WASHINGTON – Raymond Martinez, who was tapped by the Trump administration as the next administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is a supporter of the electronic logging device mandate that takes effect December 18.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Martinez said he realized that the ELD mandate could hurt some small, independent trucking firms, and said he would “look forward to working with industry and all stakeholders, safety advocates and particularly the impacted sectors of commerce.”
“I’d want to meet with those involved in those areas who oppose the rule to learn more about their concerns,” he said.
But Martinez said the mandate, pushed by Congress for several years, is necessary to accurately track hours of service for commercial motor vehicle drivers.
“What we experienced in the past was that it was paper-based, which means it was very susceptible to fraudulent entries,” he said. “The goal is to not cripple commerce. The goal is to make our roadways safer. That is our mission and that’s in everything we approach…through that lens of safety.”
The Senate committee didn’t vote to confirm Martinez during the hearing, and hadn’t voted as of early November, but was expected to do so by the end of the year.
Martinez, chairman and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, was selected by President Donald Trump to replace Daphne Jefferson, FMCSA’s deputy administrator who has been serving as acting administrator since Scott Darling resigned as administrator in January when Trump took office.
Jefferson retired last month and was expected to be replaced by Louisiana Motor Transport Association Executive Director Cathy Gautreaux as the agency’s next deputy administrator.
Gautreaux has been with the association for 32 years, serving as the executive director for 29 years.
During his Senate hearing, Martinez also said he intends to make FMCSA more data driven, particularly when it comes to targeting high-risk carriers within the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
Congress pulled CSA’s BASIC ratings from public view in 2015, and the National Academies of Science this year issued a report to Congress and FMCSA with recommendations on how the agency can reform the program to make it more accurate in its assessment of safety risk.
Martinez told the committee he intends to review the report and “make appropriate changes (and) evaluate how best we can move forward” with the program.
“We need to be using sound science,” he said. “The key thing is whether the data we use to compile these assessments are accurate, reliable and fair. If the data is unreliable, we lose credibility with stakeholders and the entities we regulate. And we do a disservice to the public.”
Martinez will be joining FMCSA as it is reviewing several pending rules affecting the motorcoach and trucking industries to meet the Trump administration’s call for reducing burdensome federal regulations.
FMCSA employs more than 1,000 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and its primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses, according to the agency.
In his opening statement to the Senate committee, Martinez discussed his experience as the former commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and chairman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, as well as his current post heading the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
The New Jersey agency has more than $1 billion in annual revenue and an operating budget of approximately $330 million. It is charged with licensing nearly 6 million drivers and the titling, registration and inspection of more than 6 million vehicles.
“I have developed close working relationships with both FMCSA and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) as well as with safety advocates, including AAA, the National Safety Council, and MADD,” Martinez said. “I believe that open communication and collaboration are very important and would continue this practice as FMCSA administrator.”
He noted that while serving in both the New Jersey and New York agencies, he “routinely engaged with thought leaders at some of the university research institutions in our region that continue to do great work in the area of traffic safety.”