WASHINGTON, DC. – Today U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, participated in the committee’s nomination hearing for the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Predication.

During her questions, Fischer raised concerns that currently there are no requirements for freight brokers to check the agency’s data prior to hiring motor carriers which can lead to unauthorized and potentially dangerous motor carriers on the road. Senator Fischer will re-introduce the Transportation and Logistics Hiring Reform Act, which will clarify hiring criteria in the selection of motor carriers on the road and improve overall safety of the roadway.

Sen. Fischer also discussed how Nebraska is home to important weather data institutions like the High Plains Regional Climate Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Dr Morgan, the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Predication, committed to working closely with these critical regional resources and visiting the state.

Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s remarks

A full transcript of Senator Fischer’s exchange with Ms. Hutcheson and Dr. Morgan is below.

Senator Fischer: Thank you, Madam Chairman. Ms. Hutcheson, I recently co-sponsored with Senator Wicker legislation that would standardize the Transportation Security Administration's enrollment and renewal process for many credentials necessary for commercial driver's license holders. It's common-sense legislation, it cuts bureaucratic red tape without compromising security measures. If you are confirmed, how will you work to streamline the processes within FMCSA that will help the trucking industry and not sacrifice safety?

Ms. Hutcheson: Senator Fischer, thank you for the question. I look forward to learning more about the bill that has been introduced. And if confirmed, you have my commitment to work closely with you on its contents, and to work towards the benefit of achieving FMCSA's primary mission of safety and as well as supporting our economy.

Senator Fischer: Thank you. You know, I think all of us recognize the shortage of truck drivers and the effect that has on supply chain, the effect it has on our economy. Those are good jobs, well paying jobs and needed jobs. Obviously, safety is the number one concern. But to be able to help the industry and not put additional burdens on that haven't really been shown to happen. I think that's extremely important as we move forward here. Also, since the inception of the compliance, safety and accountability and safety measurement system programs in 2010, we've seen a steady uptick in truck related crashes industries fatalities. In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences issued a number of recommendations on improving Motor Carrier Safety measurement following a FAST Act, required review of those programs. Have these recommendations been fully implemented?

Ms. Hutcheson: Thank you for the question, Senator. I've reviewed the studies, there are a few updates to the framework. There are four conditions that need to be met before any priority new prioritization system can be put in place. We will be seeking input from stakeholders and member offices. And I look forward to working with you and your office on this very important issue.

Senator Fischer: Thank you very much. Also, in operation Sideswipe, the US District Attorney in Louisiana has uncovered a truck accident staging ring that has resulted in at least 37 guilty pleas. Right now, there's no requirement for shippers or freight brokers to check any FMCSA data prior to hiring motor carriers, which can adversely impact safety when unauthorized motor carriers continue to get offered business, despite FMCSA trying to shut them down. I plan to reintroduce my legislation, the Transportation and Logistics Hiring Reform Act, which will clarify hiring criteria in the selection of the motor carriers to address these fundamental practices. If shippers and brokers had a standard due diligence process, would it improve safety and help remove these unauthorized carriers off the road?

Ms. Hutcheson: Thank you for the question, Senator. We are working to clarify the definition of broker. We believe this will be effective in solving some of the problems that we are seeing as you are. We are very close to asking for comment on it, and I look forward to continuing to working with you and your office as we work towards our mission of safety on our roadways.

Senator Fischer: Thank you. I appreciate your reaching out like that. Thank you. Dr. Morgan, The University of Nebraska works closely with NOAA on weather and climate related efforts, specifically the High Plains Regional Climate Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Given your university experience, you understand the important role that universities play in this research. If confirmed, will you work collaboratively with UNL and other entities as part of NOAA's efforts to collect weather data?

Dr. Morgan: Most definitely. Senator, thank you for the question. I would work closely with universities and all entities that are related to universities in helping support the collection of data that's relevant to the atmosphere and our environment broadly.

Senator Fischer: Are you aware of the University of Nebraska's programs that they have at those institutions?

Dr. Morgan: The High Plains Center? I'm familiar with that.

Senator Fischer: And are you aware of the Drought Mitigation Center at all?

Dr. Morgan: I haven't worked with them directly, but I'm familiar with.

Senator Fischer: Okay, great. Maybe we'll have to get you out to Nebraska.

Dr. Morgan: I'd love to do that. I'd love to be out there. I've visited the campus of University of Nebraska, many times in Lincoln.

Senator Fischer: Wonderful. Thank you very much. I think that will do it. Thank you, Madam Chair.

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