Firm Blog

Workplace art and the federal agency that regulates trucking companies

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Symbols are important.  When we put them in our office, they remind us – and everyone who works in that space – of our goals and aspirations, and why we are there in the first place.

Sometimes, we can find out a lot about a person not just by what they write and accomplish, but also by the mementos or photos they choose to display in their workplace.  One example of this is Anne Ferro, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), who recently announced that she will be stepping down at the end of August 2014. The FMCSA regulates the trucking industry, and is charged with making the trucking industry safer and saving lives on the roads by preventing collisions.

Upon taking over the leadership of the FMCSA, Ms. Ferro replaced some posters in the office which had shown tractor trailer drivers in their vehicles, with photo collages showing pictures of loved ones who had died in a collision with a truck – approximately 75 faces of people who had died in truck collisions in a photo collage, representing approximately the number of deaths every week caused by trucking collisions.  [Thank you to Jeff Burns, Esq. of Missouri for bringing this important fact to the attention of many trial lawyers.] This convinces me, as much as anything, of Administrator Ferro’s commitment to understanding what is at stake with public safety.

Ms. Ferro is most recently known for defending the Hours of Service rule which went into effect in July 2013 (and is now threatened with being rolled back by legislation).  This important new rule provides that the commercial tractor-trailer industry must:

  • Limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours;
  • Allow truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m., and;
  • Require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

Administrator Ferro posted recently on the FMCSA website: “Since 2009, we’ve seen an 18 percent increase in large truck crash fatalities. To put that in perspective, in one year alone, large trucks were involved in 317,000 traffic crashes resulting in an average of 75 deaths per week. That’s 11 per day.”

Believe it or not, some in the trucking industry criticized Ms. Ferro for focusing too much on public safety (instead of focusing on the effect of the rules on the industry) and in fact in June 2014, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association called for her resignation.  One can only hope that her decision to accept a job in the private sector is not related to this.  She has been widely praised for her work, both before and after the trucking industry objected to her statements.

There is still much important work to be done.  I hope that the next Administrator of the FMCSA continues to advocate for making our roads safer by rules like the one implemented last year.  I also hope that the new Administrator chooses to keep up the posters on the wall representing the 75 people who die every week, because that will show us that s/he really understands at a deep level what is at stake.


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