The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Raymond P. Martinez to head the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday.
His nomination will require a majority vote by the full Senate before he can be confirmed as the agency’s new administrator. A date for the vote has yet not been set.
President Trump nominated Martinez, 56, to lead trucking’s top regulatory agency in late September. FMCSA’s head position has remained vacant for nearly 10 months since former Administrator Scott Darling resigned in January.
If confirmed, Martinez will succeed Daphne Jefferson, who retired on Nov. 3. Jefferson stepped into the role of acting administrator after Darling’s resignation. She previously served as the agency’s deputy administrator.
The top two trucking industry trade groups expressed their support for Martinez to lead the FMCSA.
“We look forward to working with him in fulfilling the Administration’s agenda of relieving regulatory burdens on small business truckers while taking a sensible approach to highway safety,” Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told Trucks.com. “We are anxious to introduce him to some of the real trucking safety experts – drivers who count their safe miles by the millions.”
The American Trucking Associations “welcomes the nomination of Mr. Martinez and looks forward to working with him on myriad issues once he is confirmed,” said Sean McNally, spokesman for the trade group, which represents large fleets.
In written responses to questions posed by members of the Senate Commerce Committee, Martinez said he supports the implementation of the electronic logging device, or ELD, mandate, set to take effect on Dec. 18, but understands the concerns that some small-business truckers have with the rule.
“I look forward to working with all stakeholders, including small independent trucking companies, and especially those who, such as livestock haulers, would be most affected by this rule,” Martinez said.
OOIDA, which represents more than 150,000 drivers, said it was encouraged by Martinez’ stated interest in supporting all industry groups affected by the ELD regulation.
ELDs link to a semi-truck’s engine, capturing the movement and recording how much time a trucker spends behind the wheel. Truckers are allowed 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in the cabs, but are limited to 11 hours of daily driving.
Federal regulators and large trucking groups such as the ATA have pushed for adoption of ELDs to prevent driver cheating on paper logs. However, independent truckers and the OOIDA have fought to delay the mandate over privacy concerns and the lack of flexibility with the 14-hour rule.
Working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a flexible regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles is another priority Martinez said he would tackle as FMCSA chief.
“FMCSA should also work on developing guidance for manufacturers, state and local agencies and other entities involved in the development and deployment of automated [Commercial Motor Vehicle] technology,” Martinez said.
Revamping the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, which has been scrutinized for using faulty data to identify motor carriers’ safety risks, will also be reviewed by the FMCSA, Martinez said.
“Continued improvement of safety can only be achieved by leveraging current, valid and verifiable data in order to identify areas of risk and focus enforcement efforts more efficiently on those identified areas,” he said.
Top priorities Martinez may face early on if confirmed as FMCSA chief include the implementation of the ELD mandate, discussions around the hours-of-service rule that was enacted in 2013 and following through on President Trump’s commitment to reduce or roll back burdensome regulations that govern trucking, a U.S. DOT official who was not authorized to talk on the record, told Trucks.com.
Since 2010, Martinez has served as the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, an organization of approximately 2,300 employees located. He also was the commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and previously worked for the U.S. Department of State and the White House as the deputy U.S. chief of protocol.
In written testimony to the Senate committee, Martinez disclosed that he had been convicted twice for driving under the influence in the late 1980s, including once in Fairfax County, Va., in 1987, and a second DUI in Nassau County, N.Y., in 1989.
He received his bachelor of arts degree from Long Island University/C.W. Post College in 1983 and graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 1993.