Todd Spencer sets sights on leading FMCSA

November 30, 2020

Mark Schremmer


OOIDA President Todd Spencer, who has more than 45 years of experience in the trucking industry and started out as a truck driver, has informed President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team that he is interested in serving as the next administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

A letter expressing Spencer’s interest in the position and concerns about the current state of trucking was sent to Biden’s U.S. Department of Transportation Transition Team last week.

Spencer said it will take someone who knows what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat to fix the trucking industry’s problems and improve highway safety.

“I know what it is like to make a living behind the wheel of a truck,” Spencer wrote. “I still hold a CDL. I have been involved with FMCSA, its predecessor agencies, and numerous federal advisory committees for decades. I have testified before Congress; I have had plenty of meetings with lawmakers and their staff, and I am exceptionally familiar with how Capitol Hill works. I enjoy working with my industry peers, both in the public and private sectors, and I am always willing to work with anyone for the greater good of the trucking industry and highway safety.”

“Representing our nation’s small-business truckers has been my life’s work. I still aspire to do this for many years to come, but sometimes we are compelled to make a difference in other ways. FMCSA’s primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. I am uniquely qualified to lead the agency in that direction.”

Spencer began his career as a truck driver in 1974 and then began working at OOIDA in 1981. He became OOIDA’s executive vice president in 1992 and was elected as the Association’s president in 2018. During that time, Spencer helped build OOIDA into a trucking trade association that represents more than 150,000 small-business truck drivers across the nation.

Over the years, Spencer has testified to Congress about the problems with the industry and the overreliance on regulations.

“My message to Congress in recent years has been that trucking is dysfunctional,” Spencer wrote. “Some of this dysfunction is a result of trucking regulations that have nothing to do with highway safety, many of which are mandated by Congress. They are often promoted and/or promulgated by people who have little or no industry experience and/or by people who have no real understanding of the actual impact these regulations have on big trucks and those who operate them.”

If the next administration wants to improve trucking safety, Spencer said it should look for someone who understands what it’s like to try to make a living driving a truck.

“The system we have in place now simply does not work,” he wrote. “We have never had more regulations than we do today, and we have never had more enforcement of or compliance with those regulations, yet highway safety continues to trend in the wrong direction. This is because regulations often exclude input or direct involvement from those behind the wheel of a truck, and they almost never reflect the diverse operational nature of the trucking industry.”

Spencer has spent most of his life advocating for the rights of truck drivers.

In April, Spencer sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for “urgent and immediate action” to protect truck drivers as they hauled essential freight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His advocacy led to Business Insider naming him among its list of 100 leaders in North America who are driving change and innovation in their industries.

“One key part of Spencer’s advocacy has been pressing the federal government to provide personal protective equipment to truck drivers, which the administration agreed to do in April,” Business Insider wrote. “OOIDA, with other groups, also fought to stop the shuttering of rest areas. Several states, including Pennsylvania, reopened those areas after continued demands from truck drivers nationwide.”

The FMCSA has been directed by an interim administrator for more than year. Ray Martinez stepped down as FMCSA’s administrator in October 2019. Jim Mullen took over as acting administrator at that time before stepping down in August. Wiley Deck, who is the agency’s current acting administrator, replaced Mullen on Aug. 31. LL