Mullen takes over as FMCSA’s acting administrator

December 2019/January 2020

Mark Schremmer

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A former executive for Werner Enterprises has taken over as the acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Jim Mullen, who worked more than a decade for Werner as executive vice president and general counsel, became the agency’s interim leader after Ray Martinez stepped down as administrator on Oct. 28.

It came as a surprise on Oct. 10, when it was announced that Martinez, who took the administrator position in February 2018, would be leaving to oversee a Department of Transportation construction project at the Volpe Center in Massachusetts.

“We are grateful for Martinez’s service and glad that he will keep serving the department in this capacity, while also meeting his long-held wishes to be located closer to his family,” a DOT news release said.

Martinez’s departure was one of several moves involving FMCSA leadership.

At the same time Martinez’s departure was announced, Mullen was moved from FMCSA’s chief counsel to deputy administrator. In the new role, Mullen became the agency’s de facto leader until a permanent administrator is announced.

“Administrator Martinez has done some great things at FMCSA, so Mr. Mullen has some big shoes to fill. As long as he’s willing to listen to and learn from truckers, we’ll do everything we can to guide him in areas where improved safety and efficiency can be gained,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said on Oct. 28. “We look forward to meeting with him in the near future to make sure he’s up to speed on issues important to our members.”

Alan Hanson, who had served as FMCSA’s deputy administrator, swapped roles with Mullen and took over as chief counsel. In addition, Wiley Deck, who was the director of government affairs for FMCSA, will now serve as the DOT Secretary Office’s senior policy adviser.

Mullen, who joined FMCSA as chief counsel in June 2018, could be in the acting administrator role for a while. No nomination for the role is expected to be made until after the 2020 presidential election. After a nomination is made, it could be several more months until the nominee is confirmed.

In Martinez’s case, he was nominated as the agency’s administrator on Sept. 26, 2017 – nine months after President Trump took office. Martinez was confirmed on Feb. 13, 2018.

Martinez’s tenure

Despite being administrator for only 20 months, many credited Martinez for his willingness to listen to truck drivers and for working toward hours-of-service reform.

“Ray Martinez has been the most active, receptive and responsive FMCSA administrator since the agency’s inception,” Spencer said. “He created a regulatory atmosphere that valued input from the men and women in the trucking industry above all else, and we hope that will continue after his departure.”

Martinez’s tenure will likely be remembered most for his push toward changing the hours-of-service regulations.

In response to an OOIDA petition in February 2018, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible changes to the hours of service. After receiving more than 5,200 comments from industry stakeholders, the agency moved toward rules aimed at providing more flexibility to truck drivers.

This past August, FMCSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking with five main changes to the hours of service. The comment period ended Oct. 21, and a final rule could come as soon as 2020. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.