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OOIDA asks for new leadership at FMCSA
At the urging of its members, the OOIDA Board of Directors has unanimously voted to ask Secretary Anthony Foxx to request that FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro leave her position at the agency.

OOIDA submitted a letter June 5 to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation formally seeking the resignation of the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“We have asked the secretary to put into place new leadership at FMCSA,” said the President and CEO Jim Johnston. “The agency needs to be headed by someone who will approach professional truck drivers with the respect and fair treatment that their important work and commitment to safety demand.”

In its letter to Secretary Anthony Foxx, OOIDA cited past and present examples of Administrator Anne Ferro’s failure to perform her duties impartially, her failure to lead her agency to fulfill Congressional mandates, and her failure to responsibly prioritize the agency’s tasks.

By June 9, a number of trade publications reported receiving a completely dismissive response from FMCSA after asking what the agency had to say about the letter.

Marissa Padilla, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, responded that the DOT did not feel the letter “deserved” a response.

Excerpts from the letter to Secretary Foxx

Recent comments by Administrator Anne Ferro, combined with actions by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, have made it clear to most truckers on the road and OOIDA’s Board of Directors that they can no longer be assured of respect from and fair treatment by the Administrator and the agency she leads. These statements and actions … demonstrate a clear bias against truckers and the trucking industry. On behalf of the OOIDA’s Board of Directors I am writing to express our disappointment in Administrator Anne Ferro’s failed leadership of the FMCSA. I respectfully request that you take immediate action to remedy this situation.

• • •

OOIDA’s Board of Directors, made up predominantly of men and women who spend their days on the highway driving a truck, has concluded that the FMCSA can no longer perform its regulatory and enforcement duties impartially, and we have thus lost confidence in Administrator Ferro’s ability to conduct her responsibilities (which go far beyond simply regulating and enforcing truck safety rules and regulations) effectively.

While there is a long list of areas where OOIDA and FMCSA have disagreed on policy, process, and outcomes, as an organization we have always maintained the view that Administrator Ferro and the staff at FMCSA are professionals working to do a difficult job balancing a number of complex responsibilities and perspectives.  

Recent statements by the Administrator, especially a June 3, 2014 posting on the Department’s official blog “Fast Lane” spelled out clearly that FMCSA, and the Administrator herself, view truckers not as committed professionals but as accidents waiting to happen, and that the only way to prevent these accidents is through more rules, more enforcement, and the continued treatment of truckers as a whole as if they are criminally negligent.

In her blog post, “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road,” Administrator Ferro goes on to make a clear attempt to influence potential Congressional action regarding hours-of-service rules that went into effect last year. Her posting uses snippets of isolated accidents – tragedies yes, but situations that need far more explanation and context to understand than a few simple lines on a website – to oppose a regulation that OOIDA members and others within trucking have clearly stated have a demonstratively negative impact on their health, their incomes, their ability to spend time with their families, and on the safety of the driving public. It is important to point out that FMCSA moved forward with this rulemaking before completing its field study on hours of service rules, contrary to the intent of MAP-21.

Instead of speaking positively about the safety accomplishments of truckers, these types of outrageous comments exemplify an extreme bias against the trucking industry and truckers in general. We can have strong disagreements over policy. However, the tone of this blog posting leads professional truck drivers to conclude that the Administrator feels they are actively seeking to cause accidents (or at the very least lack a commitment to safety) by opposing specific changes to the hours-of-service regulations. Such comments coming from the Administrator of FMCSA, which are obviously intended to influence legislative efforts, are totally inappropriate and should not be tolerated. Additionally, by her position and using government resources to attempt to influence Congressional action and public opinion, we believe she has violated both the letter and intent of 18 U.S. Code § 1913.

This blog post is part of a pattern of troubling statements Ms. Ferro has made in regards to the trucking industry. When questioned at a U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation Subcommittee hearing this past March about the unintended consequences of FMCSA’s proposed rulemakings that put an undue burden on our nation’s truckers, she responded that “[she] is not hired to represent the industry.” While we can all agree that it is not the job of FMCSA to place industry interests above public safety, this kind of antagonism is not conducive to productive dialogue and indicates that Ms. Ferro does not welcome input from the very industry her agency regulates.

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This lack of fair treatment is readily apparent in the agency’s April 2014 decision to move forward with a rulemaking to increase minimum levels of insurance for motor carriers. The agency’s own studies show that less than 0.2 percent of truck-involved accidents result in property and personal injury damages that exceed current minimum liability coverage requirements. Further, no study anywhere shows a connection between higher insurance levels and safety performance by a motor carrier, nor would any insurance company agree that their products promote safety as that is not the purpose of having insurance in the first place. Despite these facts, the Administrator announced that FMCSA will be initiating a “high priority” rulemaking to increase these requirements. The significant cost increases imposed on small business truckers as a result of this policy will lead many to leave trucking altogether; this will create a void filled by inexperienced and unproven drivers, thus undermining public safety.

Meanwhile, FMCSA has largely ignored or moved at a snail’s pace on efforts that professional truckers know will have a positive impact on highway safety. The clearest example of this is the absolute lack of action on entry-level driver training standards, despite the fact that Congress first called for such standards more than 20 years ago and restated that call in the recent MAP-21 highway bill.

Indeed, safe, experienced, and professional truckers have provided countless examples of policy steps and enforcement changes that the agency could pursue that would result in improved safety on the highways. Instead of approaching this core of professionals as a safety resource, the Administrator has approached their recommendations with indifference or ignorance, instead choosing to move forward …

It is the responsibility of FMCSA to promote highway safety with regard to all highway users, including truck drivers and other operators of commercial motor vehicles. Instead, Administrator Ferro has waded into the murky waters of demagoguery against truck drivers. Administrator Ferro’s failure to perform her duties impartially, her failure to lead her agency to fulfill Congressional mandates, and her failure to responsibly prioritize the agency’s tasks has left the OOIDA Board of Directors no choice but to unanimously vote in favor of a call for Administrator Ferro’s resignation, and for you to begin an immediate search for a new FMCSA Administrator who will approach professional truck drivers with the respect and fair treatment that their important work and commitment to safety demand. LL