FMCSA nominee Ferro shows poise in Senate hot seat

| 9/23/2009

The road to becoming FMCSA administrator has taken a few turns for Anne Ferro since President Obama nominated her to the position in June. But Ferro, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, stayed the course through a gauntlet of questions during her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee wasted little time in questioning Ferro about her role as a lobbyist and whether that should disqualify her from becoming administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Believing that her qualifications in state government and as head of Maryland Motor Truck will stand up to the test, Ferro chose to steer clear of the word “lobbyist” and focused on her role in promoting highway safety issues.

“My career in government as well as with the trucking association has been as an advocate for safety,” she said. “The measures and my record in government speak to my very firm and passionate commitment to reduce the severity of crashes.”

Earlier in the day, The New York Times published an editorial claiming Ferro should be disqualified from being administrator because her role doesn’t gel with “Mr. Obama’s promise of ‘a clean break’ from business as usual.”

The hearing was not all about lobbying and included discussions of electronic on-board recorders, or EOBRs, for all trucks; truck size and weight; Mexican trucks; and hours of service.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, a big supporter of EOBRs, demanded that Ferro commit to mandating the recording devices in all trucks. Ferro held ground again by saying she supports EOBRs but would need to investigate the issue before embarking on an industry-wide campaign.

“I’m committed to putting that rule and that particular issue among my top priorities,” was as far as Ferro went with the EOBR discussion.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-AR, who chaired the hearing, asked how Ferro would treat a pilot program for allowing Mexican trucks to travel U.S. highways should the current administration move forward.

“If confirmed, my commitment and objective would be to implement any program should it be passed … so that any cross-border trucking company would have to adhere to the standards of domestic carriers at a minimum,” Ferro said.

Another question from Lautenberg – more of a demand – dealt with truck weight. He asserted that truck weights remain at 80,000 pounds on the nation’s aging infrastructure. His statements went unchallenged.

The confirmation process is not yet over for Ferro or for Cynthia Quarterman, who is the administration’s nominee to the position of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Committee members can submit questions to the nominees until the close of business Thursday, Sept. 24, and the nominees have until Tuesday, Sept. 29, to send back their answers.

– By David Tanner, staff writer