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DOT: OOIDA letter calling for Ferro’s ouster doesn’t deserve response

Johnston noted that in the blog post titled “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road,” Ferro made a “clear attempt to influence potential Congressional action regarding HOS rules.”

The Trucker News Services

6/9/2014

WASHINGTON —  A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation says the agency does not think a letter like the one sent by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx requesting FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro’s dismissal deserves a statement.

The June 5 letter from OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston to Foxx requested Fox to ask for Ferro’s resignation from the job she has held since late 2009.

The call for Foxx “to begin an immediate search for a new FMCSA Administrator” was no doubt prompted by the current dispute over legislation that would suspend the restart provision in the current Hours of Service rule.

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved an amendment suspending the 34-hour restart portion of HOS while marking up the Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill. The amendment was introduced by Ranking Committee Member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

When Ferro found out about the amendment, she took strong exception to the proposal, calling for its defeat in the Fast Lane blog on the Department of Transportation website along with several pictures of truck-car crashes.

Federal agency heads typically do not comment on pending legislation, which most consider lobbying, something agencies generally avoid.

“We have asked the secretary to put into place new leadership at FMCSA,” said Johnston. “The agency needs to be headed by someone who will approach professional truck drivers with the respect and fair treatment that their important work and commitment to safety demand.”

The FMCSA responded to the letter June 6 by issuing more than 25 positive comments Ferro had made in support of the trucking industry. Later, in response to a request to comment from The Trucker, DOT sent an e-mail with the reply that OOIDA’s letter wasn’t worth a statement.

FMCSA noted that in Ferro’s opening statement before the House Committee on Small Business on Nov. 21, she said:

 “Truck drivers work some of the toughest and longest hours of anyone, and in some of the most difficult conditions possible.  It is a demanding and underappreciated job.  Our changes to the Hours of Service rules will help truck drivers avoid long-term health problems that can be caused by these demanding schedules and will help prevent an estimated 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and save 19 lives a year by reducing the risk of fatigue related crashes.  These 19 lives could be your daughter’s kindergarten class, your son’s little league team or your own extended family.”

At the OOIDA Heart of America Trucking Show on Oct. 18, 2013, the agency noted Ferro had also said:

“I’m happy to recognize the outstanding safety achievements of the many industry members in attendance today.  You demonstrate dedication to safety: every trip, every driver, and every load. 

“You operate within tight budgets, battle road congestion and manage competing priorities.  You embody a deep commitment to your customers – keeping them at the heart of everything you do.

“It’s a testament to your safety culture – one that rewards drivers that are well-trained and well-rested, and promotes vehicles that are well-maintained.” 

In fact, an OOIDA member took Ferro for a short ride in his tractor-trailer.

However, OOIDA apparently thought the Ferro blog last week in response to Collins’ amendment was over the top.

In his letter Johnston said “recent comments by Administrator Anne Ferro, combined with actions by the 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. These statements and actions demonstrate a clear bias against truckers and the trucking industry.”

Johnston noted that in the blog post titled “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road,” Ferro made a “clear attempt to influence potential Congressional action regarding HOS rules.”

“Her posting uses snippets of isolated accidents — tragedies yes, but situations that need far more explanation and context to understand than a few simple lines on a website — to oppose a regulation that OOIDA members and others within trucking have clearly stated has a demonstratively negative impact on their health, their incomes, their ability to spend time with their families, and on the safety of the driving public,” Johnston told Foxx in the letter.

Johnston said those types of comments exemplify an extreme bias against the trucking industry and truckers in general rather than portraying trucking’s effort to improve safety on the nation’s highways.

“We can have strong disagreements over policy. However, the tone of this blog posting leads professional truck drivers to conclude that the administrator feels they are actively seeking to cause accidents (or at the very least lack a commitment to safety) by opposing specific changes to the HOS regulations. Such comments coming from the administrator, which are obviously intended to influence legislative efforts, are totally inappropriate and should not be tolerated,” Johnston said.

“Additionally, by her position and using government resources to attempt to influence Congressional action and public opinion, we believe she has violated both the letter and intent of 18 U.S. Code § 1913, which prevents federal employees from using taxpayer dollars to lobby Congress.”

Johnston criticized the FMCSA’s approach to working with the industry.

“Indeed, safe, experienced and professional truckers have provided countless examples of policy steps and enforcement changes that the agency could pursue that would result in improved safety on the highways,” he wrote. “Instead of approaching this core of professionals as a safety resource, the administrator has approached their recommendations with indifference or ignorance, instead choosing to move forward with an agenda that, according to recent testimony by the administrator before Congress, has resulted in an 18 percent increase in truck accidents since 2009.”

The full letter can be read here.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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