Obama Chooses Trucking Industry Lobbyist to Regulate Truckers

The White House's choice of trucking lobbyist Anne Ferro to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) -- the agency charged with preventing truck crashes -- prompted consternation yesterday from a senior Democrat on the Senate committee that must approve the nomination.

woman_of_the_year_lg.jpgAnne Ferro, nominated to lead the FMCSA. (Photo: Smart Woman)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), chairman of the Commerce Committee's transportation panel, said that Ferro's six-year stint as head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association cast doubt on her readiness to pursue stricter safety rules for drivers of commercial vehicles, which are responsible for an estimated 5,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year.

"Given Ms. Ferro's ties to the trucking industry ... I am concerned about her ability to take the bold action needed to keep Americans safe," Lautenberg said at Ferro's nomination hearing, calling the FMCSA "an agency in dire need of reform."

Ferro described herself as a strong safety advocate, pointing to her support for ignition interlocks when she led Maryland's motor vehicle administration, according to the Associated Press.

But safety groups continue to question Ferro's support for the Bush administration's 2004 rule that increased the number of hours truck drivers could remain behind the wheel. The so-called "hours of service" (HOS) rule for truckers was struck down twice by federal courts that found it had ignored evidence of a higher crash risk caused by lengthy stints behind the wheel.

In a July letter to the Commerce Committee, representatives of the Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety, the Safe Climate Campaign and several other road-safety groups wrote:

While six federal appellate judges in two cases have found the Bush Administration HOS rule arbitrary and capricious, Ms. Ferro has vigorously defended the HOS rule, in concert with the American Trucking Associations, as a safe and wise policy. ... In fact, she wrote, “…reversing the 2004 change in the hours-of-service regulations would be foolish, would make our highways less safe and would cost lives.”

Ferro registered to lobby Maryland state lawmakers, but not members of Congress. If she had, the nomination likely would need an ethics waiver under Obama administration rules that aim to prevent lobbyists from holding undue influence over federal policy-making.