Former N.J. official confirmed to run federal agency under fire for train safety


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed former New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman Raymond Martinez as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The agency is under fire for dropping a proposed rule to combat sleep apnea, blamed in the fatal crash of a NJ Transit train at Hoboken Terminal.

Martinez was confirmed by voice vote, as were two others to top positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ronald L. Batory as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and Adam Sullivan as assistant secretary of governmental affairs.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said the three officials were “highly qualified and will help the Department of Transportation fulfill its mission.”

N.J. official to join administration

The FMCSA and Federal Railroad Administration reversed course after President Donald Trump took office and decided not to move ahead with a proposed rule requiring railroads and trucking companies to test their engineers and drivers for obstructive sleep apnea.

U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; and Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gilibrand, D-N.Y., introduced legislation last fall to require such a rule.

The National Transportation Safety Board earlier this month blamed the September 2016 fatal train crash on the engineer’s fatigue brought on by sleep apnea. The board said the Federal Railroad Administration’s refusal to impose rules requiring such testing contributed to the accident.

Chairman Robert Sumwalt said he was “mystified” at why the Trump administration withdrew the rule. 

The motor carrier administration also was tasked by Congress to study long commutes by truck drivers following the  June 7, 2014, fatal crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury, which seriously injured Tracy Morgan and killed fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.

The safety board blamed that accident on the truck driver’s failure to get adequate rest before getting behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.

Martinez had been a member of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration since the beginning, being nominated to run the motor vehicle agency shortly after the new governor took office.

The New Jersey agency brings in more than $1 billion in revenue a year and has a $330 million budget, the White House said in announcing Martinez’s nomination last September. It licenses almost 6 million drivers and oversees the registration and inspection of more than 6 million motor vehicles.

Before coming to New Jersey, Martinez served as New York state Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.



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