FMCSA’s Robin Hutcheson says parking is a major issue

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The acting head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said his agency and trucking are aligned on key issues facing the industry, and pledged to work collaboratively with fleets to to resolve.

“There are so many things we work on together,” Robin Hutcheson said during a speech to more than 500 attendees at the American Trucking Associations’ annual mid-year management session. In particular, she spoke about the need for more truck parking, as well as steps taken by the White House to alleviate the shortage of drivers in the industry.

Hutcheson has been the acting administrator of the FMCSA since Jan. 19 after serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Security Policy at the Department of Transportation. She was officially chosen to lead the FMCSA on April 6, and her nomination is now before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Hutcheson heard sustained applause when she said truck parking remained a major FMCSA issue and one that concerned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“We know there is a need for more truck parking,” she said. “We work with our partners. This is another case where it is not possible for one entity to resolve – we are currently working with our partners at the Federal Highway Administration to identify all available funding opportunities that could be used for parking trucks at the state level.

Hutcheson noted that several states, including Indiana and Kentucky, are using FMCSA grant-funded technology that alerts drivers in real time to available parking spots.

“It’s a huge security concern,” Hutcheson said. “A tired driver is not the safest driver on the road. We are very interested in helping solve some of the truck parking issues. »

She also highlighted how the pandemic has heightened for Americans the importance of trucking to the nation and heightened the need to address these issues.

“During the pandemic, many people have had the choice to make their way,” she said, referring to the online meeting platform that has grown in popularity during the shutdowns. “Truckers and the trucking industry didn’t have that option – they had to go to work.”

Boosting recruitment to help fill driver positions is also a priority, Hutcheson said. She noted that more than 100 companies have responded to the Biden administration’s 90-day challenge to provide fully paid training for applicants to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

“There are more jobs than drivers,” she said. “I think it’s been difficult to attract drivers to this profession, and it takes a strategic effort.”

LTL carrier Yellow participates in the program. In March, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited a training center the carrier opened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. During the visit, Walsh met with drivers, toured the depot and hosted a roundtable with company officials.

Hutcheson also credited ATA for its efforts to boost recruiting. “ATA has led the way in learning programs,” she said. “Your work over the past six months has been tremendous and has paved the way for safe on-the-job training.”

She also emphasized safety.

“Accidents on our roads are going in the wrong direction and have been for some time,” she said. “Zero is the right number of deaths we should accept on our roads.”

Hutcheson noted that the $1 trillion infrastructure act that President Joe Biden signed last year will dramatically improve the country’s highways, ultimately making them safer for trucks and passenger vehicles.

The FMCSA also recently announced a procedure to review electronic speed-limiting devices on new Class 7 and 8 commercial trucks with a gross weight over 26,000 pounds. The speed at which the vehicles would be regulated has not been determined. The comment period began on May 4 and will continue until June 3.

“Today I focused on this convergence of safety, economy and fairness, but I know there’s so much more work we’re going to do together,” Hutcheson said. “We have to do it together.”

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