The Department of Transportation is not moving quickly enough to name a boss for the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA.
Wolf’s complaint came during a Feb. 15 hearing on the DOT budget. The House Transportation Appropriations Committee, which Wolf chairs, is concerned about the slow progress of finding an administrator for the new agency, Wolf told DOT Secretary Rodney Slater.
Wolf said he’s looking for “a candidate who comes from ‘outside the box,’ who can bring new ideas to FMCSA and will not be beholden to the industry.”
Slater explained that DOT is interviewing candidates. “We have reached out,” he said. “We know what we want (in a candidate) – someone who knows the dynamics of Capitol Hill and who has practical experience.”
Slater added that the agency does have leadership now – safety enforcement veteran Julie Cirillo is the acting assistant administrator.
Under the law that created FMCSA, the administrator must be appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and must have professional experience in motor carrier safety.
The position is not an easy one to fill, since the upcoming change in administration at the White House probably means the job will be up for grabs this time next year. DOT sources indicate, however, that a number of people have expressed interest.
Slater added that Congress gave FMCSA the resources and power to tighten truck and bus safety enforcement – “And we intend to use the full measure of our authority to deal with the issue.”
Wolf and other members of the committee also complained to Slater about cost overruns on the Central Artery project – the Boston Big Dig. Originally estimated to cost $2.5 billion in the mid 1980s, the project now is tipping the scales at more than $13 billion. Moreover, the DOT Inspector General recently reported that neither DOT nor project managers in Boston have been diligent in their oversight.
Slater acknowledged problems – he said recent mistakes in reporting cost overruns are “unconscionable” – and said his staff is looking into the situation.
Reps. Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Ed Pastor, D-AZ, inquired what DOT is doing to protect the Mexican border against unsafe truckers from the south. Slater replied that the border will remain closed until DOT is satisfied that adequate safety procedures are in place. DOT has beefed up its inspector force along the border, mainly in Texas, and has budgeted $1.2 million to add 20 more, Slater added.