Elaine Chao confirmed as new US Transportation Secretary


The United States Senate has confirmed Elaine Chao as the 18th US Transportation Secretary by a vote of 93-6, and she was sworn in to office by US Vice President Mike Pence at his ceremonial office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building yesterday (January 31).

Chao was nominated by President Trump back in November, and has prior experience in a presidential cabinet having served as the 24th US Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009, during all eight years of President George W Bush’s term. Chao has previous experience at the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), having served as Deputy Secretary from 1989-91 under President George H W Bush. Her government service also includes serving as director of the Peace Corps, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Deputy Maritime Administrator at USDOT, and White House Fellow specializing in transportation and trade in the Office of Policy Development.

Chao will be involved in infrastructure investment and revitalization, a top priority of President Trump, who has promised spending of US$1tn on the USA’s infrastructure, and she will also oversee the roll-out of self-driving car regulations over the next few years. In a congratulatory letter, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) emphasized that it stands ready to work with Chao and her department to accelerate the widespread deployment of intelligent, transformational transportation systems.

“As leaders in intelligent transportation, we urge Congress and the Administration to move quickly to rebuild our crumbling and outmoded infrastructure,” wrote Regina Hopper, ITS America’s president and CEO. “Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind period of innovation in transportation, driven by swift advances in cloud computing, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. This, in turn, is changing the fundamental make-up of entire industries. Our members would like to work closely with you to build a transportation infrastructure that is the technological envy of the world; a national system that drives economic growth, enhances global competitiveness, advances safety, and improves mobility.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has also welcomed Chao’s appointment. “We congratulate Elaine Chao on her confirmation and stand ready to work with USDOT to continue efforts to rebuild and modernize America’s aging transportation infrastructure,” said AASHTO’s executive director, Bud Wright. “In her confirmation testimony, Secretary Chao said she believes the Trump administration will support more federal funding for infrastructure, as well as private financing. AASHTO agrees that a balanced approach to transportation investment will be required to fully support America’s transportation system into the future.”

The American Traffic Safety Services Association’s (ATSSA) president and CEO, Roger Wentz, said, “We look forward to continuing our members’ ongoing efforts with local, state and federal departments of transportation to help improve America’s roadway infrastructure to be the safest, most efficient roadway system in the world. All ATSSA members are eager to work with Secretary Chao to implement the current transportation bill, which includes the Highway Safety Improvement Program and roadway safety infrastructure improvements in general.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).