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Chao resigns as DOT secretary in response to Capitol riots

Jan. 7, 2021
The transportation secretary announced her resignation via Twitter on Jan. 7.

Elaine L. Chao has announced her resignation as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, effective Jan. 11, in response to what she called the "traumatic and entirely avoidable" events that occurred in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Protests turned violent as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol yesterday during the official electoral count proceedings to certify Joseph Biden as President.

"As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside," Chao said in the tweet. "I am tremendously proud of the many accomplishments we were able to achieve together for our country and I will never forget the commitment you have for this Department and the United States of America. I am hopeful that many of you will carry forward our vision to improve the lives of Americans through this Department and beyond." 

Chao plans to work with her successor, Pete Buttigieg, between now and Jan. 11 to assist with transitioning responsibility of running the transportation department.

One of the most significant undertakings of the Trump-led DOT was following through with changes made to the federal hours of service (HOS) rules, which took effect across the U.S. on Sept. 29, 2020.

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted four main changes to the longstanding HOS rules that dictate how much a professional driver can work before taking required off-duty time. The revisions, according to FMCSA officials at the time, were the result of 8,000 public comments the agency received and were made to add “needed flexibility in the lives of America’s truckers.”

At the time, Chao highlighted what she called the “tremendous contributions” of America’s truck drivers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

“Truck drivers have been working around the clock to deliver packages to American families, making sure our food shelves are fully stocked and delivering food and products to businesses, and making sure that needed medical supplies and equipment go to where they need to go. So truckers are really American heroes, especially at a time like this,” she said.

Shortly after Chao announced her resignation, American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear issued the following statement:

“Secretary Chao has been a strong leader and a tremendous partner on a host of issues impacting the trucking industry. She came into the role as one of the most experienced cabinet secretaries in our nation’s history and has proven to be a leader who embodies integrity, courage and conviction.

“From the Department’s efforts to improve safety while providing flexibility for commercial drivers, drawing a roadmap for future transportation leaders to follow on automated vehicles, and recognizing the unique role drivers play in our industry, she should be commended for her vision.

“Her leadership throughout the COVID pandemic, ensuring that trucks and truck drivers could continue doing their essential work – despite the many barriers set in front of them – was exemplary and an example of her commitment to this country.

“On a personal note, having worked for and with her over many years, I can attest that Elaine is a person of strong moral character, and should be applauded for not standing idly by following yesterday’s abhorrent and shameful events at the Capitol. This is the kind of principled stand in support of our democracy I’ve always known her to take. On behalf of ATA and the entire trucking industry, I want to thank her for her admirable service to our nation.

“We look forward to working with President-elect Biden’s Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg as he begins his transition to lead the Department.”

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.  

About the Author

Catharine Conway | Digital Editor

Catharine Conway previously wrote for FleetOwner with a Master of Science in Publishing degree and more than seven years’ experience in the publishing and editorial industries. Based in Stamford, Conn., she was critical to the coordination of any and all digital content organization and distribution through various FleetOwner and American Trucker channels, including website, newsletters, and social media. 

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