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January 29, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

LaHood to step down as transportation secretary

By Kelly Roher


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During his four years as U.S. transportation secretary, Ray LaHood showed support for the school bus industry and took on issues impacting it, such as distracted driving.  

During his four years as U.S. transportation secretary, Ray LaHood showed support for the school bus industry and took on issues impacting it, such as distracted driving.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced to the employees of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that after serving for four years in President Obama’s cabinet, he will not be staying on for the second term.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity,” LaHood said in an e-mail to DOT employees. “I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the department and all the important work we still have to do.”

LaHood went on to write that he is proud of what he and the rest of the DOT employees have accomplished over the last four years in various “important areas.”

“But what I am most proud of is the DOT team,” LaHood added. “You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.”

During his term, LaHood showed support for the school bus industry on several levels. In 2010, he responded positively to the industry’s campaign for the DOT to fund a program touting the benefits of school buses.

At the time, he said in a letter to members of Congress that starting in fiscal year 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would create educational materials “highlighting the benefits of school buses and promoting their use.”

(That material was released in the fall of 2011. It included posters with information on the safety benefits of school bus transportation.)

LaHood also attended industry events during his term. In February 2011, he visited an elementary school in Takoma Park, Md., during a Love the Bus event. While there, he recognized Wellington Abud, who had been a school bus driver for Montgomery County Public Schools for 10 years.

"The truth is, if you rode a school bus today, which you did, that is the safest way to get to school,"' LaHood told the children at the event. "It's safer than walking. Believe it or not, it's safer than riding with your parents in a car."

Later in the year, LaHood traveled to Baltimore for the National School Transportation Association’s annual convention, where he told attendees, “School buses are the safest way for children to go to school. Bar none. Period." He also spoke about the role that the American School Bus Council plays in educating the public about the safety of school buses, and more generally about the safety record of yellow buses.

He then spread the word about the benefits of school bus transportation on his blog.

LaHood took on issues impacting the pupil transportation industry as well, including distracted driving. He spearheaded two distracted driving summits, and last year, he released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" that offered a comprehensive strategy to address what he described as the growing and dangerous practice of using hand-held cell phones behind the wheel.

While unveiling the plan, LaHood also announced $2.4 million in federal support for California and Delaware that will expand the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" pilot enforcement campaign to reduce distracted driving.

LaHood addressed the DOT’s achievements on distracted driving in his e-mail to the department’s employees.

“We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making,” he said. “We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks and airlines.”

LaHood concluded his e-mail by writing that the role of U.S. transportation secretary is the “best job” he’s ever had.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you, and I’m confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future,” he added.


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Read more about: American School Bus Council, distracted driving, Love the Bus, NHTSA, NSTA, public image


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