Trump to Nominate Heidi King for NHTSA Administrator

April 6, 2018

The White House last night announced that President Trump will nominate Heidi King to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

King has served as Deputy Administrator since last September and has thus also served as Acting Administrator since that time.

NHTSA is primarily a regulatory agency. King spent a total of six years (in two separate stints) as a regulatory analyst at the White House Office of Management and Budget, through which all proposed regulations must pass before being released to the public. And she spent two years as the chief economist for the House Energy and Commerce Committee monitoring NHTSA’s most wide-ranging regulation (in economic impact, at least) – the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules for automakers, imposed in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to CAFE, NHTSA also writes auto safety regulations, an area where King also has ex post facto experience, having been a part-time EMT for seven years and thus having seen plenty of the aftermath of vehicular accidents.

King has acquitted herself well in testimony on Capitol Hill during her tenure as Acting Administrator, which may be a reason why the White House finally selected her for the permanent post. (See the end of this article from ETW’s coverage of a recent hearing, where a Democratic Congressman tried to get King to admit on the record that she could get the permanent job.)

NHTSA is also at the forefront of evaluating and regulating autonomous vehicles. The chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees NHTSA vehicle safety activities, Bob Latta (R-OH), issued this statement this morning in support of her nomination:

Deputy Administrator King has been a strong voice for vehicle safety as acting head of NHTSA, and I am pleased she will continue to lead the agency in its mission to keep drivers safe. With distracted and drugged driving on the rise, our nation has seen an unacceptable increase in traffic fatalities in recent years, making clear that NHTSA’s role is as important as ever. I look forward to working with Administrator King to improve the safety of cars on the road today and tomorrow as self-driving technology advances,

The announcement means that the only USDOT modal administrations where an Administrator has not been identified are the two big ones – the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. The FAA job is the only one with a fixed term (five years) and did not come open until January of this year. And a FHWA candidate was nominated last year and seemed well on his way to confirmation before he withdrew abruptly from consideration.

There are 18 Senate-confirmable Presidential appointments at the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is the Trump Administration’s status for those positions as of April 6, 2018.

Confirmed by the Senate (9):

  1. Secretary (confirmed January 31, 2017)
  2. Deputy Secretary (confirmed May 16, 2017)
  3. Under Secretary for Policy (confirmed November 13, 2017)
  4. General Counsel (confirmed November 14, 2017)
  5. Assistant Secretary for Governmental Affairs (confirmed February 13, 2018)
  6. FMCSA Administrator (confirmed February 13, 2018)
  7. FRA Administrator (confirmed February 13, 2018)
  8. MARAD Administrator (confirmed August 3, 2017)
  9. PHMSA Administrator (confirmed October 5, 2017)

Pending on the Senate Executive Calendar (1):

  1. Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (on Calendar since January 18, 2018)

Pending in Senate committee (1):

  1. FTA Administrator (nomination transmitted February 15, 2018)

Nomination announced but no paperwork yet (1):

  1. NHTSA Administor (White House press release April 5, 2018)

No nomination made yet (5):

  1. Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs
  2. Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
  3. Chief Financial Officer
  4. FAA Administrator (position was not open until January 2018)
  5. FHWA Administrator (previous nominee withdrew)

No vacancy at this time (1):

  1. Inspector General (serves during good behavior)

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