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Obama Taps Trucking Industry Lobbyist for Head of FMCSA

In a New York Times editorial published on Tuesday, the newspaper questioned President Obama’s nomination of Anne Ferro, a truck industry lobbyist, as head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Obama has said that he wants to limit the ability of lobbyists to enter government as high officials and influences policy from within. In fact, an executive order bars any former federally registered lobbyists who join the administration from dealing with their lobbying work or joining agencies they have lobbied in the past two years. Ferro has been representing trucking companies at the state government level as president of the Maryland affiliate of the American Trucking Association since 2003. The editorial views Obama’s nomination as a disconcerting inconsistency:

This disconnect should trouble members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as they convene on Wednesday for Ms. Ferro’s confirmation hearing. It was wrong, as several committee members noted at the time, for the Bush White House to install people from the trucking industry to regulate their own industry. It is no less wrong for Mr. Obama’s to do it.

Ms. Ferro’s record on road safety includes some pluses. As the chief of Maryland’s motor vehicle agency, from 1997 to 2003, she implemented a graduated licensing system for new drivers and an ignition interlock program for drunken drivers.

But her more relevant experience these past six years was in supporting the trucking industry’s efforts to thwart and defeat policies and programs needed to protect the public and promote the health and safety of truck drivers. Just in January, Ms. Ferro co-authored a letter to The Baltimore Sun essentially defending the Bush administration’s loosening of regulations on drivers’ schedules and driver fatigue in defiance of considerable evidence of danger and two court decisions.

Ms. Ferro’s record, we believe, is disqualifying. With more than 5,000 fatal truck crashes a year, Americans cannot afford conflicts of interest in the running of their truck safety agency.

In her letter to The Baltimore Sun, Ferro defended the Bush administration decision to increase the number of consecutive hours that truck drivers can work. She wrote that the regulation improved safety by lengthening the required rest period for drivers. Others complained that the regulation would increase driver fatigue, which is a major cause of truck wrecks.

During Ferro’s senate confirmation hearing yesterday afternoon, Sen. Frank Lautenbery, D-NJ, said, “Given your ties, Ms. Ferro, to the trucking industry… I am concerned about your ability to take the bold action we need to keep Americans safe.”

“My passion is highway safety,” Ferro stated.

The Truck Safety Coalition, however, described Ferro as an “apologist for the trucking industry.”

Indeed, Ferro’s nomination could renew the court battle over hours of service rules for truck drivers. Her nomination is widely supported by the trucking industry. Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, said, “As [Maryland Motor Vehicle] administrator, she developed a reputation as a tough but fair regulator.”
We’ll keep an eye on this continuing story.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you need an experienced attorney who understands the industry. If you have questions about your legal rights, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.