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Elaine Chao presents goals for DOT under her watch

Elaine Chao faced little resistance during her confirmation hearing.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Elaine Chao experienced few hiccups during a relatively relaxed confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

When President-elect Trump first nominated Chao for transportation secretary, politicians and pundits predicted a smooth path forward for her. She previously served as Secretary of Labor in George W. Bush's administration and as a deputy transportation secretary under George H.W. Bush. She is also the wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It's almost a guarantee that the Senate will overwhelmingly confirm Chao as the next Secretary of Transportation. Here are some of the highlights from her confirmation hearing:

Money has to be found – somewhere 

One of Trump's first pledges as president-elect was to call for a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package. Currently, specifics on where that money would come from haven't been provided or how it would be paid for.

Chao was also unable to provide specifics, but according to The New York Times, she told the committee she'd keep them informed of any new developments. But in order for a large spending package to pass in Trump's first 100 days, Chao stressed the need for cooperation.

"As the infrastructure proposal is being put together, we will certainly be in great discussion with the Congress, because, once again, we can't do it on our own," said Chao.

Chao suggested the Department of Transportation get creative when it comes to funding sources. To that end, she implied that a mix of federal spending and public-private partnerships may be needed.

However, privatizing America's roads may cause friction with politicians who oppose that action. But the need to find a funding solution remains because Chao said economic gains are in peril due to America's crumbling infrastructure, more traffic and an increasing number of highway fatalities.

Balance needed to handle jobs and innovation

To outsiders, technology innovation in the trucking industry might seem like an exciting prospect, but to drivers, these potential changes are scary. Drivers are worried about their future if they're replaced by self-driving vehicles, which is why Chao wants to strike the right balance between innovation and concerns over job displacement.

"Chao wants to strike the right balance between innovation and concerns over job displacement."

According to Overdrive Magazine, Chao said finding that middle ground is imperative and a matter society must face together.

"It's not an issue that can be decided by one person or one department. It requires national attention and discussion," said Chao.

Regulations can't hamper efficiency

The trucking industry has had a complicated relationship with the Obama administration. Over the last eight years, numerous rules have been issued that have either been praised – like the driver training rule – whereas others have been heavily criticized, such as the speed limiter rule.

Chao said under her watch, the DOT will take public safety seriously while ensuring regulations aren't overly restrictive. Strict rules can hamper job growth and fleet efficiency, and Chao believes the agency should continue to foster job growth.

With her hearing over, Chap must now await either a favorable or unfavorable approval from the committee and then a full vote before the Senate.