Robin Hutcheson was recently confirmed as the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on a voice vote in the U.S. Senate, after trucking advocacy organizations and private-sector stakeholders backed the Biden Administration nominee.
“We are so happy to see this confirmation, as we have been working with Robin Hutcheson to help her better understand the challenges our drivers face on the road,” Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking, reportedly said. “She has been focused on representing our industry by learning as much as possible about our issues. We fully support Robin Hutcheson’s appointment as FMCSA administrator.”
Hutcheson launched her career as a transit planner in Karlsruhe, Germany, before returning stateside to Salt Lake City as a senior associate at Fehr & Peers, a transportation solutions outfit. She emerged as the Salt Lake City transportation director in 2012 and then Minneapolis director of public works in 2016.
The career administrator was brought onboard at the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2021 before being fast-tracked as acting administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in January. Her rise through the ranks has been mercurial, and she has garnered widespread support from colleagues and trucking industry leaders along the way.
“In her time as acting administrator, Robin has been a true partner with our industry — working to confront a number of issues facing trucking,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear reportedly said. “Whether it is addressing safety concerns, ongoing supply chain issues or workforce development, she has been open to engaging with our industry, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing, candid dialogue about these challenges and to engaging with her and her agency to implement solutions that uphold safety and improve efficiency in trucking and across the supply chain.”
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President Todd Spencer gave Hutcheson the thumbs up, saying “we are hopeful these discussions will result in solutions to long-standing problems within the industry such as parking, predatory leasing agreements, excessive detention time and inadequate compensation.”
During her stint as acting administrator, a wave of critical issues have been in play. The Hours of Service Waiver relating to the pandemic has repeatedly been extended. The executive order continues to exempt truckers pulling certain loads. The agricultural sector has been a pain point that may require further hours of service review and changes.
Hutcheson appeared receptive to increasing safe truck parking. Although she cannot assign funding to construct facilities, she indicated the issue was a priority. Little has been done by lawmakers or DOT Sec. Pete Buttigieg to effectively improve this truck driver working conditions.
The FMCSA continues to consider truck speed limiters and the issue has picked up momentum during her watch. Organizations such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association oppose speed limiters based on uneven traffic flow leading to potential collisions. Safety groups largely approve of slowing down Class 8 vehicles on highways.
The newly-minted FMCSA administrator will also have the controversy of marijuana-based Clearinghouse suspensions on her plate and some companies pushing for increased drug enforcement through hair follicle testing. Hutcheson enters the post with a full plate of policy issues at a time when the country faces an 80,000 truck driver shortage.