one of four senators who sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in August questioning her department’s decision to withdraw a proposed rule on obstructive sleep apnea.

Martinez gave his initial thoughts on the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program while addressing a question from committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD). CSA, which ranks CMV carriers on safety, underwent a mandated 18-month review by the National Academies of Sciences, which released its report in July.

“First of all, I agree with the overall thrust of this program. … The key thing here is whether the data that we use to compile the assessments are accurate, reliable and fair,” Martinez said. “In short, sound science. If the data is unreliable, we lose credibility. … If confirmed, it would be my intention to review the recent findings of the National Academies of Sciences report on the CSA program and make appropriate changes as recommended to evaluate how best we can move forward.”

He added: “We should be setting a very high standard that companies should be aspiring to, whether it’s mandated or incentivized. That’s the type of environment we should be setting forth in this country.”

In a questionnaire submitted before the hearing, Martinez listed the top three challenges he believes FMCSA is facing. He said that the agency must ensure “appropriate, balanced regulation and seamless integration of any new and developing technologies into the existing highway safety landscape without hindering innovation.” He also identified safeguarding IT infrastructure, and using current, valid and verifiable data from all stakeholders to identify areas of risk and “focus enforcement efforts more efficiently” as the others.

Martinez has served as the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission chairman and chief administrator since 2010. He previously was commissioner of New York State’s Department of Motor Vehicles and chairman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission. Martinez also worked in various roles in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)