What is in this article?:
- Darling: FMCSA compliant with will of Congress
- Restart study
“It seems like you’ve been moving forward rather vigorously in the past several weeks. Why are you moving forward when we’ve already given you so much to do in the bipartisan FAST Act?” —Sen. Deb Fischer
In a confirmation hearing that served as a venue for Senators to vent their gripes about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Scott Darling did what any good political nominee who wants a job should do: He told everyone what they wanted to hear. And that included assuring Commerce committee Republicans that FAST Act-mandated reforms of the agency and its regulatory platform were well underway while promising Democrats that the Republican-led rollback of driver hours of service limits would soon be addressed.
More broadly, Darling—nominated to be the next FMCSA administrator—emphasized the importance of “partnerships” with state enforcement agencies and the trucking industry.
Darling has led FMCSA since the departure of Anne Ferro in August 2014—so none of the issues were new to him. Indeed, the Wednesday hearing—chaired by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)—was essentially a continuation of previous debate by the surface transportation subcommittee.
Last March Fischer challenged Acting Administrator Darling and the agency, detailing problems with both the HOS rule and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. She later introduced reform legislation that ultimately was folded into the new highway bill, enacted in December.
“Unfortunately, some of the FMCSA’s actions over the past several years have challenged our shared goal of enhancing commercial vehicle safety,” Fischer said in her opening remarks, again citing a Government Accountability Office study critical of the CSA methodology used to rank the safety of trucking companies and the agency’s failure to address the report’s findings.
And while she commended FMCSA for acting quickly to remove CSA carrier rankings from public view, she questioned the agency’s recent proposal of a new Safety Fitness Determination rule that integrates “potentially flawed” roadside safety data into the rating process. She also noted the publication of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.
“It seems like you’ve been moving forward rather vigorously in the past several weeks,” Fischer said. “Why are you moving forward when we’ve already given you so much to do in the bipartisan FAST Act?”
Darling detailed the agency’s efforts to meet the new demands, and explained that the latest rulemakings had long been “in the works.” And he emphasized, after repeated questions from Fischer, that the SFD does not use the data Congress wants reviewed. The agency, he added, is in the process of arranging the CSA study.
“Good to hear,” Fischer said.