President-Elect Donald Trump has announced his pick to head the Department of Transportation: Elaine L. Chao. Ms. Chao is clearly a veteran of Washington: as the Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, and a deputy transportation secretary under George H.W. Bush, she will bring Cabinet-level experience if confirmed to the position. That experience may come in handy, as the Department of Transportation is confronting new regulatory challenges from developing technologies (such as autonomous and networked vehicles), and as president-elect Trump has made it clear that he intends infrastructure development to be a goal of his administration. And even some Democrats, such as David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Obama, and Senator Chuck Schumer, have acknowledged her government service and indicated their respect for Ms. Chao.
In the automotive industry, the reactions to her pick have been favorable:
- The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers released a statement calling Ms. Chao a “superb choice to lead the Department of Transportation,” citing the “rapid rate of innovation” in the automotive industry and the challenges that poses to the “traditional regulatory approach.”
- Likewise, the American Trucking Association praised Ms. Chao, saying that the new administration “could not have picked a more qualified, experienced and dedicated individual to serve in this important role.”
- Other businesses in the transportation industry, such as ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber (who are tying themselves closer to the manufacturing side of the industry), appear optimistic that Ms. Chao’s view on regulations will be more inclined to promote innovation, rather than stifle it, based on her more hands-off posture toward regulation as Labor Secretary, and her statements since then. (On the other hand, and perhaps unsurprisingly, activist groups such as the Sierra Club see this hands-off approach as a red flag.)
While there may be other aspects of the Trump administration that the auto industry is apprehensive about—for example, president-elect Trump’s views on treaties such as NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which clash with the industry’s general embrace of international trade—it appears that his pick for Transportation will not be one of them.