DOT seeks data help

The Department of Transportation is looking for senior-level talent to reimagine and reconfigure how it manages, collects and presents key safety and regulatory data.

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As data -- from vehicle safety to highway construction -- mounts in importance at the Department of Transportation, the agency is looking for a new chief technology officer to help manage information at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Daniel Morgan, DOT's chief data officer, said at an AFCEA Bethesda event Dec. 17 that the job is transformative, melding many data sources to form a more coherent internal and external face for data resources at the component.

The FMCSA is a linchpin for federal vehicle safety efforts that rely on local and state data.

"You see all those trucks and buses with DOT numbers on the sides?" Morgan asked. "That's us."

The FMCSA handles data from its work tracking the safe operation of millions of commercial trucks in the U.S., as well as monitoring drivers' annual qualifying physicals.

"That agency is managing data to keep the transportation system safe," he said, but also ensuring that a key piece of critical infrastructure keeps running.

The new FMCSA job, Morgan told reporters after his presentation, "is about re-imagining what our role is as part of our digital transformation journey." 

The position is different than a component CIO, he said.

"You’ll see an emphasis on digital and the user experience going forward because our applications increasingly involve knitting together a state and private-sector net around the commercial motor vehicle industry."

The DOT, said Morgan, also plans to roll out a system next year that will support substance abuse counseling for commercial motor vehicle operators. The data gathered by that system, he said, will be pulled into the agency’s larger pool of data to help expand its view of the transportation ecosystem. The agency also plans to provide a training-provider registry to help commercial transportation with regulatory compliance.

The agency wants someone who can knit those disparate applications together, Morgan said.

"If you think about all of those websites, each being built one regulation at a time, that’s not necessarily the best way to build that user experience," he said. "We need somebody to lead that organization, not only around that user experience, but also the data that underlies that user experience so we can be most effective."

Additionally, he said, DOT is looking for a head of data management at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The NHTSA chief data officer is in charge of gathering data used to rate commercial vehicle safety and vehicle collisions across the country, processing data that leads to vehicle recalls as well as supplying that safety data to commercial industries that rely on it, such as insurance companies.

The NHTSA position, he said, was open due to staff turnover.