Senate confirmation hearings for President Obama’s nominee for head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, are going on.The choice of Anne Ferro to head the agency at a time when truck safety is topmost on all minds has become a prickly issue.
Much of the discontent over Ferro’s nomination is over her past as a trucking industry lobbyist in Maryland. Between 1997 and 2003, Ferro served as president and CEO of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and for the past six years, has been registered as a lobbyist for state legislators.
She had nothing to do with federal lobbying, but even so, as Atlanta truck accident lawyers, we are definitely concerned about her opinions on trucking safety. In 2008, the Bush Administration passed a regulation allowing an increase in the number of consecutive hours that a trucker could drive to 11 hours. As Georgia truck accident lawyers, we had strongly opposed any such increase in the number of hours truckers could drive at a stretch. Driving long hours contributes to driver fatigue, which is one of the major causes of truck accidents in Georgia. However, Ferro, in a letter to the Baltimore Sun, supported the rule, saying that it would prevent accidents and save lives. Having a former trucking industry lobbyist, who one safety group calls an "apologist for the trucking industry,” as the head of the FMCSA could raise questions about conflict of interest.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, in 2008, 180 people were killed in Georgia in accidents involving a large commercial truck. Coweta County had three trucking accident fatalities last year, while DeKalb County had four, and Gwinnett County had three truck accident fatalities.
A large part of preventing truck accidents is having strong enforceable rules in place. For instance, there are proposals on to mandate trucking companies to install Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR) to record the number of hours the trucker drives, thus preventing him from exceeding the number of work hours, and reducing the chances of fatigue. When asked by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey if she would mandate EOBRs on trucks, Ferro shied away from a commitment to mandating installation of the devices, only saying that she would review available data on EOBRs.
The American people deserve to have a commercial vehicle safety agency, headed by responsible people who look out for the safety of citizens, and not the interests of trucking companies. We hope Ferro will not disappoint.