UPDATE: April 6, 2022: President Joe Biden announced Wednesday he will nominate Robin Hutcheson as Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator for the Department of Transportation, according to a statement. Hutcheson, whose nomination will need Senate approval, is currently acting and deputy administrator.
UPDATE: Jan. 19, 2022: Robin Hutcheson will replace Meera Joshi as FMCSA deputy administrator, the Department of Transportation announced Wednesday. Hutcheson will also serve as acting administrator.
Since January 2021, Hutcheson has been the deputy assistant secretary for safety policy at the DOT, where she helped develop the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Before that, she was the director of public works for the city of Minneapolis, after serving as the transportation director for Salt Lake City.
- FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi has been named the New York City deputy mayor for operations, New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams announced Monday.
- Joshi will remain at the FMCSA "for the next month," a spokesperson from the Department of Transportation said in an emailed statement. Joshi has been in the Senate confirmation process to become FMCSA administrator for months. The agency does not currently have a permanent administrator.
- "Deputy Administrator Joshi seemed genuinely interested in the concerns raised by the Association such as driver retention and job quality. We held high hopes while working with her before this recent announcement," Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said in a statement emailed to members.
As Deputy Mayor for Operations, Meera Joshi will ensure that our City is able to respond in real time to meet and exceed the needs of every community and be a model of excellence for all urban centers. pic.twitter.com/QNHPVdyHq3— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) December 20, 2021
Joshi's move extends the years-long vacancy atop the FMCSA. The agency has not had a permanent administrator since Ray Martinez stepped down from the post at the end of October 2019.
But impermanence at the helm hasn't kept the FMCSA from doing its job. The bureau still published the HOS final rule, continued pilot projects and issued emergency declarations throughout the pandemic without an administrator.
The DOT secretary generally sets the agenda, and subagencies take cues to form their own roadmaps. But having a person officially in charge is still the ideal, as it is for any firm.
"I'd say a permanent appointee is much better," Tom Yager, a former FMCSA leader who now heads up his own consultancy, said last year. "They know they're hopefully going to be there a while. They have a little more standing in dealing with everyone and other agencies and so on."
An administrator spends time liaising between stakeholders, said Rose McMurray, who retired from a DOT career that included two stints as acting FMCSA administrator, via email. That requires balancing tensions and diverse interests from truckers, brokers, OEMs, safety advocates and more — all while carrying out the Biden administration's goals, McMurray said.
In a statement acknowledging Joshi's plans, the American Trucking Associations noted her "candid" and "collaborative" ways of interacting with the trucking industry.
Joshi did not have industry experience prior to joining the FMCSA. She has held positions as a transportation consultant, a visiting transportation policy scholar at New York University, chief regulator of the city's for-hire vehicle industry and an executive manager in city agencies with oversight of the police and corrections departments, according to the DOT website.
Spencer said Joshi's replacement "would be best served to have trucking experience as the position will have a pivotal role executing the White House Trucking Workforce Action Plan and implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act."
The FMCSA plays a large role in the White House's Trucking Action Plan, which includes measures mandated by the infrastructure funding package. The agency is set to give greater support to state DOTs to make the CDL licensing process more efficient, study driver compensation and launch a pilot for drivers ages 18-21.
“We are very grateful for Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi’s leadership this past year at FMCSA and know that she will bring the same commitment, expertise, and vision to her new role. She has engaged with truck drivers and the motorcoach industry to chart a clear path for FMCSA to address our supply chain challenges, improve driver safety and job quality, and has built a strong team at FMCSA who will help build on this foundation," the DOT spokesperson said.