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Ferro leaving FMCSA to become president and CEO of American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators

FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, seen here at the Con-way Freight-Connecticut Operation Safe Driving Press Conference in October 2013, said July 25 she will be leaving the agency in late August. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Ferro Anne had been a true leader in safety throughout her tenure and has become a trusted advisor and friend to during his time as secretary. (Associated Press/KIKI CALVO/Con-way Freight

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

7/25/2014

WASHINGTON — Anne S. Ferro, the longest-serving administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration whose term included implementation of the current and controversial Hours of Service rule and who led the agency’s strong-armed effort to improve bus safety in the United States, announced July 25 she was leaving the FMCSA by the end of August to become president and CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

Founded in 1933, AAMVA actively promotes traffic safety and uniformity among North American jurisdictions. Representing chief motor vehicle administrators and law enforcement officials, the association develops uniform programs in driver licensing, vehicle titling/registration and motor carrier services, among others, the organization’s website said.

Ferro is no stranger to motor vehicle administration, having served as Maryland’s motor vehicle administrator from 1997 to 2003.

Ferro made the announcement about her departure to FMCSA employees in an e-mail shortly before noon CDT.

“While the opportunity to assume this position at AAMVA is another personal dream come true, no job can match the immense honor I have had serving President [Barack] Obama, and [DOT] Secretaries [Anthony] Foxx and [Ray] LaHood with you — the dedicated individuals who persevere every day to make safe transportation a reality for all of us,” she said in the e-mail.

Foxx said Ferro “has been a true leader in safety throughout her time at the Department of Transportation and has become a trusted advisor and friend to me during my time as secretary.”

He added that Ferro had ushered in a new culture of safety into the commercial bus and trucking industries and had made it more difficult for companies that jeopardize the public’s well-being to stay in business and had made it easier for consumers to make informed choices when choosing a shipper or buying a bus ticket.

Ferro was sworn in as FMCSA administrator Nov. 13, 2009, succeeding John Hill.

One of her first, most-notable acts was to fashion an agreement with safety advocates to place in abeyance the third lawsuit filed against the Hours of Service rule since 2004 with the promise that the agency would start all over and write a new rule.

That rule first hit the industry in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at Christmastime in December 2010, and included a change in the 34-hour restart provision that led to a firestorm of controversy that continues unabated even as Ferro prepares to leave.

She butted heads with Congress and trucking interests, primarily the American Trucking Associations, which repeatedly asked for a return to the restart provision as it existed before the new rule was finally implemented July 1, 2013. Even though several parties, including trucking interests, challenged the new rule in court, on Aug. 2, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the rule with one minor exception, declaring that the FMCSA “won the day not on the strengths of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of attrition,” a reference to the three previous suits brought against HOS rules.

“In her time with FMCSA, Administrator Ferro was a passionate advocate for the agency,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said when he learned of Ferro’s plans. “We wish her well in her new role and look forward to working with her on commercial driver licensing issues.”

Ferro’s decision drew reaction similar to that of ATA from The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance, a national coalition of several of the nation’s largest trucking companies that the organization says are committed to safer highways, a cleaner environment and an improved economy for the freight transportation industry.

“We wish Ms. Ferro the best in her new position as she has been a tireless advocate for the necessary structural changes required within the motor carrier community," Steve Williams, chairman of the alliance, former chairman of the ATA and founder, chairman and CEO of Maverick Transportation of North Little Rock, Arkansas said. “Her commitment to study the efficacy of the hours of service rules, the implementation of the electronic logging device mandate and other initiatives will be her legacy, all of which are necessary to improve safety on our nation's highways."

Lane Kidd, managing director of the organization, said the alliance hoped the Obama administration would nominate a replacement “who will turn up the volume even more in order to get the truck safety initiatives completed that Ferro has been promoting."

Despite the challenge and controversy, which included repeated calls for a delay in implementing the new restart provision until a Congressionally-mandated study could be completed,  Ferro stuck to her guns in support of the new rule, telling participants at the Mid-West Truck & Trailer Show in Peoria, Ill., last Jan. 31 that “we are not changing the rule. This is the first time in a decade that we’ve got a rule that passed legal changes. There are today no changes afoot.”

The HOS controversy and the pending rulemaking on electronic logging devices continued to put Ferro in the bull’s-eye.

In early June, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association sent a letter to Foxx, asking him to fire Ferro.

“We have asked the secretary to put into place new leadership at FMCSA,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston, said in the letter. “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.”

When he learned of Ferro’s plans to leave the agency, Johnston said, “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.  “She is well known for having unprecedented personal outreach and engagement with truckers in all the years that we have worked with the agency.” 

Shortly after OOIDA asked for Ferro’s ouster, 12 drivers with a combined 245 years driving experience wrote Foxx in support of Ferro saying Ferro “gets it.” And the reason, they said, is because Ferro saw the relationship between non-compliance and sub-standard pay.

On most jobs, explained 48-year career driver Jerry Fritts, 68, a spokesman for the group, employees are paid more for producing more. In trucking, however, drivers went from hauling 45-foot trailers in 1982 to 53-foot trailers, the weight they pull increased by 10 percent, miles increased from 450 miles a day to 750, yet truckload drivers last year averaged $37,700 in earnings while in 1982 they were averaging $48,000 a year.

Fritts, one of the 12 drivers who signed the letter to Foxx, said Ferro was “our best hope” to get driver pay where it needs to be.

As for the motor coach industry, in the wake of several high-profile fatal motor coach accidents, Ferro and the FMCSA developed a campaign to crackdown on the so-called fly-by-night, discount bus companies, many of which sprang up during the recent economic recession.

The agency launched Operation Quick Strike, which since being initiated in early 2013, has resulted in 61 bus companies removed from the nation’s highways along with over 340 motor coaches.

The agency also developed a website and mobile app where consumers could check the safety record of a bus company before buying a ticket.

Day-to-day leadership of the agency will likely be taken over by Deputy Administrator Bill Bronrott, although no such announcement was made when Ferro announced her departure.

Her successor will eventually be appointed by Obama and will face Senate confirmation.

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

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