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Chairmanship of Prestigious Appropriations Committee

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With the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye on Monday, the leadership atop the Senate (Pro Tempore) as well as the Chairmanship of the highly influential Appropriations Committee were vacated and had to be filled.  Conventional wisdom early in the week was that Sen. Patrick Leahy would ascend to both the number three position in succession to the President and would also give up his gavel as presiding Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to take over the committee with jurisdiction over all federal spending.  This would have a cascading effect which would provide Senator Diane Feinstein with the ability to give up her current Chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee to take the vacated Judiciary slot, leaving the Intelligence Committee Chair open to Sen. Barbara Mikulski.
 
So much for conventional wisdom…
 
Yesterday afternoon, Sen. Leahy announced that he would not seek the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, and would remain Judiciary Chair in the 113th Congress as that committee attempts to tackle high profile issues including gun control and immigration.  This announcement immediately stymied the potential changes for Senators Feinstein and Mikulski, and left open the leadership on Approps to the next most senior member – Tom Harkin.
 
But in a surprising, and highly important announcement, Sen. Harkin expressed his desire to pass up the Full Appropriations Committee Chairmanship, in order to maintain his position as the head of the HELP Committee and the Subcommittee Appropriations Chairmanship responsible for Labor, HHS, and Education funding.  As noted from the quote below, Sen. Harkin's reasons for passing up the position include his desire to continue to pursue education reform.
 
Ultimately this decision provided an opportunity for Senator Mikulski to ascend to the top slot on Appropriations, becoming the first woman to lead the Committee.
 
It should be apparent the implications of the decision Senator Harkin made to pass up this highly coveted position…

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Senate OKs bill aimed at protecting GI benefits

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Source: armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-veterans-
bill-gi-benefits-passes-senate-122012/

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Dec 20, 2012 6:16:49 EST

A landmark veterans bill aimed at protecting valuable GI Bill benefits from being wasted passed the Senate late Wednesday and is on its way to final passage in the House.

The compromise bill prevents schools that receive veterans’ education benefits from paying bounties for recruiting students and requires the VA to provide more consumer-oriented information to help veterans pick which schools to attend.

Called the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act, the measure was first introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee who is concerned that veterans lack information to make wise choices when it comes to choosing schools.

“As our nation’s heroes make the transition from the battlefield to civilian life, we must do everything we can to arm veterans with the information they need to make informed decisions about their educational benefits, and ultimately ensure they remain competitive in today’s market,” Bilirakis said in a statement about the bill, HR 4057.

Although Bilirakis is the sponsor, the final bill is the result of negotiations between the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees, which had their own separate legislation. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., the lawmaker behind creation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, was chief sponsor of the Senate’s similar legislation.

Some of the consumer-related information is being collected by the VA under an executive order signed earlier this year by President Obama.

Part of the purpose of the bill is to have information available in one place. Veterans’ advocates have said that would make it easier for a person who has spent years in the service and doesn’t know much about higher educational institutions to discover facts that would help her decide which school to attend. A provision of the compromise bill tells the VA to avoid duplication with other programs as much as possible, suggesting the VA needs to have a only single website that contains links to information outside the VA, such as Education Department guides for non-veterans.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee chairman, said one of the reasons for pushing the bill is to try to prevent veterans, who generally have only 36 months of GI Bill benefits, from wasting them on courses or institutions that don’t meet their long-term goals.

“This bipartisan legislation will provide much needed tools for student veterans to make better informed decisions on how to use their educational benefits,” Miller said in a statement. “By empowering veterans with more information for post-secondary educational options, their hard-earned benefit will go further to put them on a path to meaningful employment in the civilian sector... Continue reading.

Source: armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-veterans-bill-gi-benefits-passes-senate-122012/

 

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Truckpocalypse - Will the world end Friday? It would without trucks.

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Interactive Truckpocalypse graphic illustrates the vital role trucks play in our lives.
 
TUSCALOOSA, ALA. (December 2012) - According to the Mayans, this Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, will be the Apocalypse, the complete and final destruction of the world. While the imminent end of the world is dubious at best, one thing is certain: If the nation's 3 million trucks were to stop running, the world as we know it would grind to a halt.

That's the premise of Truckpocalypse, an infographic that walks the reader through the chaos that would ensue in the days and weeks after trucks stop. For example:

  • After three hours, major gas stations would run out of fuel, manufacturers would face component shortages and hospitals would run out of critical supplies;
  • After one day, grocery stores would have shortages of food;
  • After several days, garbage would pile up, threatening health and the environment, the airlines would stop, and consumers would begin to panic over shortages.

Truckpocalypse was created by Trucker Classifieds, a new website devoted to helping truck drivers find local driving jobs, using data from the American Trucking Association. Trucker Classifieds (www.truckerclassifieds.com) is a product of Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media, which has a network of more than 30 websites dedicated to helping match truck drivers with good driving jobs.

"We created Truckpocalypse to illustrate the importance of the trucking industry to the nation's economy and to our entire way of life," says Scott Miller, senior vice president, sales at Randall-Reilly. "We hope it will make people pause and remember that if they have it, a truck brought it."

To download and share truckpocalypse, go to www.TruckerClassifieds.com/truckpocalypse. And remember, without trucks, America stops!

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Despite Recent Changes to CSA Program, Industry Concerns Remain

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Source: ttnews.com/articles/petemplate.aspx?storyid=30831
(Log-in required.)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — If there was ever any doubt that the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program is rattling the freight industry, a recent all-day meeting of industry stakeholders here made it crystal clear that truckers, shippers, brokers and nonprofit groups alike still have concerns with the program.

Despite a consensus that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new safety monitoring program is a step in the right direction, truckers said they remain concerned that the scoring data is not always an accurate predictor of crash risk.

Shippers and brokers say they are grappling with how to use CSA data to help them determine which carriers are the safest to haul their freight... Continue reading (log-in to TTnews is required.)

Source: ttnews.com/articles/petemplate.aspx?storyid=30831
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Schneider Delivers into National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America

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This past Saturday, Dec. 15, Schneider National's military-themed truck, the Ride of Pride, embarked on a special mission to deliver 5,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. The annual Wreaths Across America program included 110,000 wreaths delivered and laid upon soldiers' graves by volunteers. Schneider Ride of Pride driver and U.S. Army veteran, Greg Roberts of Eastpointe, Mich., participated in the wreath-laying ceremony to promote veterans' remembrance. (See attached photo of Greg laying a wreath on a soldier's resting place.)

Because similar wreath-laying events were held throughout the country on Saturday, Schneider National also delivered nearly 10,000 wreaths to Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

Schneider National, one of the nation's largest truckload carriers, has been involved with Wreaths Across America's annual wreath-laying effort since 2010.

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Member Alert - 12-17-2012

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PLEASE DO NOT WIRE MONEY TO ANYONE SAYING THEY ARE A CON-WAY RECRUITER.

It has come to our attention that there is scamer out there looking for your money! We have received several calls today regarding this and want to inform ALL DRIVERS out there, especially students and those new to driving.

Here is what we have been learning:

Going by the name of Michael Hayes. He is stating that he is a recruiter for Con-way.

Offering to send in return:

  • Airline tickets
  • Hotel rooms
  • Other things that relate to orientation/training transportation

Amounts requested are usually $150, $200 or $250.

Con-way Truckload, or any other Con-way entity (or any other carrier) would NEVER ask for drivers, especially students, to send money.

If this person contacts you, please hang up.

Please spread the word to other drivers out there.

Gretchen Jackson
Recruiting Manager
Con-way  Truckload
Never Settle for Less.

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Wreaths Across America 2012 at Arlington National Cemetery

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CVTA was honored to be a part of Wreaths Across America. We look forward to our continual participation in the years to come. Thanks to the many CVTA Members who donated to this worthy cause.

 

More than 110,000 wreaths donated by Wreaths Across America were laid at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 15, 2012. With similar ceremonies across America taking place, the organization now has donated over the past 21 years more than 1.2 million wreaths to honor America's war dead.

Stars and Stripes
Published: December 15, 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. — What began as a goodwill gesture by a Maine businessman who found himself with a surplus of Christmas wreaths two decades ago continued its annual growth trend Saturday when 20,000 volunteers took part in the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery.

Merrill Worcester, owner of the Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Me., marked a special milestone Saturday by presenting the program's one millionth wreath to Gold Star mother Mary Byers, whose son, Army Capt. Joshua Byers, was killed in Afghanistan in 2003. Byers, her husband, Lloyd, and Army Sgt. Justin Lansford — who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in April —  later placed it at the grave of Vietnam veteran Wilbur Tresvant in Arlington's Section 60.

Also joining in the placing of wreaths were Maine Gov. Paul LePage and his wife, Ann.

According to cemetery officials, the volunteers placed 110,000 wreaths at Arlington on Saturday. Similar events were held at cemeteries across the country.

Source: stripes.com/news/us/wreaths-across-america-2012-at-arlington-national-cemetery-1.200872

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FMCSA Asks for Guidance on Driver Training Rules

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By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter @ Transport Topic

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration asked its advisory committee last week for help crafting minimum training requirements – including classroom and on-the-road instruction – for entry-level commercial drivers.

The agency proposed some requirements in December 2007, but comments its received from industry interest groups took issue with some aspects of the curriculum, how FMCSA would accredit training programs, the effect the regulation would have on the availability of new drivers and the benefits of training compared with the costs, said Rich Clemente, an FMCSA transportation specialist.

“Is a trained driver a safer driver? We would certainly like to think so, and that’s why we’ve been working on this,” Clemente said at a Dec. 3 presentation to the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. “But right now, there is currently no federal standard.”

Federal officials have been working on entry-level driver-training standards for about two decades and even issued a regulation in 2003. But a federal court later told FMCSA the standards must include on-the-road training because the agency had determined that such training is necessary for safety.

That resulted in the 2007 proposal, which the agency has not acted on since then. “We’re coming up on the five-year anniversary of the notice of proposed rulemaking,” Clemente said. “It’s been a long time.”

A major roadblock for the regulation – one identified by many comments on the 2007 proposal – is that no research has shown a positive cost-benefit analysis for requiring training. It would be a “fairly high rule cost, but the benefits are only intuitive,” Clemente said.

FMCSA is overseeing two research projects the agency hopes will demonstrate benefits that exceed the costs of training, said Martin Walker, chief of the agency’s research division.

Members of MCSAC agreed with the push to require driver training, despite the lack of a positive cost-benefit analysis.

John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, noted that other industries have required operator training for a long time.

“Law enforcement, military, aviation, all see benefits of training… somehow, either by sheer logic or they have a cost-benefit analysis for it, I don’t know,” said Lannen, a MCSAC member. “It’s stunning that we’re struggling with the benefits of this when there are so many other examples that clearly have been done.”

“It’s not that people haven’t been able to find benefits,” said Rob Abbott, vice president for safety policy at American Trucking Associations and a MCSAC member. “It’s that the benefits haven’t exceeded the cost.”

For Abbott, the realities of the cost-benefit analysis mean that the training FMCSA requires should be crafted to cost less than the benefits it causes through increased safety.

Walker noted that the U.S. military does not have to prove that its driver training is cost-beneficial. “You just have to prove that you’re imparting training, and knowledge, and skills,” he said.

And the current requirements for commercial pilot training also did not go through a regulatory cost-benefit analysis, Walker said.

ATA, along with the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) and other groups, is concerned the proposal mandated only the number of training hours required, not whether trainees actually learn the skills.

FMCSA has asked MCSAC to submit its recommendations before a meeting in April.

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter @ Transport Topic

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Nat Gas Has Great Promise for Trucking, Summit Told

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Source: ttnews.com/articles/petemplate.aspx?storyid=30774
By Transport Topics Staff
This story appears in the Dec. 10 print edition of Transport Topics.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Natural gas has tremendous potential as a trucking industry fuel, but its era for over-the-road freight hauling is just beginning, according to industry experts who addressed the Natural Gas in Trucking Summit here Nov. 29 and 30.

While a number of fleets have been experimenting with natural gas-powered trucks, appropriate equipment is only now getting close to market and fuel distributors are currently creating a national network of filling stations, the speakers said.

There are not enough equipment choices yet, and it all costs too much, speakers said, and servicing the new trucks requires extensive and expensive changes to maintenance shops, they added... Continue reading - Log-in Required.

Source: ttnews.com/articles/petemplate.aspx?storyid=30774

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House Bill Would Require Pilot Program for DOT Hair Testing for Drugs

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Source: truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=78715
By Truckinginfo Staff

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot program to evaluate the use of hair samples to test commercial drivers for illicit drug use.

American Trucking Associations applauded the move.

For many years, ATA has supported improving drug and alcohol testing procedures for commercial drivers, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. Hair testing, which research and experience shows can be much more effective than current, conventional sampling and testing methods."

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) is cosponsor.

No fleet wants to put the safety of the public at risk by putting an impaired driver behind the wheel of one its trucks, said ATA Chairman Mike Card, president of Combined Transport, Central Point, Ore. More effective drug testing procedures can help us make sure that doesn't happen.

Major fleets such as Schneider National, C.R. England and J.B. Hunt require drivers to undergo hair testing for drugs, but those results cannot be shared with other prospective employers like urine testing can.

The practice of defeating and falsifying urine tests is widespread enough in the trucking industry to have prompted a Government Accountability Office investigation in 2007 that uncovered some disturbing problems.

Undercover investigators were able to use bogus commercial driver's licenses at 24 drug-testing sites, proving that a driver could easily send a substitute in with a fake ID. In addition, 22 of the 24 sites did not follow testing protocols, which opened the door to further cheating, GAO found.

Hair testing for drugs is on the agenda of the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, known for short as The Trucking Alliance, which originally was formed to lobby for mandatory electronic onboard recorders. Its agenda for the next two-year congressional cycle includes promoting hair testing for drugs, creation of a drug and alcohol clearinghouse, and other issues.

Source: truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=78715