On November 30, 2020, Jim Burnley was quoted in FreightWaves on important attributes President-elect Joe Biden’s administration should consider when choosing the next head of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
“Needless to say, [Biden’s transition team] didn’t seek my advice,” said Burnley, who served as U.S. secretary of transportation from 1987 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. “But if they were to do so, I would encourage them to look for someone who has significant experience in managing a large, well-established organization with a particular track record of breaking down silos.”
Burnley explained that freight and transportation generally are in a period of rapid change, and the next DOT secretary will have to oversee the integration of increasingly automated systems in trucks and automobiles.
However, he said, there are currently three modal agencies that have a piece of the action: the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration. “So coordination among agencies on an issue like that will be critical in whether the federal government, in a way that’s safe, expedites — or impedes — the development of such technologies,” Burnley said.
Burnley noted that, as is the case with most large organizations, turf rivalries can get in the way of progress. “It’s ultimately the DOT secretary’s responsibility to encourage them to work with each other, so you need a leader who understands that.”
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