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Shuster: Would Consider Hike in Fuel Taxes, Highway Tolling

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This story appears in the Nov. 12 print edition of Transport Topics.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who is expected to take over as chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that everything from higher fuel taxes to tolling is on the table when it comes to making the Highway Trust Fund solvent.

Shuster announced last week that he is seeking the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairmanship. He said the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund must be a “priority.”

“I want to look across the spectrum, look at tolling, look at the other various ways, public-private partnerships and, certainly, you have to look at the gas tax, the user fee, certainly, all those things have to be looked at,” Shuster told reporters Nov. 8.

Shuster would replace current chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), whose term is limited by House rules.

 “I believe there’s going to be some large-scale negotiations taking place, not only in the lame duck but then into the next year,” Shuster said. “And they’ll be dealing with some of these significant [issues], not just trust fund issues but tax reform, the fiscal cliff, what we’re going to be doing with debt ceiling,” he said.

“So there’s going to be a lot of big negotiations; the grand bargain may occur,” he said, speaking two days after presidential and congressional elections that left the political landscape fundamentally unchanged from last year, when House Republicans could not agree on funding for transportation spending.

Shuster is currently chairman of the House transportation subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials.

The political status quo in Washington remains unaltered from 2011, with President Obama reelected, Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate.

Some faces at the bargaining table will be different, however. Election results and party rules for Republicans mean some representatives and senators give up leadership posts.

There may also be a new Transportation Secretary. Ray LaHood said last year he would not serve a second term, although he recently hinted he might change his mind. His office did not respond to requests about his plans.
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) must surrender his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit because of term limits.

At press time for Transport Topics at least eight House elections were still undecided but the Transportation Committee will undergo change, said Mary Phillips, senior vice president in charge of legislative affairs for American Trucking Associations.

“Eight members we know are not returning due to being defeated, retiring or running for other offices,” Phillips said.

And because Republicans lost some House seats, they “probably won’t have a seven-seat majority” on the transportation committee, Phillips said.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also is term-limited.
On the Senate side, there will be changes on the Commerce and Environment and Public Works committees, with the retirement of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) from Commerce and departure of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) from EPW.

“Inhofe is term-limited and [Sen. David] Vitter [R-La.] is next in line,” Phillips said.

Inhofe is credited with helping produce the bipartisan transportation reauthorization bill passed this summer, after House Republicans were unable to agree on a bill of their own.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is expected to be the top Republican on the commerce panel, Phillips said.

On the Democratic side, those in transportation policymaking are unlikely to change. The party does not have term limits.

The new transportation law, known as MAP 21, expires in September 2014, meaning the new Congress will have to produce a new bill.

Although post-election cabinet and committee changes are important to trucking, the immediate concern following the re-election of Obama is the economy, said ATA spokesman Sean McNally.

 “On the legislative side the voters have returned a slightly less Republican House and a slightly more Democratic Senate, so, we hope those two groups could get together and address not just transportation issues . . . but some of the other issues important to the general business community and to the economy,” McNally said.

The “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax extension and automatic budget cuts set to take effect at the end of 2012, “can have serious ramifications for the economy and . . . that would have serious ramifications for trucking,” McNally said.

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Sets Team to Help Get Trucks to Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it has set up an “interstate petroleum transport team” to ensure the fastest and most efficient movement of fuel to regions hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.

The team will serve as a single point of contact for states, the trucking industry, and agencies to assist in the removal of barriers to the quick delivery of fuel, FMCSA said.

Hurricane Sandy battered the Eastern Seaboard last week, with most of the damage centered in New York and New Jersey.

FMCSA has already issued an eastern regional emergency declaration that temporarily lifts hours-of-service and other regulations to assist truckers providing direct emergency relief, including transporting generators and fuel.

The team “will help get fuel delivered to states and communities recovering from Hurricane Sandy even faster and more efficiently than before, by streamlining multiple state regulations for trucks,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“The president has asked us to ensure fuel moves as quickly as possible, and we are answering that call, starting with a hotline number that will give trucks, states and others a one-stop solution to ensure the swift delivery of relief goods,” he said in a statement.

The team has launched a hotline number, 800-832-5660, to help address individual registration, certification, tax, or other barriers to the flow of fuel transportation to affected states.

Trucks bringing fuel to the affected region in the Northeast must follow different state regulations. The team will coordinate information on a variety of waivers to ensure each state coordinates key regulatory issues that should be addressed to assist the flow of petroleum products to affected states, including:

• Drivers’ hours-of-service;
• Size and weight rules;
• Low-sulfur diesel fuel waivers;
• Toll waivers;
• Vehicle registration waivers (International Registration Plan); and
• Fuel tax waivers (International Fuel Tax Authority).

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency, FMCSA said it has helped connect fuel distributors with companies that have fuel pump trucks.

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Fleets Tally Storm Damage, Strive to Resume Deliveries

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By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Nov. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

The trucking industry in the Northeast was scrambling last week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to assess the damage to fleet facilities and roadways and to determine which customers were ready to accept deliveries.

The storm, which slammed ashore in southern New Jersey Oct. 29, devastated the shoreline there and swamped lower Manhattan under an enormous tidal surge, killed more than 80 residents around the region and brought transportation services in some areas to a standstill for several days.

Numerous rail, subway and motor vehicle tunnels connecting Manhattan to New Jersey and other parts of New York City were still flooded late last week, as Transport Topics went to press.

Meanwhile, economists said the rebuilding efforts from the destruction will likely provide some segments of the trucking industry a boost in demand in coming months.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, summed up the situation for TT: “Nobody can get to work. You can’t move around here.”

Roads that were not clogged with debris or filled with downed power lines were seeing excessive traffic in many areas, including New York City.

With the exception of some limited emergency fuel deliveries, the Port of New York and New Jersey remained closed as of Nov. 1 because of heavy damage, adding to the economic woes in the area.

In Moonachie, N.J., just south of the intersection of interstates 95 and 80, a UPS Freight facility was flooded.

“Moonachie is under water; we cannot get in or out,” said UPS Inc. spokesman Chris Bartlett. “From a service perspective, we’re able to work around that with other surrounding centers but, because New Jersey’s been so badly hit, there’s just not much activity there.”

Likewise, the three UPS facilities in New York were operating at 25% capacity because customers, damaged and without power, were not open, he said.

FedEx Corp. said a critical issue was navigating impassable roads and finding customers who could receive shipments.

“Some folks just may not be either home or their business is not open, but we will try to make deliveries the best as we can, in areas that are inaccessible because of . . . downed power lines, transit closures, flooding or storm debris,” said FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler.

With so little public transit operating in New York City, “Our major challenge is getting people into our locations to man vehicles and sort,” he said.

Tom Connery, chief operating officer for the Shevell Group, headquartered in Elizabeth, N.J., said deliveries were being delayed because “most of the customers are not ready to take it.”

“The other problem is our ability to get around on local roads,” Connery said. “In New Jersey, there’s just so many trees and power lines on the ground. There were railroad cars that came up onto the turnpike, they floated up there with the tidal surge.”

Shevell owns New England Motor Freight, Eastern Freight Ways and Carrier Industries. Connery said Shevell moved its fleet to higher ground before the storm and has generators to power its headquarters.

Although it is located near the port, Shevell cannot do any business there yet because of the storm damage.

“We have a number of customers that have containers that right now we simply can’t pick up,” Connery said.

Con-way Freight said that more than 40 service centers were initially affected by the storm in 11 states because the carrier moved employees and equipment, said Gary Frantz, director of corporate communications for parent Con-way Inc.

By late in the day on Oct. 30, all but two — one each in New Jersey and Long Island — were up and running, Con-way said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Toth. “And if you look at the ramifications — particularly our port being closed, the largest port on the East Coast — 200,000-something people have their jobs related to that port.”

Admiral Kevin Cook, deputy commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, said during a call with reporters and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Oct. 31 that officials still were assessing the damage at the port and did not know when it would reopen.

In an effort to start the recovery process moving, the federal government released $29 million in emergency funding as of Nov. 1 for highway infrastructure. The funding included states from Rhode Island to North Carolina.

The government also eased hours-of-service rules and other regulations for truckers hauling storm-related emergency supplies.

The rebuilding efforts — from roads and bridges to houses and boardwalks by the beach — will mean an uptick in business, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

“Specifically, flatbed carriers typically see a strong boost in construction freight related to rebuilding,” he said. “We fully expect fleets to see an increase in activity in the coming weeks and months during the cleanup and rebuilding phases,” he said.

“Dry-van carriers will likely see a boost in freight from retailers replenishing store shelves that were depleted in the days before the hurricane, but of course these fleets saw a lull in freight in the midAtlantic and Northeast during the last few days,” Costello said.

Deutsche Bank Equity Research Group of North America said its survey of trucking firms in the storm’s aftermath indicated “that it represents a potential positive for the transports.”
But that positive comes after an economic loss in the range of $30 billion to $50 billion, according to IHS Global Insight.

Shevell’s Connery noted how much was lost because of the storm.

“For a two-day period we did about 60% of our normal revenue,” he said.

Connery said the Eastern Freight Ways division runs flatbeds that should see an increase in business, and items like generators and home goods supplies were “already entering our system.”

The problems caused by Sandy were not limited to rain and wind.

In West Virginia, the storm brought extremely heavy snow that blanketed the northeastern part of the state.

“I think everybody’s still assessing,” said Janet Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Trucking Association. “Now the one thing we are worried about is flooding.”

This story appears in the Nov. 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

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DOT Releases Update to Its Strategic Research Plan

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has released Transforming Transportation through Connectivity: ITS Strategic Research Plan, 2010-2014 (Progress Update, 2012).
 
This report is an update to the 2010 ITS Strategic Research Plan, which established a research agenda to prepare the next generation of intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies for widespread deployment throughout the nation. Research and development efforts have advanced notably over the last two and a half years in areas such as connected vehicle research; short-term intermodal research; ITS exploratory research; and ITS cross-cutting support. Documenting this halfway point offers an important resource for broad stakeholder review of program results and research progress.

This report describes the status of the research for achieving a connected vehicle environment; delivering the next generation of ITS technologies to the marketplace; and advancing transportation safety, mobility, and environmental performance. The report covers each research program funded by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). For each program, the report includes an updated research plan in addition to Snapshots of Progress-descriptions of the research results, critical research insights and lessons learned, and next steps.

An important change to the original report is the inclusion of the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Program, a new initiative focused on demonstrating the safety benefits of prototype vehicle-to-vehicle applications and technologies based on a new 5.9 gigahertz communication protocol. Other highlights include: a more detailed Policy research section; the introduction of dynamic mobility applications, connected vehicle road weather applications, and transformative environment concepts; a revision to the systems engineering section to introduce the concept of a core system; details on research for producing human factors guidelines; new efforts for international harmonization; and a comprehensive outreach to media that has produced a list of prominent news stories to create public awareness about connected vehicle research.

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

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FMCSA's Pre-Employment Screening Program

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FMCSA Improves Safety, Cuts Red Tape, Protects Driver Privacy with Pre-Employment Screening Program

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has introduced an expanded version of its Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), making it easier for more motor carrier companies, with the driver's consent, to access PSP records. A PSP record includes three years of crash history and five years of roadside inspection history for a commercial driver.PSP is now available to eligible intrastate motor carriers and companies directly involved in the pre-employment screening and hiring of commercial drivers. The program expansion means important driver safety data is now more easily available to companies that are responsible for hiring the drivers that get behind the wheel of many large trucks and buses. FMCSA has also launched an iPhone application for PSP. Account holders can now securely access a PSP dashboard on an iPhone or iPad, and easily review a PSP record in a mobile-friendly format. The application is available for free download by searching 'DOT PSP' in the Apple iTunes store. For details on the Pre-Employment Screening Program visit http://www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov.

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Motor Carriers Asked to Weigh in on 34-Hour Restart Changes

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:  Rebecca Brewster
(770) 432-0628
October 31, 2012

Arlington, VA - The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) today released a survey on the potential impacts of changes to the 34-hour restart rule. Under the new Hours-of-Service rules that are scheduled to take effect next year, changes to the 34-hour restart will include 1) a requirement that a restart include two periods between 1 a.m. – 5 a.m., and 2) a limitation of one restart per 7-day time period. This survey is part of a larger ATRI study quantifying real-world operational impacts on the trucking industry that may result from these revisions.   

Motor carriers are encouraged to provide confidential input on the HOS changes through ATRI’s survey, available online at www.atri-online.org or by clicking here. The aggregated and anonymized results of the survey will be available later this year and ATRI’s full HOS study will be released in early 2013.

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TransCore’s Canadian Freight Index Slows in September

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Consistent with North American Data

TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- TransCore’s Canadian Freight Index saw a drop in month-over-month spot market freight volumes in September, decreasing by 15 percent from August. Year-over-year load volumes were down 24 percent from September 2011. Quarterly figures were down 14 percent year-over-year while truck capacity was up 13 percent. The softening of the Canadian spot market freight is similar to figures reported for the North American Freight Index. While a decrease was detected in both equipment and load postings, the equipment to loads ratio for September widened to level s previously seen more than two years ago. The var iance however is reflective of previous third quarter results leading into fourth quarter. Available capacity is comparable to April 2012, which is typical for the month of September.

The top states of origin for loads destined to Canada in order of most loads were Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Indiana. California moved from fourth highest in August to third this month.

The top destinations for freight originating in Canada were New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and California, with New Jersey bumping Florida from spot number five. Cross-border postings still accounted for 70 percent of all load postings. Intra-Canada postings made up 26 percent of the total load volumes.

Regional Breakdowns:

Top destinations for loads imported into Canada were:
• Ontario 54 percent
• Western 22 percent
• Quebec 21 percent
• Atlantic 3 percent

Top regions for import equipment into Canada were:
• Ontario 52 percent
• Western 24 percent
• Quebec 21 percent
• Atlantic 3 percent

Regions of origins of loads within Canada were:
• Western 43 percent
• Ontario 27 percent
• Quebec 22 percent
• Atlantic 8 percent

About Canada’s Largest Freight Matching System
TransCore’s Loadlink freight matching database constitutes the largest Canadian network of carriers, owner operators, freight brokers and intermediaries and has been available to Canadian subscribers since its inception in 1990. Over 13 million full loads, LTL (less than truck load) shipments and trucks are posted to the Loadlink network annually. As a result of this high volume, TransCore’s Canadian Freight Index is representative of the ups and downs in spot market freight movement and provides a historical account of the domestic and cross border spot market freight movement. The Loadlink network provides Canadian based companies with:

• The largest online database of available loads and trucks
• Unlimited access to the network and integrated services
• Guaranteed payment

About TransCore’s Link Logistics Freight Solutions
TransCore’s Freight Solutions serves brokers, carriers, owner-operators and shippers in the United States and Canada with best-in-class products. Load boards or freight matching include Loadlink in Canada and TransCore 3sixty powered by the DAT Network in the United States. Loadlink has the largest Canadian freight matching database of loads and trucks and offers access to other services such as Quickpay, credit reports, insurance and operating authorities, dispatch software, mileage software and more. TransCore’s trailer tracking and in-cab communications solutions feature the industry’s fastest response times and state-of-the-art satellite networking.

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DOT Emergency Relief Funds for Hurricane Damage in NY and RI

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U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $13 million in Quick Release Emergency Relief Funds for Hurricane Sandy Damage in New York and Rhode Island

Additional Funding Expected as States Continue Damage Assessments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced he is making $13 million in quick release emergency relief funds immediately available to New York and Rhode Island to help begin repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, while assessments continue throughout the Northeast to determine the full extent of the damage. Today's announcement follows President Obama’s call for federal agencies to act quickly and bring all available resources to bear as quickly as possible.  It also builds on the disaster assistance for these states approved by President Obama in the last several days, including the major disaster declaration approved for New York early today, which make federal assistance - like these emergency relief funds - available to supplement state and local response and recovery efforts.

The $13 million represents 100 percent of the state-requested funds - $10 million from New York and $3 million from Rhode Island. These two requests are just the first to arrive at the Department of Transportation and represent the first installment of federal-aid highway funds to help repair roads, bridges and tunnels in these two states. DOT is expecting other states impacted by Hurricane Sandy to apply for additional emergency relief funding in the coming days.

“President Obama has directed us to immediately help restore vital transportation infrastructure following this unprecedented and devastating storm – and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Secretary LaHood. "These emergency relief funds are just a down payment on our commitment to all of the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”

Quick release emergency funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be used to pay for a variety of repairs to roads and bridges that are immediately necessary. Rhode Island will use the funding to repair damaged sea walls supporting roadways; New York will use it for general emergency repairs to federal aid highways.

“This funding is only the first step in the difficult process of helping the region recover,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. "The federal government stands ready to assist in helping affected states repair roads and bridges so that residents can begin to resume daily activities.”

To further speed access to critical repair funds, Secretary LaHood held a conference call Tuesday afternoon with officials from 14 impacted states to outline how they can apply for quick release emergency relief funding. Secretary LaHood also described other steps the Department of Transportation has taken to assist states, including an Eastern Regional Emergency Declaration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to temporarily lift hours-of-service requirements and other regulations to assist interstate motor carrier drivers and operators providing direct emergency relief.

FHWA's emergency relief program provides funds for the repair or reconstruction of federal-aid roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events. Restoring critical infrastructure is essential to enabling first responders and relief workers to access impacted communities and to quickly restoring services to impacted residents.

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Drivers and Carriers Asked to Weigh in on Navigation Systems

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Arlington, VA – The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has launched a new survey today that explores the use of navigation systems by commercial drivers. This brief online survey, which seeks both commercial driver and motor carrier input, will capture information on the attitudes of both groups toward navigation systems including perceived benefits and risks.

While navigation systems are becoming increasingly commonplace in the nation’s commercial vehicles, the impact that these devices have on driver behavior, decision making and safety is not fully understood. There is mounting anecdotal evidence that GPS navigation units are being blamed for large truck crashes where “bridge strikes” and other crashes in which the truck driver was using a navigation system designed for passenger vehicles have been high profile events.

The results of this survey will provide further insight on the use of these systems and their impact in commercial trucking operations, as well as the impacts that other methods for providing directions to drivers might have on fleet safety and operations. The research results will also provide an opportunity for the public sector to improve transportation operations and minimize infrastructure damage. Drivers and carriers are encouraged to complete the confidential survey, available on ATRI’s website at www.atri-online.org.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

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Low Participation by Mexican Truckers Threatens Cross-Border Program

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Source: ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=29403

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Low participation by Mexican carriers in the cross-border trucking program could lead to the resumption of Mexican tariffs on U.S. goods, an official with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said.

Without more carriers participating, FMCSA cannot collect the safety data it needs to judge Mexican carriers’ safety, said Bill Quade, the agency’s associate administrator.

 

Continue reading at: ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=29403