At the recent American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition, Raymond Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), spoke often about “active collaboration” within the trucking industry to improve highway safety. This will have to be done without Martinez, who will step down from his post at the end of October.
Jim Mullen, currently the FMCSA chief counsel, will assume the duties as acting administrator on Oct. 28. Mullen previously spent more than 10 years working for Werner Enterprises (which ranks No. 10 on Fleet Owner's 2019 For-Hire 500 list).
After a nomination by President Donald Trump and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Martinez officially took over as sixth head of the oversight agency for America’s commercial carriers, vehicles and drivers in February 2018. Directly under Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho, Martinez was responsible for more than 500,000 interstate motor carriers and 4.7 million CDL holders, along with 1,100 FMCSA employees.
While addressing members of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Martinez described the FMCSA’s role like this: “we have engaged with our industry and safety partners, working consistently to maintain the safest transportation system possible—a system of excellence that includes holding motor carriers accountable, promoting knowledgeable drivers, ensuring that vehicles are well maintained to avoid breakdowns and the attendant roadside hazards, and encouraging innovation to unleash sound technology to advance highway safety.”
During his tenure the agency made advances several areas, includes continuing the march toward electronic logging devices in all mandated commercial vehicles to track hours of service (the final date to phase out automatic onboard recording devices is Dec. 16).
Mullen's experience working at the fleet level may aid those finding the transition difficult, as it comes with "collateral consequences," Mullen acknowledged.
"We understand there are nuances the industry has not encountered yet,” said Mullen at the recent ATA event.
Martinez was previously a diplomat under President George W. Bush and chairman and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. He also fought to provide reservists and veterans an easier path into the industry, allowing qualified military heavy vehicle operators to exchange that experience directly for a CDL. Martinez also advocated for adults under 21 who had military service to operate commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce.
“Taken together, these efforts represent a ‘win’ for military personnel, to more directly use the skills they learned in the military; for industry, to address perennial driver shortages; and for public safety, to allow military drivers to use their heavy,” Martinez told Congress.
More recently, the FMCSA began open registration for its drug and alcohol clearinghouse to track drivers who tested positive for drugs and alcohol. It will need to be used be all fleets and drivers beginning next January.
Martinez will continue working for the DOT in Cambridge, Mass., managing a $500 million redevelopment project at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, which converts the multimodal transportation expertise of its hundreds of economists and engineers into innovative public transportation projects.
"We wish administrator Martinez well in his new role at the Volpe Center, and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with FMCSA’s new leadership as we work on our shared goal of improving highway safety,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.