Driver pay a focus of Joshi nomination hearing

September 22, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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Meera Joshi brought attention to problems with detention time and improving driver compensation during her nomination hearing to become the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Joshi, a former chairperson and CEO of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, has served as FMCSA’s acting administrator since Jan. 20. In April, President Joe Biden nominated Joshi to take the permanent role of FMCSA administrator.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation considered the nominations of Joshi, as well as Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer to the be the U.S. DOT chief financial officer, Amitabha Bose to be the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Mohsin Raza Syed to be the U.S. DOT’s assistant secretary of government affairs.

Senators asked Joshi about everything from using truck drivers in the fight against human trafficking to automation. One common theme, however, was the focus on driver compensation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked her about improving supply chain efficiency.

“At ports in particular, the pain point for truckers is a reduction in turn times,” Joshi said. “Turn times equal money. The less turn times they have, the less money they make. So understanding the unpaid detention time – the time they are held – and creating financial incentives for shippers and port operators to decrease that time so that the burden doesn’t fall on truckers and create a better throughput is essential, I believe, to increasing a better throughput at the ports.”

Joshi also discussed driver compensation when Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., asked about a measure in the Senate infrastructure bill that would create a pilot program for under-21 drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

“I want to note several important provisions,” Joshi said. “They have to have a CDL to begin with. There’s an hours requirement, which is important, and there is a safeguard within the legislation if there are any safety concerns for termination. Finally, it requires us to do a very important study on driver compensation, including paid and unpaid detention time.”

The focus on driver compensation is consistent with the agency’s recent efforts to improve driver retention. Over the summer, FMCSA took part in an industry roundtable discussion aimed at keeping safe drivers in the industry. The U.S. DOT has said that doing so would improve the supply chain while also recognizing that driver retention and highway safety are linked.

Improving highway safety

Joshi also used much of her opening remarks on the goal to improve highway safety for truck drivers and the general public.

“Ensuring the safety of the women and men literally driving the commercial motor vehicle industry and all those that they share the road with is my personal and utmost priority,” Joshi said. “Sadly, since 2009, commercial motor vehicle-related roadway fatalities in the United States have steadily risen, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives of men, women, and children. And every year over 800 of these victims are large truck or bus drivers. I am deeply committed to the undisputed work ahead, reversing this fatal trend.”

FMCSA leadership

If confirmed, Joshi would become FMCSA’s first permanent administrator since Ray Martinez stepped down from the post in October 2019. Since then, the agency has been led by Jim Mullen, Wiley Deck, and Joshi as acting administrators.

The complete hearing can be watched here. LL

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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.