Bill Quade

June 2012

MOVE MAGAZINE goes one-on-one with Bill Quade, Associate Administrator for Enforcement and Program Delivery at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

How long have you been in the transportation business?

Nineteen years. It will be 20 years in June. In fact, the month after I graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech, I joined the Federal Highway Administration. I was first hired as a safety investigator with the Maryland Division for the Federal Highway Administrator's Office of Motor Carriers.

Between 1992–1995 I was a field investigator, so I would go out and see the trucking companies to make sure they had the proper safety procedures in place, qualified drivers, and that their vehicles were well maintained, with a special emphasis on the safe transportation of hazardous materials.

What was the strangest thing you uncovered?

The biggest thing we discovered was that a manufacturer of tanker trucks was not building the tankers strong enough. I figured it out thanks to my background in engineering. Within the agency, my specialty was in hazardous materials. In this particular case, we'd received a complaint about the tanker trucks, and we used structural analysis to determine that the devices that the manufacturer was using to protect the tank and valves didn't meet the federal regulations.

It felt good to be able to rectify the problem, identify a safety issue, and take the steps necessary to avoid any serious issues.

Then, in 1995 I moved to our headquarters office in D.C. where I worked in the Hazardous Materials Division. I developed programs for our field staff—825 people out in the field—to be able to review the safety of hazardous materials being transported.

Eventually, around 2000, I became the Chief of the Hazardous Materials Division. And in 2005, I became the director of the Office of Safety Programs. In that position I was in charge of all of FMCSA's grant programs to the states as well as the Commercial Driver's License program, as well as our North American Borders Division, working with Canada and Mexico. In 2008, I took on my current position.

Describe a typical day on the job.

There isn't a typical day. I'm one of five associate administrators. Usually, I spend my days talking to our field staff about our programs and what tools they need to do their jobs better. I also spend a lot of time talking with Congressional staff about what our agency needs to accomplish its safety mission. And I talk with our stakeholders, like AAMVA, about the impacts of our programs. I also am a regular guest on two radio shows on Sirius XM 106, the Road Dog Trucking Channel. It's an opportunity to talk to the drivers who are out there living it every day.

What's the best part about being on the radio?

I love explaining why we do what we do. A lot of times there is a method to the madness of what the government does. I also frequently explain that in FMCSA there are 1,100 people who come to work every day to save lives. That's our whole purpose.

From our point of view, the radio show is an opportunity to reach out to the drivers and explain why we're doing what we're doing.

What's your proudest accomplishment to date?

I really have to go back to the days shortly following 9/11. Obviously that experience brought security to the forefront and as the agency that regulates the transportation of large quantities of hazardous materials, we wanted to makes sure we were doing our part.

Within a number of weeks, we had developed security sensitivity visits, where we gave our field staff talking points so that they could visit each and every carrier to raise awareness that the materials they were transporting might be used as a weapon and provide them with basic steps they could take to improve security.

Shortly after, I remember going to a meeting near the White House with people from several government agencies and I was able to talk about the fact that we had already conducted 18,000 visits to raise awareness about security risks. We were already out there giving advice to people about what they could do to protect those commodities. It made me proud because we were ahead of the game. We didn't stop and wait to be told to do something; we just went out and did something. And frankly I think it was very, very good.

What's the most exciting thing about working in this industry?

It's the fact that transportation safety touches people's lives every day. Things like making sure people are licensed properly and ensuring people who are transporting materials are doing it safely and aware of the security concerns. The work that we're doing, whether people on the highways know it or not, it has an impact on them. And that's cool.

Another exciting thing is when I see positive trends in our industry. In 2005, there were 5,212 people who died in large truck crashes in this country. That's when I moved into the senior ranks. In 2010, five years after that figure was released, 3,484 died. That's 1,728 people who didn't die. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I really believe that the work we're doing here and the work that the states are doing plays a large role in that.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the industry right now?

The biggest challenge is trying to find the resources to ensure safety at a time when federal and state governments and the industry have fewer resources to work with. I see this at all kinds of levels. We're trying to put in place programs that make things safer, but if the states can't implement those programs due to limited resources, then they don't happen.

How do you balance such a demanding job with your home life?

I tend to go to work very early in the morning, because if I put in extra time in the beginning of the day, I'm stealing from my sleep, but if I put it in at the end of the day, I'm stealing from my family. And I don't want to do that.

I have three children—ages 12, 10 and 8—and I coach little league, basketball, baseball and soccer.

Coaching requires a commitment on my part that I will honor. I think that helps me keep a good work/life balance. Too often it's too easy to say, "I'm going to stay a half an hour and do this," but when you've got 12–13 kids waiting for you to coach them, you've got to keep that commitment.

One word for how others might describe you?

Passionate. Here at work, or even at home, I believe that if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it right. I believe very much in what we do here and I'm willing to fight hard for what I believe in.

I don't back down because something is hard. Very few things worth happening are easy. That's why they used to call me "Bull Dog." I wouldn't let go!

What do you listen to in the car?

I love my XM Radio. I love music. I also listen to audio books or podcasts. I'm hooked on the English Premier League Soccer. Everton is my favorite team.

Dream car?

My dream car is the 1965 Mustang. Midnight Blue.

What's the best road trip you've ever taken?

Once I flew into Sioux City, SD, and drove across the state to the Badlands and over to the Black Hills to do some hiking. It happened to be the same weekend as the Sturgis Motorcycle Festival, so as I was driving, I was accompanied by hundreds of people on motorcycles, which made finding a hotel room quite a challenge. But it was absolutely gorgeous driving out on those open roads and experiencing a part of our country I had never seen.