FMCSA's former Chief Counsel sworn in as Deputy Administrator

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023:

FMCSA names new Deputy Administrator

Earl Adams Jr. was sworn in Monday as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Adams has served as FMCSA’s Chief Counsel since July 2021.

Earl Adams Jr.Earl Adams Jr.He takes over the role previously held by Robin Hutcheson, who was officially confirmed as FMCSA’s Administrator on Sept. 22, 2022.

As Deputy Administrator, Adams will join Hutcheson to lead the agency and will oversee a portfolio of initiatives across the agency’s various program offices that supports FMCSA’s mission – to prevent crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

“Earl is a mission-driven leader and thinker who embodies the values of our agency and the entire Department of Transportation,” Hutcheson said. “His vast experience, intellect and people skills are exactly what the role of Deputy Administrator calls for.”

Adams has extensive legal and executive experience across several modes, including surface transportation, rail and aviation. In his role as FMCSA Chief Counsel, Adams was responsible for legal policy on all aspects of agency programs and activities, including the development, issuance, interpretation, enforcement and defense of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations before state and federal courts. He also provided executive oversight for FMCSA’s technology and innovation portfolio, including rulemaking on autonomous vehicles.

Prior to joining FMCSA, Adams worked in the private sector with several law firms, and most recently as a litigation partner with a national law firm, where he also served as the managing partner of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. His legal practice has always focused on providing clients with regulatory and compliance counsel across several sectors, including transportation, renewable energy, and procurement.

Additionally, Adams served as Chief of Staff to Maryland’s former Lt. Governor and has held several leadership positions in impactful organizations, including serving as the former Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, former Vice Chairman of the Bowie State University Board of Visitors, and former board member of the Economic Club of Washington.

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He earned his Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School, a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Morehouse College.

FHWA updates memo prioritizing states’ use of infrastructure funds

The American Trucking Associations said a revised memo outlining the Federal Highway Administration’s priorities for states’ use of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will reduce confusion and accelerate important investments in improving freight capacity.

In 2021, FHWA issued a memo outlining a wish list of priorities for states as they spent IIJA funds – priorities that ATA said ran counter to the bipartisan bill’s intent by directing funds to highway maintenance and non-highway projects over investments in expanding highway capacity.

“As I told Congress earlier this month, FHWA’s memo didn’t just run counter to what lawmakers intended with IIJA, it was causing significant confusion for states at a time when those states needed to be working closely with FHWA to make sure the record-setting investment is directed to where it can do the most good,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “The IIJA was a good piece of bipartisan legislation and FHWA’s original memo was a misguided attempt to do an end-run around the priorities Congress set, and it is a positive sign that DOT leadership has issued new guidance more in line with those priorities.”

Spear told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 1 that the effect of the memo was the country would have “really nice roads and bridges, but we're still sitting on them going nowhere. We need truck lanes, we need parking, we need new bridges. We need more capacity to move the freight.”

FHWA’s new memo brings the agency’s guidance in line with IIJA’s language and clarifies that states can invest in critical freight capacity expansion projects, ATA added. 

“We are pleased that thanks to congressional leadership – notably House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Sam Graves and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – FHWA recognized their mistake and changed course,” Spear said. “We look forward to continuing to work with FHWA and Congress to make sure this historic investment goes to where it can do the most good for our country and economy.”

Paccar recalling 8,000 medium-duty trucks over potential brake failure

A recall has been issued by Paccar for approximately 8,008 model year 2021-2024 Kenworth T280, T380 and T480, and Peterbilt 536, 537 and 548 medium-duty trucks because the brakes in the affected trucks could potentially fail.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents, when the brake pedal in the affected trucks is fully applied and then released rapidly, the pedal plunger that connects the brake pedal to the brake valve may become disconnected, causing the brakes to fail.

A remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed April 16. Owners can contact Kenworth's customer service at 1-425-828-588 with recall number 23KWB and Peterbilt's customer service at 1-940-591-4220 with recall number 23PBB. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-087.