President Obama made a strange appointment regarding who would become leader of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA"). Although Obama has passed an order stating he would limit lobbyists’ power to enter the government as high officials to influence policy from within, he appointed Anne Ferro, a major trucking industry lobbyist in Maryland, to lead this agency that oversees truck safety. The order prohibits hiring anyone who lobbied an executive-branch agency within the past two years; this technically means federally registered lobbyists. It is unclear how Obama feels hiring Ferro is consistent with the order.
Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meet Wednesday to decide whether Ms. Ferro should be confirmed. Many committee members feel that during his term, President Bush was wrong to install people from the trucking industry to regulate their own industry and do not feel President Obama should do this either. While Ferro has promoted such positive programs as a graduated licensing system for new drivers and an ignition interlock program for drunk drivers, she also has spoken in support of the Bush administration’s loosening of restrictions on drivers’ schedules and driver fatigue; this decision is in defiance of considerable evidence of danger from fatigued drivers.
This record of Ferro’s, some believe (including this writer), should disqualify Ferro from the appointment. The reason for the latter is that there are many people in this country who die each year because of truck drivers operating 18-wheelers, weighing upwards of 80,000 pounds, and the drivers, and/or their employers, are violating federal and state safety regulations (which are or were in place for a reason). Unfortunately, I represent a family currently, and have many times in the past, where the driver was fatigued and should not have been behind the wheel of his rig rolling down the highway. Loosening restrictions on the trucking industry is similar, in some respects, to loosening restrictions on the banking industry (look what happened there).