Truckers are frustrated with the laws that dictate how they’re paid, when they can work, and how their employers can treat them. And many are directing that frustration to the agency that makes those laws — the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
A December rulemaking from the FMCSA stated that trucking companies in California were exempt from paying their truck driver employees during their mandatory rest breaks. Ray Martinez, the FMSCA administrator, said in December that these rest breaks were “a drag on the economy”; studies from retailers and trucking firms indicated that the breaks reduce productivity.
But Desiree Wood, a truck driver, said not giving paid rest breaks puts the safety of truck drivers and other motorists at risk.
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“It’s really a travesty,” Wood, who’s also president of Real Women in Trucking, told Business Insider when the ruling came out. “It truly defies safety. If you really cared about safety, you would want people on the highway who are not stressed out about their pay and who are well rested.”
Martinez and Wood don’t just differ on the idea of what paid rest breaks do for truck drivers, the economy, and everyday drivers.
Wood has been a truck driver since 2007. Martinez, who heads the FMCSA and makes the rules that America’s 1.8 million truck drivers must follow, has never been a professional truck driver or held any type of commercial drivers’ license (CDL). The FMCSA rules affect the six million commercial drivers nationwide and, indirectly, the 250 million non-commercial drivers who also drive on American roads.
“As an integral part of the Department of Transportation, FMCSA needs to do its part to keep our highways as safe as possible and to drive the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities down to zero,” Martinez said in October 2017.
No key personnel at FMCSA have ever been a truck driver
According to an FMCSA representative, no former FMCSA administrator has ever had a CDL or been a professional truck driver. Most of the key personnel have had backgrounds in state motor vehicle departments or law enforcement.
Before assuming the role of FMCSA administrator in February 2018, Martinez headed the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission as its chairman and chief administrator from 2010 to 2018. There are more than 211,000 commercial drivers in New Jersey.
He also served as the commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the chair of the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. His earliest public career history includes working as an attorney in public and private practice.
Martinez was nominated by the President Donald Trump and confirmed unanimously by the Senate in February 2018.
The FMCSA’s three other key personnel also do not hold a CDL and have no professional experience as a driver.
However, they do have experience in the trucking industry through private and public roles. Prior to joining the FMCSA in 2018, Chief Counsel Jim Mullen headed a trucking consultant firm and was the executive vice president and general counsel for Werner Enterprises, one of the country’s largest trucking companies.
Jack Van Steenburg, who is the FMCSA’s chief safety officer and assistant administrator, previously was the director of the FMCSA’s Enforcement and Compliance Office. Van Steenburg was at the New York State Police for 25 years, culminating as the lead for all highway safety programs.
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James “Wiley” Deck, the director of government affairs, served on the staff of Congressman John L. Mica for 23 years. He was also the director of Oversight and Investigations for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The agency was formed in 2000 and employs 1,100 people. Its objective is to provide “safety oversight of motor carriers and commercial motor vehicles.”
The FMCSA representative did not specify on why the FMCSA, whose laws span more than 550,000 truck and bus companies and six million CDL holders, has never an experienced commercial truck driver running the agency.
Business Insider also contacted all FMCSA key personnel, and none responded to requests for an interview. (Deck affirmed in an email that he’s never had a CDL.)
That’s unlike other transportation agencies
The FMCSA falls under the Department of Transportation, which employs 55,000 people across multiple agencies. Other DOT agencies, unlike the FMCSA, are led by those who have direct work experience.
Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, was a pilot at American Airlines for 16 years before assuming a variety of high-level administration jobs in the public and private sector. He was also a command pilot in the US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve with 6,000 hours of civilian and military flight time.
Ronald Batory, the current administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, was never a train conductor, but he did begin his career as a traveling freight car accounting auditor. The most recent permanent administrator, Joe Szabo, held roles including a commuter passenger conductor, yard switchman, and road trainman.
The head of the US Maritime Administration, Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, served in the US Navy for 34 years. He graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy in 1979 and was the commander of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command from 2009 to 2013.
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