Ferro’s departure comes after increasingly frosty relationships with industry groups

Anne Ferro speaking in Hartford, Conn., last year. (Photo from the U.S. DOT)Anne Ferro speaking in Hartford, Conn., last year. (Photo from the U.S. DOT)

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the resignation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro on Friday, July 25, and she is set to leave her post at the end of next month to become president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The news sent shockwaves throughout the trucking community with agencies from all corners of the industry immediately weighing in. It was such a big story that traffic to CCJDigital.com was even strong enough to overload our servers momentarily Friday.

During her five-year tenure at the helm of FMCSA, Ferro has ushered in a number of new regulations and has laid the groundwork for many more. Successfully rewriting the hours-of-service rule is undoubtedly her biggest accomplishment, especially in light of the fact that the HOS battle between the trucking industry and Washington had drug on for more than a decade. That in and of itself is a huge achievement, in spite of its lack of popularity among fleets and drivers. And a newly proposed rulemaking requiring the use of electronic logging devices is expected to be finalized later this year or early next, with an effective date of two years after the final rule is published.

The Compliance Safety Accountability program wasn’t her doing – the foundation for the program had been completed by the time she assumed her role as administrator – but under her watch, FMCSA has frustrated associations and industry groups with a lack of progress on several aspects of CSA, including the Crash Indicator Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category and a yet-to-be-established Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking, which again has been pushed back for publication until February 2015.

Ferro’s relationship with trucking groups took another turn south in early June when she rebuked industry’s cries for suspension of the new HOS rule for further study, writing a blog post that read more like an accident plaintiff’s attorney ad on late-night television than one from a government official, intimating that the trucking industry wants to undo life-saving rules.

Backlash from industry groups was swift, with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association immediately calling for Ferro to resign, stating her “clear bias against truckers and the trucking industry.” Other groups claimed the agency obviously was misinterpreting or flat-out misrepresenting the data it used as the foundation for rule changes. Recently, she even admitted to a leadership team from the American Trucking Associations that there are some unintended consequences to the HOS regulation, but the agency wasn’t planning to do anything to address them.

Before the announcement of Ferro’s departure, FMCSA updated its rulemaking calendar. Items up soon for publication include an increase in liability insurance premiums for carriers, required use of speed limiters in trucks and a new entrant training and testing process.

In an email to DOT staff, Foxx said, “Under Anne’s leadership, FMCSA has ushered in a new culture of safety into the commercial bus and trucking industries. She has made it more difficult for companies that jeopardize the public’s well-being to stay in business and easier for consumers to make informed choices when choosing a shipper or buying a bus ticket. It is a legacy we are proud to continue.”

It’s hard to argue with any of that, but worthwhile efforts to eliminate bad actors from trucking shouldn’t place an undue burden on the entire industry, especially those carriers that already are putting safety first and foremost. Let’s hope the new FMCSA administrator – whoever he or she may be – implores agency officials to use sound data analysis and listen closely to industry concerns when drafting future rulemakings.