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Industry Lobbyist Is the Wrong Choice to Head Truck Safety Agency

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This blog was authored by our colleague Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety

Anne Ferro, a trucking industry lobbyist should not be the next head of the key federal agency regulating the trucking industry. President Obama nominated Ferro, President and CEO of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, the state affiliate of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) responsible for regulating truck safety.
On the day of her hearing, September 23, the New York Times published an editorial calling on the Senate to reject Ms. Ferro's nomination:

President Obama made a peculiar choice in June when he nominated Anne Ferro, a major trucking industry lobbyist in Maryland, to lead the agency that oversees truck safety. On its face, Ms. Ferro's selection violates the spirit of Mr. Obama's decision to limit the ability of lobbyists to enter government as high officials and influence policy from within.

The order bars hiring anyone who lobbied an executive-branch agency within the past two years, which technically means federally registered lobbyists. But it is hard to see how naming a trucking industry insider like Ms. Ferro, the president of the Maryland affiliate of the American Trucking Associations, to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration squares with Mr. Obama's promise of "a clean break" from business as usual.

The editorial went on to point out that some members of the Senate objected when President Bush appointed trucking industry insiders to the FMCSA, and argued that it is "no less wrong for Mr. Obama's (administration) to do it."

In their editorial, the New York Times concluded:

Ms. Ferro's record, we believe, is disqualifying. With more than 5,000 fatal truck crashes a year, Americans cannot afford conflicts of interest in the running of their truck safety agency.

Leading truck safety advocates, in both a statement released by the Truck Safety Coalition in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, agree with the New York Times in opposing Ms. Ferro's nomination. The Truck Safety Coalition is a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T) dedicated to reducing death and injury caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policy-makers and media about truck safety issues.

Jennifer Tierney, a board member of CRASH, stated:

Today, approximately 15 people will die in truck crashes. Yet this administration nominee is a trucking industry insider and lobbyist. The New York Times got it right; she would regulate the very industry she has advocated for. This is the perfect example of the fox guarding the hen house.

Daphne Izer, founder of P.A.T.T., pointed out that:

Safety has been on the back burner for too many years, resulting in thousands upon thousands of needless deaths and injuries. I want safety put before profits. Even the Bush Administration wouldn't have had the gall to make this move.

During the next four years the FMCSA Administrator will be involved in critical life and death decisions affecting motor carrier and motor coach safety. The individual appointed to this agency should not come from the very industry the agency is required to regulate, especially given the trucking industry's obstructionist positions on commonsense health and safety issues.

The FMCSA needs a leader and the public deserves an Administrator who is an avowed and proven safety advocate without industry conflicts. Someone who will take action on lifesaving policies that genuinely advance the health and safety of truck drivers and the American people.