U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced in a news release Jan. 19 that Robin Hutcheson will become deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and serve as acting administrator.

Hutcheson has served as deputy assistant secretary for safety policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Biden-Harris administration and had a role in the development of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

Prior to being appointed to the Biden-Harris Administration, she was the Director of Public Works for the City of Minneapolis overseeing a team of 1,100 people across nine divisions including drinking water, surface waters and sewers, solid waste and recycling, fleet management, and all transportation functions.

Prior to her appointment in Minneapolis, she served as the Transportation Director for Salt Lake City, UT, working to improve all modes of transportation. Robin also has served as a consultant specializing in transportation and transit and has worked throughout the western United States, in London and France, and for the European Union Commission on Sustainability.

Robin served for seven years on the Board of Directors for the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), most recently serving as its President.

Hutcheson succeeds Meera Joshi, who departed for a city administration role in New York City.

FMCSA was established in January 2000. Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, its primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

Federal agencies have announced their random drug testing rates for the new calendar year.
In December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a test rate increase from 25 percent to 50 percent of the average number of driver positions because of an increased number of positive test results in 2018.
In January, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that the minimum random drug testing rate will remain unchanged at 50 percent.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s minimum drug test rate remains at 25 percent for workers, excluding maintenance-of-way employees.
The random alcohol testing rate has been set for all three agencies at 10 percent.
Railroad maintenance-of-way employees are tested at a higher rate: 50 percent for drugs and 25 percent for alcohol.
Click here for a chart from DOT detailing the 2020 random testing rates. 

Voluntary registration with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is open and available online.
The Clearinghouse was created as part of new CDL employer background check requirements to take effect Jan. 6, 2020. The Clearinghouse is a database maintained by FMCSA that will hold real-time information about any reported violations of drug and alcohol prohibitions in 49 CFR Part 382, Subpart B, including positive drug or alcohol test results and test refusals, for prospective employers to access.
In addition to employers, consortia/third-party administrators (C/TPAs), medical review officers (MROs), substance abuse professionals (SAPs) and law-enforcement personnel all will have access to this database containing operator data.
“Drivers are not required to register for the Clearinghouse,” FMCSA said. “However, a driver will need to be registered to provide electronic consent in the Clearinghouse if a prospective or current employer needs to conduct a full query of the driver’s Clearinghouse record.”
After registration with the Clearinghouse, CDL holders will be able to:

  • View their own driver record electronically.
  • Provide electronic consent to release detailed drug and alcohol program violation information to a current or prospective employer.
  • Identify a substance abuse professional (SAP) so the SAP may enter specific information regarding the driver’s return-to-duty (RTD) activities.

Even if a CDL holder has not registered for access to the Clearinghouse, the Clearinghouse still will associate any alleged drug or alcohol violation that has been reported with a CDL holder’s information. Any changes to the CDL holder’s record in the Clearinghouse will be relayed via the preferred method the holder indicated during registration or, if the holder is not registered to access the database, via mail to the address associated with the CDL.
FMCSA’s final rule for the Clearinghouse was published Dec. 5, 2016.
FMCSA says that implementation of the Clearinghouse “will improve roadway safety by identifying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who have committed drug and alcohol violations that render them ineligible to operate a CMV.”
FMCSA’s guide for CDL holders to the Clearinghouse registration process (PDF)
View Frequently Asked Questions about the Clearinghouse.
For more information or to register, visit https://clearinghouse.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced in a notice published in the Federal Register on Oct. 2 that it was renewing the charter of its Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) for two years, effective Sept. 27.
The MCSAC was established to provide FMCSA with advice and recommendations on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations. Membership is composed of up to 25 experts from the motor carrier safety advocacy, safety enforcement, industry and labor sectors. They are appointed by the FMCSA administrator for two-year terms.
Current labor representatives on the committee are LaMont Byrd, a vice chairman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Bruce Hamilton, a vice president for the Amalgamated Transit Union; and Christopher Treml, director of construction training for the International Union of Operating Engineers.
For more information about MCSAC, visit the committee’s website.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has launched a web page that provides information about the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database to be launched in early January 2020.
The database’s purpose is to track and identify “drivers who are not legally permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) due to drug and alcohol program violations,” the FMCSA said.
In 2012, Congress directed the secretary of transportation to establish a national clearinghouse containing commercial motor vehicle operators’ violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program in Section 32402 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). This rule implements that mandate and responds to recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board.
FMCSA says on the website that registration with the database will open in the fall and all operators who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial driver’s permit (CLP) must comply with the requirement in order to continue working in a safety-sensitive role.
More information, including frequently asked questions, is available at the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse website.

A final rule published from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) permits medical examiners to allow commercial operators with insulated-treated diabetes to get behind the wheel without a months-long waiting period, Transport Topics reports.
The permission given by the rule, which went into effect in November, is contingent on a medical assessment and consultation between the operator’s physician and the carrier’s medical examiner.
“The rule eliminates a typical two- or three-month delay for diabetic drivers to navigate a bureaucratic process requesting an exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration after being automatically disqualified for having the condition,” Transport Topics’ Eric Miller wrote.
The rule was initially published in the Federal Register in September.
“This final action delivers economic savings to affected drivers and our agency, and streamlines processes by eliminating unnecessary regulatory burdens and redundancy,” FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said in September when the final rule was initially announced. “It’s a win-win for all parties involved.”
Miller’s article about the rule is available on the Transport Topics website.

After months of waiting, Ronald L. Batory was sworn in on Feb. 28 as the new administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
“This day could not have happened soon enough,” Batory said in remarks delivered during the ceremony administered by Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “Those of you familiar with railroad work rules will appreciate (this): While I was ‘held away from home terminal’ from August 2nd to November 19th of last year and on ‘initial terminal delay’ until today, so needless to say, I’m ready to release the brakes and throttle out.”
The former COO and president of Conrail was nominated by President Donald Trump in July 2017 to lead the FRA. However, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, placed a hold on Batory’s nomination in an attempt to work out federal funding for the multi-billion-dollar Gateway Tunnel project between Schumer’s home state and New Jersey.

New FRA Administrator Ron Batory, left, and SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch pose Feb. 28 after Batory's swearing-in ceremony.
New FRA Administrator Ron Batory, left, and SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch pose Feb. 28 after Batory’s swearing-in ceremony.

As the delay on his confirmation dragged on, Batory began working in November as a
special assistant to Chao, advising on rail matters. He was finally confirmed Feb. 13 by unanimous voice vote in the U.S. Senate after Schumer lifted his hold.
Now that he’s in, Batory said he’ll be focusing on safety and technology – how to improve the former and the application of the latter.
“Rail safety is first and foremost. Its practice is non-compromising and non-negotiable,” he said. “Safety is embedded into our lives. It is the keystone of the railroad industry.”
Batory said FRA safety efforts will extend beyond the industry to the general public, noting that his agency launched a $4.3 million campaign Feb. 26 in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to educate people about the dangers of rail grade crossings, something Batory experienced firsthand aboard locomotives that collided with vehicles at crossings.
In addition, Batory also said that his agency will explore technology that decreases the amount of risk and danger on the nation’s rails.
“FRA will continue with renewed urgency in seeking ways to foster and encourage the railroad industry’s use of technology to bring about continued safety improvements and increased efficiency in railroad operations and maintenance,” he said. “We have many fields of opportunity awaiting us to harvest change whether it be safety, technology, infrastructure or a combination thereof.”
SMART and SMART Transportation Division leadership, which had supported Batory’s nomination from the outset, reacted positively to the long-awaited installation of the new administrator, who has more than 45 years of rail industry experience.
“Ron Batory’s swearing-in brings real-world experience and a solid background in railroad operations and safety to the FRA that all stakeholders can respect,” SMART Transportation Division President John Previsich said. “In remarks today, he mentioned that ‘Rail safety is first and foremost.’ We agree wholeheartedly with that statement, and we look forward to working with Administrator Batory and his agency to reduce risk and enhance safety on our nation’s rails.”
“We are pleased to have Ron Batory as the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.” SMART General President Joseph Sellers said. “Ron Batory is knowledgeable and experienced in the railroad industry. We look forward to collaborating with him on PTC and other safety initiatives.”
John Risch, SMART TD’s national legislative director, also highlighted the new administrator’s experience and looks forward to working with Batory.
“This is very good news that Ron Batory was confirmed today. We have been very supportive of him becoming FRA administrator, because he knows the railroad industry and because he has always been fair in his dealings with our membership.” Risch said. “We look forward to working with Ron and his FRA team in improving safety on our nation’s railroads.”
While Batory’s confirmation remained in political limbo, the FRA was being described as “rudderless” in some media reports.
Deputy Administrator Heath Hall, who had been leading the agency on an interim basis, resigned mere days before Batory’s confirmation after allegations surfaced in the media that Hall was working a second job.
Hall had been on a leave of absence from the agency since late January, and Juan D. Reyes III had stepped in to oversee the FRA.

Martinez installed as FMCSA chief

Also on Feb. 28, Chao swore in Raymond B. Martinez to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates large trucks and buses.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao swears in Raymond P. Martinez as administrator of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. From left are Martinez, Martinez's wife, Marin Gibson, and Chao. (PRNewsfoto via Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao swears in Raymond P. Martinez as administrator of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. From left are Martinez, Martinez’s wife, Marin Gibson, and Chao. (PRNewsfoto via Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

“Ray’s years of experience promoting traffic safety at the state level, as well as his knowledge of the commercial motor vehicle industry, will help FMCSA fulfill its critical mission of improving truck and bus safety,” Chao said.
Martinez most recently served eight years as the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s chairman and chief administrator, where he oversaw the agency’s 2,500 employees and a $330 million annual operating budget with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.
“It’s an honor and privilege to serve my fellow Americans in this capacity and, under Secretary Chao’s leadership, I look forward to working with all commercial vehicle stakeholders to effectively reduce the number of truck and bus crashes on our nation’s roads,” said Martinez, a former commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

On July 10, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which includes funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies.
Although the bill will fund many important transportation projects and agencies, including Amtrak, at the same time it eliminates funding for DOT’s TIGER grant program and prohibits any funding for the ongoing California high-speed rail project.

Tiger grant defunded

In effect since 2009, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program provides funding to improve safety and economic opportunity. It has supported innovative projects including multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects and has improved access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities.
Since the program’s inception, the TIGER grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Demand is high in the TIGER grant program and 2016 saw requests that far exceeded the available funds allotted to the program.
If the House Appropriations bill passes as is, this valuable and much sought after program will be eliminated.

SMART TD reaction to bill

“These levels of funding for Amtrak are significant compared to the White House’s disastrous plan to eliminate long distance trains,” said John Risch, SMART TD national legislative director. “There is still a long ways to go in the process. We will continue to work with the entire House and Senate to strike the awful language regarding California high speed rail and try to get increased funding for both transit and passenger rail.

“In North Dakota, there is a nasty big-truck provision in the bill that would increase allowable truck weights to 129,000 lbs. – that needs to be removed,” Risch continued. “North Dakota’s roads and bridges are already being pounded by oil industry trucks and this terrible idea makes it final that passage road conditions will get far worse.”

Transportation Funding Highlights

Department of Transportation (DOT) – The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain our nation’s transportation infrastructure.
The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

  • Air – Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments will help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.
  • Highways – The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system.
  • Rail – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $2.2 billion, $360 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.1 billion above the request. The bill provides a total of $1.4 billion for Amtrak, of which $328 million is for the Northeast Corridor grants, and $1.1 billion is to support the national network. The bill also continues to require overtime limits for Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs. Rail safety and research programs are funded at $258.3 million, equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This will fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure, to help ensure the safety of passengers and local communities. The bill also provides funding for two authorized grant programs. It funds the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $500 million, which will address some of the $38 billion backlog on the Northeast Corridor – needs that must be addressed simply to sustain current rail services. In addition, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grants are funded at $25 million, a reduction of $43 million from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Eligible activities include capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. The bill prohibits funding for high speed rail in California, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and for FRA to administer a grant agreement with the Authority that contains a tapered match. The bill prohibits the Surface Transportation Board from taking action regarding the construction of high-speed rail in California unless the Board has jurisdiction over the entire project.
  • Transit – The bill provides $11.75 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – $662 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $526 million above the request. Transit formula grants total $9.7 billion – consistent with the authorization level – to help local communities build, maintain and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. Within this amount, $1.75 billion is included for Capital Investment Grants, and $1 billion for “Full Funding Grant Agreement” (FFGA) transit projects. Core capacity projects receive $145 million in the bill, $182 million is included to fund all state and local “Small Starts” projects, and $400 million is included for new projects that provide both public transportation and inner-city passenger rail service. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments – including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail – that are planned and operated by local communities. Bill language limits the federal match for New Starts projects to 50 percent.
  • Maritime – The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.
  • Safety – The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
  • Grants – The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

Click here to read the full press release from the House Appropriations Committee.

FMCSA The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a final rule, Friday, Dec. 2, that establishes a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse for commercial truck and bus drivers. The clearinghouse database will serve as a central repository containing records of violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program by commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.
“An overwhelming majority of the nation’s freight travels by truck, and millions of passengers reach their destinations by bus, so creating a central, comprehensive, and searchable database of commercial motor vehicle drivers who violate federal drug and alcohol testing requirements has been a departmental priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This system will be a new technological tool that will make our roads safer.”
Once the clearinghouse is established, motor carrier employers will be required to query the system for information concerning current or prospective employees who have unresolved violations of the federal drug and alcohol testing regulations that prohibit them from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). It also requires employers and medical review officers to report drug and alcohol testing program violations.
The drug and alcohol clearinghouse final rule annual net benefits are an estimated $42 million, with crash reductions resulting from annual and pre-employment queries by FMCSA-regulated motor carriers.
“This is a major safety win for the general public and the entire commercial motor vehicle industry,” said FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling. “The clearinghouse will allow carriers across the country to identify current and prospective drivers who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol, and employ those who drive drug- and alcohol-free. Drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol will no longer be able to conceal those test results from employers and continue to drive while posing a safety risk to the driving public.”
The final rule requires motor carriers, medical review officers, third-party administrators, and substance abuse professionals to report information about drivers who:

  • Test positive for drugs or alcohol;
  • Refuse drug and alcohol testing; and
  • Undergo the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.

Additionally, motor carriers will be required to annually search the clearinghouse for current employees, and during the pre-employment process for prospective employees, to determine whether a driver violated drug or alcohol testing requirements with a different employer that would prohibit them from operating a CMV.
Federal safety regulations require employers to conduct pre-employment drug testing and random drug and alcohol testing. Motor carriers are prohibited from allowing employees to perform safety-sensitive functions, which include operating a CMV, if the employee tests positive on a DOT drug or alcohol test.
In accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a), a driver must grant consent before an employer can request access to that driver’s clearinghouse record and before FMCSA can release the driver’s clearinghouse record to an employer. After registering with the clearinghouse a driver can review his or her information at no cost.
Congress directed FMCSA to establish a national drug and alcohol clearinghouse as mandated by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
The national drug and alcohol clearinghouse Final Rule goes into effect in January 2020, three years after its effective date.
To view the drug and alcohol clearinghouse Final Rule, click this link.
To learn more about the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, click on this link.

National Legislative Director John Risch and Local 759 (Newark, N.J.) Secretary and Treasurer Craig Harrison testified at a public hearing today before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) about Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Harrison, who works for Coach USA, testified about his hardships as a result of being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
Click here to read Risch’s testimony before the FRA and FMCSA.