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Secretary Chao: The Transportation Workforce of Tomorrow

Main Stage



  • According to Secretary Elaine Chao, at the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation rapidly mobilized in an effort to keep the country’s transportation supply chain and national airspace open, operational, and safe. Safety protocols and contingency provisions regarding air traffic control were quickly devised and implemented. The Department of Transportation has also provided regulatory relief to citizens nationwide, including making it easier for individuals to renew drivers’ licenses and fulfill training requirements.
    The airline industry has seen a steep drop in passenger ridership.
  • Early on in the pandemic, ridership decreased by a staggering 94%. Currently, ridership stands at 48% of pre-COVID levels. Secretary Chao profusely commended efforts on the part of airlines and airports to maintain air travel and ensure the safety of passengers.
  • The federal government has provided essential monetary aid to actors in the transportation sector, giving $10 billion to airports and $25 billion to transit agencies to help them meet payroll. The Department of Transportation has also worked with the Treasury Department to make available some $50 billion to airlines, travel agents, and contractors in the aviation industry. Secretary Chao argued in favor of additional aid to the airline industry, but acknowledged that the decision ultimately lies with Congress.
  • Secretary Chao believes that the U.S. is a clear leader when it comes to embracing innovation within the transportation space.. From producing automated vehicles and drones to pioneering hyperloop and supersonic flight, the U.S. has proven itself a fierce global competitor. Secretary Chao attributes the competitiveness of the nation’s transportation sector to the freedom individuals and businesses are given to innovate.

“Our role as regulators at the Department of Transportation is that we’re not going to be heavy-handed—we don’t want to be top-down or command-and-control. But, of course, we have a responsibility to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, and our goal is to do all that without hampering innovation, because innovation is a key part of export,” Elaine Chao

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Secretary Chao urged everyone to follow safety guidelines—everyone should wear masks, practice social distancing, and avoid travel when feeling unwell.


Session Speakers