FMCSA nominee clears Senate panel
The Senate Commerce Committee on November 8 approved the nomination of Raymond Martinez, President Trump's pick to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, sending his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Among eight nominations considered by the committee on Wednesday, Martinez was the only one who did not garner any opposition whatsoever. Martinez currently heads the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
Martinez had a similar experience about a week earlier when he received the fewest questions of any of four Department of Transportation nominees appearing before the committee at an October 31 nomination hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. Also, Martinez on November 6 submitted written responses to questions submitted to him following the hearing.
Perhaps the most controversial question Martinez fielded during the hearing was from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) regarding whether FMCSA should delay the upcoming electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in light of an anticipated cost of $2 billion to the motor carrier industry.
"Senator, first of all, I believe regulatory reform should be an ongoing process," Martinez responded. "My understanding with regard to ELDs is that they are now legally required and there is a December deadline for implementation with a phase-in and an ultimate deadline of December 2019. If confirmed and in position, I would look forward to working with industry and all stakeholders – safety advocates and particularly impacted sectors of commerce. I have heard that this rule could cause serious hardship to some small, independent truckers, particularly those working in the agricultural sector. So I would want to meet with those involved in those areas who oppose the rule to learn more about their concerns. The goal is not to cripple commerce. The goal is to make our roadways safe. That is our mission, and everything we approach this with is through that lens of safety. So it would be my intention if confirmed to first and foremost abide by the law but also to have an open door policy and work with all the impacted stake holders."
Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) followed the Cruz question with one on why Martinez supports ELDs.
"What we experienced in the past, it was paper-based, which means that it was very susceptible to fraudulent entries and altered entries," Martinez said.
Asked by Booker whether he supports speed limiters on trucks, Martinez replied, "I think we have to look at the cost/benefit analysis on that, but I am willing to look at all opinions on it."
Although Booker asked more questions of Martinez than any senator, his questions were not as confrontational as might be expected given Booker's role as one of the trucking industry's leading critics in the Senate. Perhaps the fact that Martinez is from Booker's home state of New Jersey softened Booker's edge in the hearing. Booker is fond of pointing out any connections that witnesses might have to the Garden State.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) pressed Martinez for answers to when Safety Measurement System (SMS) metrics would be publicly available again on property carriers, arguing that trucking companies will have little incentive to improve their safety records if their scores are not made public.
"I am an advocate for transparency," Martinez replied to Markey. "On the state level, where I have specific oversight over school buses, we have a report card we do where we are transparent with regard to inspections. But the data does have to accurate in order to be effective for the consumer to use and also to be fair for the industries that are regulated. I look forward, if confirmed, to working with the FMCSA staff to see what they have, what they are working on and working with your staff to see how best we can achieve the goal of transparency in reporting."