Nominee to lead FMCSA answers questions during Senate confirmation hearing
Washington — Commercial motor vehicle safety, drug testing and the driver shortage were some of the topics Robin Hutcheson addressed during her June 8 confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Hutcheson, nominated to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, noted in her opening statement that 800 of the nation’s 40,000-plus traffic deaths last year were CMV drivers. Later on, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the committee, pointed out that 5,600 of the fatalities involved large trucks – a 13% increase from 2020.
“Roadway safety affects not only those whose lives were lost, but the family members and loved ones who suffer the grief of loss,” said Hutcheson, FMCSA’s acting administrator since Jan. 19. “We must do better, and I am committed to working with FMCSA, our stakeholders and [congressional] offices to reverse this unacceptable trend.”
When asked by Cantwell what FMCSA’s top priority is to decrease roadway deaths, Hutcheson said the National Roadway Safety Strategy “outlines a number of actions that the Department of Transportation should take.” For CMVs, those actions include increasing investigations of high-risk motor carriers, getting resources designated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to stakeholders and “closing loopholes so unsafe drivers are never on the road.”
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) asked about one such loophole: Shippers or freight brokers aren’t required to check FMCSA data before hiring motor carriers. “Unauthorized motor carriers can continue to get business despite FMCSA trying to shut them down,” Fischer said.
Hutcheson said the agency is working to clarify the definition of broker. “We believe this will be effective in solving some of the problems that we are seeing. We are very close to asking for comments on it.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked about drug testing hair samples of CMV drivers. Hutcheson said FMCSA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services on a study focused on that type of testing.
“When that’s complete, we stand ready to implement their recommendations,” Hutcheson said.
Questions about the driver shortage
Hutcheson was asked by multiple senators, from both sides of the aisle, about what FMCSA is doing to address the driver shortage.
She said the agency is continuing to implement its Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program for 18- to 21-year-old drivers. The program has more than 500 companies slated to participate and is scheduled to launch in the fall.
FMCSA also is beginning a truck leasing task force, a detention time study and its Women of Trucking Advisory Board. The agency has received more than 250 nominations for the board and expects the first meeting to take place in the summer or early fall.
The committee next will vote on whether to advance Hutcheson’s nomination to the full Senate, but when that might happen is uncertain.
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