I believe the best word to describe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) head, Anne Ferro’s July, would be – tumultuous! There was a pretty aggressive call for her resignation by a trucking association and tepid support for her from other “inside-the-beltway” transportation associations. On July 25th, Ms. Ferro announced her departure from the agency.
Before I throw in my two cents about Ms. Ferro’s parting from FMCSA, I must confess I have a bias. I have personally known Anne since she was President of the Maryland Motor Truck Association and served with her on the Commercial Driver’s License Advisory Committee between 2007 and 2008. I was a personal champion of her nomination to head-up FMCSA when the safety advocates and the Teamsters were actively opposing her nomination and others mouthed their support for her but actually did nothing to aid in her Senate confirmation hearing.
Saying that Anne’s announced departure was surprising was news from the standpoint that most truckers themselves only learned of her departure on July 25th, it was not surprising at all for many of the rest of us. It was actually widely known by industry insiders that Anne was being considered for the President and CEO position at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). AAMVA is the national association for the state DMV’s. The former CEO of AAMVA, Neil Schuster’s salary for 2013 was $384,000, more than double what she was earning at DOT-FMCSA. So, who wouldn’t want the gig? Personally, I knew in April that Anne was interviewing for the AAMVA job and suspected she’d be offered the job since she was a runner-up when Schuster originally got it in 2007.
It’s standard practice for Presidential appointees to leave their posts during the second term of any President. There has been speculation in the trucking media that Anne somehow became “too toxic” for the Administration. Nothing is further from the truth and is just another example of how today’s trucking media makes unsubstantiated claims and then packages it as a news story to spoon feed to unsuspecting truckers.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Everyone has heard that old adage and in the case of a replacement at FMCSA, everyone who called for Anne’s head “may” come to regret her decision to leave. I didn’t have to dig too much to find mostly negative responses to Anne’s end of July departure announcement. Statements like: “She’s done her damage, now maybe we can find somebody who really listens,” was standard issue. Unfortunately, most statements were not fit for public consumption. Many within the industry thirsting for a “pound of flesh” may well be sorry (but never admit it) if the next administrator really doesn’t know a thing about trucking. There’s even a very strong possibility considering who could be elevated through the “recess appointment” process and avoid (temporarily) a Senate confirmation hearing, that the next administrator is not truck friendly at all.
FMCSA’s present number two is a fellow named Bill Bronrott and his presence at the agency as Deputy Administrator had nothing to do with knowledge of trucking (or lack thereof) – his record clearly shows he is not a friend. He was originally installed to placate two democratic constituencies – safety advocates and organized labor (Teamsters) unhappy with Anne’s original nomination. It was the Washington equivalent of a political quid-pro-quo (something-for-something).
What is Mr. Bronrott’s resume like? According to FMCSA’s website, he has “served as an elected member of the Maryland General Assembly where he was a leading voice for sustainable, transit-oriented and safe communities, a high profile contributor and recognized leader in passage of a wide range of traffic safety measures. Mr. Bronrott began his career as a top aide to attorney and U.S. Congressman Michael D. Barnes of Maryland, a democrat. During that time on Capitol Hill, Mr. Bronrott helped launch the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) movement and the war on drunk driving and drivers.
It’s pretty clear that Mr. Bronrott fancies himself a protector of the masses against out-of-control, exhausted and over-weight truckers. Don’t believe me? Here is a link to his personal biography that any thoughtful analysis should send shivers down ones spine – unless of course you are a single-issue advocacy group that hates trucks: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/visiting/events/pastmtg/assets/docs_a_b/state_delegate_bill_bronrott_508.pdf.
Just what trucking needs, an environmentally conscious, truck loathing safety regulator!
On national radio the day of Anne’s announced resignation (July 25), I was asked if truckers would ever be happy with anyone who headed up FMCSA. I replied unequivocally “No.” Truckers as a group are not fans of any increased regulation and many blame Ms. Ferro personally for the record pace of new safety rules. That blame is misdirected because virtually all the new rulemakings she oversaw were mandated by Congress and many pundits in today’s trucking media would rather write their stories in ways that obscure this absolute truth and instead portray a villain for everyone’s ire to be focused upon. In that environment, Anne became the public face for excessive government safety regulation of the industry and public trucking enemy number-one.
I predict that if Mr. Bronrott is elevated to fill Anne’s shoes, another old saying will come into play; “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Just saying!