“Get out there. Talk to folks. Figure out what their concerns are, what their issues are.”
That’s the core advice FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling would offer to the next agency chief of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Darling held a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, his final day with the agency. He took the opportunity to reflect on his two years heading up the agency and to offer advice for the next administrator.
“You’re probably going to have to bear with me a little bit, it’s been a little teary-eyed around here this past week, working with folks and saying goodbye to folks,” Darling said before he gave his prepared remarks.
“What an incredible ride this last two years has been,” he said. “I will forever feel humbled by the invitation to serve in President Obama’s administration.”
Darling was appointed chief counsel of FMCSA by Obama in 2012. When then-Administrator Anne Ferro departed, Darling was appointed acting administrator. In 2015, he was nominated by Obama to take the reins as administrator. The Senate confirmed him in July 2016.
“More than 12 months ago,” he said during the press conference, “I declared that the year 2016 would be the year of partnerships for FMCSA. In my small way, I hope that I have both strengthened and expanded our safety partnerships.”
The overarching message, and legacy that Darling obviously strives to leave, is that improving all aspects of the trucking industry must be a collaborative effort.
“Improving safety on our highways and roadways cannot be done by the federal government alone. It cannot be done by the states or the industry. It must be done by all of us,” he said.
Darling came from a background of transit and highway transportation – not necessarily trucking or bus operations. He found value in getting out and meeting with all groups involved in trucking from associations, to law enforcement, the states and even the individuals on the road every day.
There was so much value in that interaction for Darling, that he stressed repeatedly during the press conference that the next administrator should do the same thing.
“I would tell them to do the same thing I did, because everything looks clear from the sixth floor of 1200 New Jersey (FMCSA headquarters),” he said.
“Continue to partner with all the stakeholders because we can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s voice. It will take all of us working together and will take all brains to find one mindful solution, he said. “Get out there. Talk to folks. Figure out what their concerns are, what their issues are. Then bring it back and then communicate that to the folks who are here at headquarters and out in the field. Get out there and experience it … that would be my message to the next administrator: Get out there and be around your constituents.”
The biggest issue going forward for the agency, in Darling’s opinion, centers on safety.
“Safety and the economic, commercial interests should not be two separate pieces. They are together. It’s important that as that truck goes down the road, that truck gets to its destination, so that good or product that it’s carrying gets to the shelf or its location safely. That’s the only way it will work.
“I see the issue to be ensuring that we have well-qualified drivers and that those drivers understand that they are not fatigued and that they take care of themselves. Also, (the vehicles they drive) are up to standards. That’s the key. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about safe trucking and safe bus operations. It start with the driver all the way down to the vehicle.”
Darling doesn’t have any hard plans for the future after he leaves the agency – other than some eye surgery. After that? “We’ll see,” he said with a chuckle.
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