Top trucking safety administrator resigns

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) chief Anne Ferro is resigning from her post in August after five years atop the nation’s regulatory agency for buses and trucks. 

Ferro, who was appointed by President Obama in 2009, said in a message to employees that she was leaving office next month to assume a new position outside of the federal government. 

“It has been my greatest privilege to serve side-by-side with you to advance FMCSA's life saving mission,” Ferro wrote.

“And in keeping with my pledge to be open and transparent with you about the things that affect your workplace, I'm writing to personally let you know that I will be leaving the agency towards the end of August to take on a new role as President and CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.” 

Ferro was recently at the center of a dispute between truckers and regulators over scheduling rules for late night work shifts that led to at least one group calling for her resignation. She didn't mention the fight in her resignation note.

The fight involved a congressional effort to roll back federal requirements that drivers take time off on two consecutive nights between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m., as part of a rule that drivers wait at least 34 hours before starting a new shift.

Trucking groups argued that the rule resulted in more trucks being on the highway during daylight hours, when traffic was heavier. They added that some truckers were forced to take two days off depending on when they started the 34-hour window.

Ferro sided with safety groups who vocally opposed the change to the trucker scheduling rules, which Obama administration officials said were intended to reduce fatigued driving. 

The dust-up led the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which supported the proposed rules changes, to call for Ferro’s resignation in June.

“Recent comments by Administrator Anne Ferro, combined with actions by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), have made it clear to most truckers on the road and OOIDA’s Board of Directors that they can no longer be assured of respect from and fair treatment by the Administrator and the agency she leads,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. 

The trucker group struck a much more conciliatory tone after Ferro’s resignation was announced on Friday. 

“We would like to congratulate the administrator on her new position and wish her well as she leads the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators,” Johnston said. “She is well known for having unprecedented personal outreach and engagement with truckers in all the years that we have worked with the agency.” 

For her part, Ferro said that under her leadership the office had made a difference by raising the bar on safety.

“We have worked to ensure that companies and drivers are more accountable for their actions, strengthened our oversight of high-risk carriers, created better tools for our law enforcement partners, and opened up a new world of useful data to educate both businesses and consumers alike,” she said. “On a daily basis we have also recognized the significant contributions that commercial truck and bus drivers make to roadway safety and our nation's economic vitality.” 

Foxx said Friday that he was accepting Ferro’s resignation with “great disappointment” in a statement that also made no mention of the trucker scheduling flap. 

“Under Anne's leadership, FMCSA has ushered in a new culture of safety into the commercial bus and trucking industries,” Foxx said. 

“She has made it more difficult for companies that jeopardize the public's well-being to stay in business and easier for consumers to make informed choices when choosing a shipper or buying a bus ticket,” the DOT chief continued. “From making it easier for veterans to get jobs as commercial drivers, to shutting down more than 100 dangerous bus companies last year alone, the initiatives Anne has championed will continue to increase safety for travelers on our roads for years to come.”  

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.