David Strickland, who is the Senior Democratic Counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety as well as the Committee on Commerce, Science and Education, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Chief Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Strickland, 41, has served as Senior Democratic Counsel on several Congressional committees since August 2001, and is considered within regulatory circles as someone who “knows vehicle safety.”

“Traffic safety is not a partisan issue and solutions are driven by research and data … and David is going to let data and research guide his decisions,” David Kelly, who headed NHTSA under President George W. Bush and is now president of safety consulting firm Storm King Strategies, told FleetOwner.

Strickland has worked on a wide variety of regulatory and legislative issues with far-reaching implications for both the automotive and trucking industries, according to The Detroit News, including: the 2005 five-year transportation authorization bill, which included several new auto safety rules, and the 2007 energy bill, which boosted passenger car fuel efficiency standards for the first time since they were created in 1975.

“David will be able to balance NHTSA’s behavior and vehicle mandates effectively,” added Kelly. “He understands the regulatory role the agency plays. He knows the regulatory challenges the trucking industry faces and will bring a balanced perspective to his agency.”

Strickland also draws high marks from the American Trucking Assn. (ATA). "ATA staff has worked with Mr. Strickland on numerous safety issues over the years and have known him to be a tireless advocate for highway safety,” Tim Lynch. senior vp-- federation relations & strategic planning. “He understands our freight transportation systems and we look forward to continuing to work with him to improve safety for all modes."

Though Strickland’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, he is expected to face less resistance there from interest groups than the previous nominee, Charles “Chuck” Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The Obama administration nominated Hurley – a former naval intelligence officer with 30 years experience with highway safety issues – to head up NHTSA in April, but Hurley withdrew his name from consideration the next month in the face of growing opposition from environmental groups over his work at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the early 1990s. At IIHS, he sided with automakers on the safety impact of downsizing vehicles to increase fuel efficiency.

Strickland already has the support of key Democratic Senators, especially Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate Commerce committee. “I am extremely pleased that President Obama has nominated David to be the head of NHTSA,” said Rockefeller in a statement. “He is well-respected by the members of the Commerce Committee and all of the stakeholders who work with NHTSA.”