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Nominee for FMCSA chief blasted in New York Times

One of the things I do as a trucking trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, is monitor what’s happening with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in Washington, DC. Ultimately the political and bureaucratic decisions about truck safety regulations in Washington affect the safety of your family and mine on the highways of Georgia.

To say that it’s unusual for the New York Times to take an editorial position on trucking safety is quite and understatement. But it happened today.

Here are excepts from the editorial:

President Obama made a peculiar choice in June when he nominated Anne Ferro, a major trucking industry lobbyist in Maryland, to lead the agency that oversees truck safety. On its face, Ms. Ferro’s selection violates the spirit of Mr. Obama’s decision to limit the ability of lobbyists to enter government as high officials and influence policy from within.

The order bars hiring anyone who lobbied an executive-branch agency within the past two years, which technically means federally registered lobbyists. But it is hard to see how naming a trucking industry insider like Ms. Ferro, the president of the Maryland affiliate of the American Trucking Associations, to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration squares with Mr. Obama’s promise of “a clean break” from business as usual.

. . .

Ms. Ferro’s record on road safety includes some pluses. As the chief of Maryland’s motor vehicle agency, from 1997 to 2003, she implemented a graduated licensing system for new drivers and an ignition interlock program for drunken drivers.

But her more relevant experience these past six years was in supporting the trucking industry’s efforts to thwart and defeat policies and programs needed to protect the public and promote the health and safety of truck drivers. Just in January, Ms. Ferro co-authored a letter to The Baltimore Sun essentially defending the Bush administration’s loosening of regulations on drivers’ schedules and driver fatigue in defiance of considerable evidence of danger and two court decisions.

Ms. Ferro’s record, we believe, is disqualifying. With more than 5,000 fatal truck crashes a year, Americans cannot afford conflicts of interest in the running of their truck safety agency.

A friend who is heavily involved in advocacy for highway safety tells me that several truck safety advocates and organizations are actively opposing her nomination. Several of them will be at the Senate confirmation hearing this afternoon. He tells me she is a really nice lady and says all the right things. But safety advocates have heard all the right things for 20 years with no follow-up. When they met with her and Secretary LaHood, there was no specific discussion by the Secretary LaHood about how he will direct her to will bring change to the FMCSA.

More later.

Ken Shigley is a trucking safety trial attorney representing seriously injured people in tractor trailer, big rig, intermodal container freight, cement truck, dump truck and bus accidents statewide in Georgia. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute in 2005, is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, and is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.

He has extensive experience representing parties in interstate trucking collision cases, and in the past two years has spoken at national interstate trucking litigation seminars in Chicago (trucking insurance), New Orleans (trial tactics and side underride issues), St. Louis (punitive damages), San Francisco (dealing with insolvent trucking companies), Atlanta (trucking insurance, closing argument), Nashville (use of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), and Amelia Island (overview of trucking litigation).

A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). In addition to trucking litigation, he has broad experience in products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Treasurer and a candidate for President-Elect of the 41,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.


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