Serving as deputy administrator of FMCSA since January 2021, Meera Joshi is waiting to be confirmed as the next FMCSA administrator.
Prior to her nomination, Joshi served as chair and CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, general manager of the New York Office of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants and was a visiting scholar at the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation could vote on her nomination any day, which would go to the Senate floor for official confirmation.
As we wait for her confirmation, let us look at what the future could bring for the trucking and transportation industry under her leadership.
What is the FMCSA focused on in the next few years?
With more than 500,000 interstate carriers and 4.7 million commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders across the nation, the FMCSA and its 1,100 employees will oversee significant changes for drivers and carriers.
Joshi met with the senate committee on Sept. 22 where she shared her views on regulating the trucking industry, shortening detention times for drivers, roadway safety, and how technology will play a more significant role in the FMCSA approach to self-driving vehicles and increased artificial intelligence in trucks.
To begin, Joshi supports the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill that may be nearing approval. The bill will:
- increase funding for FMCSA state partners to hire additional personnel for roadside inspections and reach the true breadth of the vast commercial motor vehicle (CMV) industry
- provide FMCSA and states the opportunity to increase investigative and enforcement resources focused on high-risk motor carriers and in high crash zones
- support essential upgrades to states’ IT infrastructure to improve CMV driver data collection and transfer, as well as allow for the integration of safety technology into CMV fleets
FMCSA Safety Regulations
When it comes to safety regulations, Joshi mentions four important priorities:
- Electronic transfer of license data between states: This rulemaking is in the final months of getting published for interstate cooperation as there needs to be swift and current data transfer between states around CDL licensure.
- Have state’s downgrade license if a positive drug test is submitted to FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to keep risky drivers off the roads
- Strengthening FMCSA’s new entrant program
- Increase the scope of motor carrier investigations to encompass more at-risk behavior
As a new entrant, it is required to follow Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and they will want to see some established records and processes during your New Entrant Safety Audit that will happen within the first 12 months of operation to complete the New Entrant Program.
Commercial Truck Driver Retention
When it comes to decreasing unpaid driver detention time, Joshi mentioned creating the financial incentives for shippers and port operators to decrease that time so that that financial burden doesn’t fall on truckers.
Lastly, about driver retention and capacity, Joshi mentioned the pilot program for the FMCSA to allow 18 to 21-year-old drivers to participate in interstate commerce apprenticeship programs. There are several provisions she mentioned with this program:
- They must have a CDL license to begin with
- There is an hours-of-service requirement
- There is a safeguard within the legislation for termination, if there are any safety concerns, and
- The program requires the FMCSA to do a very important study on driver compensation, including paid and unpaid detention time
All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:
- driver training that is ongoing and consistent
- driver education, and
- driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws
All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.