In initial comments after assuming the office of U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg weighed in on several issues related to trucking and highways.
Buttigieg firmly reiterated the promises made by new President Joe Biden to work on major infrastructure projects to rebuild highways, bridges, ports, and railways. Biden has said once his administration has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, infrastructure will be the next step in his “Build Back Better” plan.
In written responses to questions from senators on the Commerce Committee, Buttigieg gave his opinion on several topics.
On electronic logging devices: “I commit to taking a hard look at the hours-of-service regulations and how such regulations intersect with the varied complexities of truckers’ daily work, including those who transport time-sensitive cargo such as livestock and agricultural commodities.”
On the 12% federal excise tax: “I will be further examining the impacts of this tax and will work with Congress to ensure that we are making our transportation funding sources predictable, reliable and equitable.”
On drivers between age 18-21: “Providing career pathways for our younger Americans is essential to building a stronger economy and stronger communities…I look forward to working on ways to increase opportunities within the trucking industry without compromising our safety standards.”
On the pandemic: “We need to ensure that truck drivers operate under conditions that guarantee their safety and the safety of everyone on our roadways. I am eager to engage truckers and better understand their concerns.”
On speed limiters: “I commit to advancing the integration of technology that improves the safety of all road users, potentially including technologies such as speed limiters for commercial motor vehicles. Under my direction, federal agencies would work closely with safety advocates and industry stakeholders to achieve the critical safety goal of reducing fatalities due to speeding.”
On side underride: “I will work with all safety components of the department to prioritize our safety rulemakings, including truck rear underride. In 2017, there were 450,000 police-reported crashes involving 18-wheelers, of which 4,237 were fatal. Any technology that can be implemented to improve safety around truck trailers should be carefully considered, and I look forward to working with you on this issue.”
One area in which Secretary Buttigieg did share a definite opinion is on the Biden administration’s pledge to bring more equity to transportation related issues. Buttigieg has committed to reverse decades of discriminatory highway planning by eliminating urban freeways which have torn apart black communities and to increase access to public transportation in the inner cities.
In a tweet, Buttigieg said, “Black and brown neighborhoods have been disproportionately divided by highway projects or left isolated by the lack of adequate transit and transportation resources. In the Biden-Harris administration, we will make right these wrongs an imperative.”