It was an emotional and reflective T.F. Scott Darling who addressed members of the media by phone Thursday afternoon, Jan. 19, his last day as the fifth administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Darling, who joined the agency in 2012 as its chief legal counsel, admitted he was “a little teary-eyed this last week” but said of his time running the agency (as acting administrator and then as administrator): “What an incredible ride the last two years have been.”
In his opening statement, Darling said he tried to get outside of Washington, D.C. during his time in office and learn what was on the minds of fleet owners and drivers, “and listen to their issues, their concerns and their ideas and solutions.” He said the ride alongs he did with drivers were “something I will never forget.”
Looking back, Darling said he declared 2016 “the year of partnerships“ for FMCSA.
“I’ve said before that improving safety on our highways and roadways cannot be done by the federal government alone,” said Darling. “It cannot be done by the states or by the industry. It must be done by all of us.
“Technology is vital, but it cannot stand alone as a solution. It is only by working together, and that includes the public, that we will ever be able to make significant strides in commercial motor vehicle safety.”
In that same vein, when asked what advice he had for his successor whomever that may be, Darling said it would be to continue working with other industry stakeholders and the public.
“It will take all brains to make one mindful solution,” he said.
President Trump will nominate a new FMCSA administrator, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Throughout the half hour event, Darling repeated what seemed to be his mantra and that of the department under his stewardship: “Safe trucking moves our economy and safe bus operations move our loved ones.”
Acknowledging that the next FMCSA administrator will have to deal with the growing issue of vehicle automation, Darling added he expects trucks to be essential to the U.S. for some time to come.
“Trucks are the key linchpin to make sure this economy moves forward,” said Darling. “I can’t see it being any different five years from now than it is today.”
He also expressed his admiration for the men and women who do the driving: “I will never forget the work that they do and the importance that they have in this nation.”
Darling also had kind words for incoming Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. He said she was successful as Secretary of Labor and expects that to continue in her new post.
Asked what he would do next, Darling said he was scheduled to have eye surgery, and would consider his future after that.