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FHWA Webinar on Registration Data Collection

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been systematically collecting state motor vehicle registration data through its 500-series data reporting (Form FHWA-561) since the early 1940s to facilitate the Federal-aid Highway Program. Periodically, the FHWA conducts data reassessment activities with the goal of increasing data reliability and reducing data reporting burden while maintaining historical continuity and meeting new program and initiative needs.

Currently, the FHWA is examining state motor vehicle data covering all data items. The existing FHWA-561 form requires states to fill out over 200 data items. Our preliminary assessment indicates that these can be replaced by approximately 90 percent fewer items. However, before any actual implementation of such changes, the FHWA would like to learn the feasibility of the new proposed data items and form.
 
The FHWA will host a webinar to present the preliminary proposal, obtain feedback, and discuss potential issues on March 5, 2013 from 3:30-4:30PM EST. View the webinar here. Phone: 1- 877-848-7030 Passcode: 6217068

A draft version of the proposed FHWA-561 is available for review at the link above. For further information please contact Brad Gudzinas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 202-366-5024.

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Truck Safety Largely Exempt from Sequestration

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Source: truckinginfo.com/news/story/2013/02/truck
-safety-largely-exempt-from-sequestration.aspx

By Oliver B. Patton, Washington Editor

There’s an air of resignation in Washington about the deep cuts in federal spending scheduled for March 1.

If sequestration happens, the cuts could affect $1.2 trillion in discretionary and defense spending. Highway safety and construction programs would be spared, for the most part, because their money comes through the Highway Trust Fund.

Congressional leaders and others are pessimistic about preventing the automatic, across-the-board cuts.

“We think these sequesters will happen,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chair of the House Budget Committee, said on Meet the Press a week ago.

Ryan was politicking, blaming Democrats for the situation, but he is not the only one who is concerned. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told The Washington Post he thinks the cuts are more likely. And Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the Post that odds probably are even that the cuts will occur.

Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, thinks the risk of sequester is high.

“Our estimate, based a wide survey of senior congressional staff and some members, indicates that the odds of at least a partial sequester are very high and that a full sequester is a better than 50-50 proposition,” he said in a commentary posted on the BPC website.
The situation arises from a deal cut by Congress in 2011 to impose automatic, draconian cuts in federal programs if legislators could not agree on a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

The theory was that the cuts would be so painful, particularly to defense, that Congress would be forced to act.

With the deadline approaching, however, there is no deal in sight.

Trucking Programs Mostly Exempt

According to an analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the core motor carrier safety programs run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are exempt from sequestration.

The same applies to programs administered through the Federal Highway Administration, and to operations and research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck safety equipment.

These are not 100% exemptions, however. For instance, about 3% of FMCSA’s budget does not come through the Highway Trust Fund. This sparks concern in the safety enforcement community.

Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said sequester could create risk of furloughs among FMCSA staff, which might limit the agency’s ability to process safety grants.

Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the agency, acknowledged that the sequester exemption is not complete but said the shortfall would be slight and the agency is prepared.

“There is a fractional amount – less than $1 million from an overall agency budget of slightly more than $570 million – that potentially could be exposed should sequestration occur,” he said.

“The agency is confident that it has contingency plans in place to ensure that normal work-flow of services, functions and daily activities would not be disrupted.”

Other Risks

While these specific federal programs are protected, trucking shares the general economic risks arising from sequestration.

Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center noted that the slowdown in business in the fourth quarter of 2012 is attributable in part to workforce reductions among defense contractors and sub-contractors in anticipation of sequestration.

That period saw the largest defense spending cut since 1972, said Bob Costello, chief economist for American Trucking Associations.

John Larkin, managing director of transportation equity research at Stifel, Nicolaus, also noted that defense-related shipments softened in the fourth quarter as contractors prepared for sequestration.

“It is not clear, though, that defense cuts would have a big, direct impact on carriers serving defense contractors,” he added.

Bill Wanamaker, director of government traffic and security operations at ATA, confirmed the point.

He said most of the defense cutbacks would be in new programs having to do with weapons and vehicles.

“If DOD wants to move freight, and there is a considerable amount of ‘retrograde’ freight, returning from battle theaters, then they have to pay for it,” he said.

“There may be some discretionary freight that could be postponed, but frankly, if a warrior needs it, we’ve got to move it, and DOD has got to pay for it.”

There still is a risk that sequestration would negatively impact the overall economy, according to Bell.

He said the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a 0.7% drop in GDP growth in 2013 due to the sequester’s effect on small businesses and government personnel.

He forecasts the loss of a million jobs if full sequestration occurs.

Larkin offered additional perspective.

“While sequestration may bring GDP growth down 100 to 200 basis points in 2013, the Sandy recovery and rebuilding effort, the rebounding housing market, and the recovering auto industry will combine to create a mediocre to lackluster demand environment in 2013, much like we have seen the past couple of years,” he said.

Supply and demand for trucking will remain more or less in balance this year, he said. “This is frustrating to truckers because just a normal recovery would have created a raging bull trucking market by now. It is within reach, but the seemingly perpetual, pathetically slow economic growth prevents the Golden Age for trucking from fully developing.”

Costello of ATA said that while there’s a significant risk to the economy from sequestration, it pales compared to the risk of not raising the debt ceiling.

“If they don’t raise the debt ceiling it means that the government can only spend what it brings in on any given day,” he said. “We think it would be the equivalent of a 40% cut in government spending almost overnight.”

That would send the economy over a cliff, which is why he’s been spending a lot more time on the debt ceiling than on sequestration, he said.

The deadline for raising the debt ceiling is mid-May.

Source: truckinginfo.com/news/story/2013/02/truck-safety-largely-exempt-from-sequestration.aspx

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Federal Update - 2.1.2013

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A federal appeals court on Friday, January 25, 2013 ruled that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority with three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on break last year. This ruling casts doubt on hundreds of decisions the NLRB has made in the past year, ranging from enforcement of collective bargaining agreements to rulings on the rights of workers to use social media.

The ruling also raises questions about the recess appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and about the actions taken by the agency during his tenure, including major new rules governing the mortgage industry. Obama named Cordray at the same time as the NLRB nominees, and his appointment is the subject of a separate lawsuit in D.C. federal court.

Options for the Obama administration include appealing to the full D.C. Circuit Court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. APSCU will monitor the Administration’s next move and will report back with the latest information.

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Motorcyclist Owes His Life to a TCA Highway Angel

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Source: truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=79155&news_category_id=9

The Truckload Carriers Association has named Mark Randall of Mesquite, Texas, a professional driver trainer for Werner Enterprises of Omaha, Neb., as its latest Highway Angel. Randall is being recognized for taking preventive measures that ultimately saved a life.

On Oct. 24, 2012, around 1:30 p.m., Randall and a student were headed westbound on I-80/680 in Omaha. With only two miles to go before dropping off a load, Randall was at the wheel. He stayed within the speed limit of 60 mph and made a mental note of the considerable traffic all around him.

To his right and up ahead, Randall noticed a motorcyclist who appeared to be following much too close to the car in front of him. He was also traveling about 60 mph. Randall's safety instincts kicked in, and he began to slow down.

"I always make a big point of being aware of my surroundings when I'm operating these vehicles," said Randall, who was recently recognized by his company for a million miles of accident-free driving and also received Werner's Humanitarian Award for his actions that day. "I pay good attention. In fact, I was just about to make my student aware of the possible hazard ahead when the motorcyclist suddenly accelerated and attempted to pass the car. But he was just too close and hit the rear of that vehicle."

Randall immediately began scanning the lanes for a way to get out of the path of the doomed motorcyclist. Surrounded by traffic, he knew that he could not suddenly switch lanes without putting other vehicles in danger. His only viable option was to stay put and maintain control of the tractor-trailer, which was fully loaded with thousands of pounds of tires.

As if in slow motion, Randall saw the motorcyclist hit the pavement hard and slide directly into his path. He immediately put on his flashers and continued to brake, finally coming to a controlled stop - within 10 feet of the man on the pavement.

The student got out to render aid, while Randall called 911. The motorcyclist had survived and was miraculously okay. Not only had Randall managed to avoid hitting the man, but he is also credited for using his truck to protect the motorcyclist from being run over by the oncoming traffic hurtling toward him at 60 mph.

At the accident scene, the responding state patrol officer made a joke, saying that the motorcyclist had been incredibly lucky that day and should probably continue that luck by purchasing some lottery tickets. Another officer responded, "How does someone crash a motorcycle in four lanes of traffic doing 60 miles per hour and not get killed or run over?"

Feeling triumphant at what had just happened, Randall turned, pointed to his big blue truck, and said, "Because THAT truck stopped, and he was lucky to fall in front of ME!"

For helping the motorcyclist, Randall was presented with a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. Werner Enterprises also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.

Source: truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=79155&news_category_id=9

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Anne Ferro Addresses CDL Coordinators Meeting

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The 2013 CDL Coordinators/IT Manger's Meeting took place last week in Houston, TX, and Anne Ferro, FMCSA Administrator, led off the second day with a keynote presentation on FMCSA safety efforts. She thanked the AAMVA community for its safety efforts, noting that jurisdictions meet the challenge of "incorporating an essential safety mission into an exceedingly complex customer service environment."

She said her agency continues to "raise the bar for safety" to identify and disqualify poor drivers from operating commercial vehicles and to take action against operators who do fail to maintain safety standards.

Recent legislation - MAP 21 - provided FMCSA with additional opportunities to improve road safety and makes it possible for the agency to continue to rely on strong collaboration with partners. As a result of MAP 21, the agency will pursue 29 rulemaking activities, research and analysis on a variety of issues, and a number of program improvements.

She touched on the drug and alcohol clearinghouse, employer notification, the Commercial Learners Permit rule, and the agency's military CDL program. "The federal government and states share the same passion to save lives," she said. "FMCSA's vision remains a crash-free environment for commercial vehicles."

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New Trucking Jobs Rise, Growth Outpaces Nation

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Source: ttnews.com

The trucking industry added 4,200 new jobs in December while the nation’s overall job rolls, grew by 155,000, the Department of Labor said.

The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged in December at 7.8%, matching November’s, four-year low.

Based on adjusted government numbers, trucking grew by 2,900 jobs in November and 4,200 in October.

 

Continue reading at: ttnews.com

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Veterans Bills Become Law

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—January 10, 2013, H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012, as amended, was signed into law by President Obama.

H.R. 4057 (112th): Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012

To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. COMPREHENSIVE POLICY ON PROVIDING EDUCATION INFORMATION TO VETERANS.

(a) Comprehensive Policy Required-

(1) IN GENERAL- Chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Sec. 3698. Comprehensive policy on providing education information to veterans

‘(a) Comprehensive Policy Required- The Secretary shall develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning.

‘(b) Scope- In developing the policy required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall include each of the following elements:

‘(1) Effective and efficient methods to inform individuals of the educational and vocational counseling provided under section 3697A of this title.

‘(2) A centralized mechanism for tracking and publishing feedback from students and State approving agencies regarding the quality of instruction, recruiting practices, and post-graduation employment placement of institutions of higher learning that--

‘(A) allows institutions of higher learning to verify feedback and address issues regarding feedback before the feedback is published;

‘(B) protects the privacy of students, including by not publishing the names of students; and

‘(C) publishes only feedback that conforms with criteria for relevancy that the Secretary shall determine.

‘(3) The merit of and the manner in which a State approving agency shares with an accrediting agency or association recognized by the Secretary of Education under subpart 2 of part H of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1099b) information regarding the State approving agency’s evaluation of an institution of higher learning.

‘(4) Description of the information provided to individuals participating in the Transition Assistance Program under section 1144 of title 10 relating to institutions of higher learning.

‘(5) Effective and efficient methods to provide veterans and members of the Armed Forces with information regarding postsecondary education and training opportunities available to the veteran or member.

‘(c) Postsecondary Education Information- (1) The Secretary shall ensure that the information provided pursuant to subsection (b)(5) includes--

‘(A) an explanation of the different types of accreditation available to educational institutions and programs of education;

‘(B) a description of Federal student aid programs; and

‘(C) for each institution of higher learning, for the most recent academic year for which information is available--

‘(i) whether the institution is public, private nonprofit, or proprietary for-profit;

‘(ii) the name of the national or regional accrediting agency that accredits the institution, including the contact information used by the agency to receive complaints from students;

‘(iii) information on the State approving agency, including the contact information used by the agency to receive complaints from students;

‘(iv) whether the institution participates in any programs under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.);

‘(v) the tuition and fees;

‘(vi) the median amount of debt from Federal student loans under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.) held by individuals upon completion of programs of education at the institution of higher learning (as determined from information collected by the Secretary of Education);

‘(vii) the cohort default rate, as defined in section 435(m) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1085(m)), of the institution;

‘(viii) the total enrollment, graduation rate, and retention rate, as determined from information collected by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System of the Secretary of Education;

‘(ix) whether the institution provides students with technical support, academic support, and other support services, including career counseling and job placement; and

‘(x) the information regarding the institution’s policies related to transfer of credit from other institutions, as required under section 485(h)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1092(h)(1)) and provided to the Secretary of Education under section 132(i)(1)(V)(iv) of such Act (20 U.S.C. 1015a(i)(1)(V)(iv)).

‘(2) To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall provide the information described in paragraph (1) by including hyperlinks on the Internet website of the Department to other Internet websites that contain such information, including the Internet website of the Department of Education, in a form that is comprehensive and easily understood by veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and other individuals.

‘(3)(A) If the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires, for purposes of providing information pursuant to subsection (b)(5), information that has been reported, or information that is similar to information that has been reported, by an institution of higher learning to the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Labor, or the heads of other Federal agencies under a provision of law other than under this section, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall obtain the information the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires from the Secretary or head with the information rather than the institution of higher learning.

‘(B) If the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requires, for purposes of providing information pursuant to subsection (b)(5), information from an institution of higher learning that has not been reported to another Federal agency, the Secretary shall, to the degree practicable, obtain such information through the Secretary of Education.

‘(d) Consistency With Existing Education Policy- In carrying out this section, the Secretary shall ensure that--

‘(1) the comprehensive policy is consistent with any requirements and initiatives resulting from Executive Order No. 13607; and

‘(2) the efforts of the Secretary to implement the comprehensive policy do not duplicate the efforts being taken by any Federal agencies.

‘(e) Communication With Institutions of Higher Learning- To the extent practicable, if the Secretary considers it necessary to communicate with an institution of higher learning to carry out the comprehensive policy required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall carry out such communication through the use of a communication system of the Department of Education.

‘(f) Definitions- In this section:

‘(1) The term ‘institution of higher learning’ has the meaning given that term in section 3452(f) of this title.

‘(2) The term ‘postsecondary education and training opportunities’ means any postsecondary program of education, including apprenticeships and on-job training, for which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs provides assistance to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces.’.

(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding after the item relating to section 3697A the following new item:
‘3698. Comprehensive policy on providing education information to veterans.’.

(b) Survey- In developing the policy required by section 3698(a) of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall conduct a market survey to determine the availability of the following:

(1) A commercially available off-the-shelf online tool that allows a veteran or member of the Armed Forces to assess whether the veteran or member is academically ready to engage in postsecondary education and training opportunities and whether the veteran or member would need any remedial preparation before beginning such opportunities.

(2) A commercially available off-the-shelf online tool that provides a veteran or member of the Armed Forces with a list of providers of postsecondary education and training opportunities based on criteria selected by the veteran or member.

(c) Report- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that includes--

(1) a description of the policy developed by the Secretary under section 3698(a) of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a);

(2) a plan of the Secretary to implement such policy; and

(3) the results of the survey conducted under subsection (b), including whether the Secretary plans to implement the tools described in such subsection.

(d) Definitions- In this section:

(1) APPROPRIATE COMMITTEES OF CONGRESS- The term ‘appropriate committees of Congress’ means--

(A) the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate; and

(B) the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives.

(2) COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE OFF-THE-SHELF- The term ‘commercially available off-the-shelf’ has the meaning given that term in section 104 of title 41, United States Code.

(3) POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES- The term ‘postsecondary education and training opportunities’ means any postsecondary program of education, including apprenticeships and on-job training, for which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs provides assistance to a veteran or member of the Armed Forces.
SEC. 2. PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN USES OF INDUCEMENTS BY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.
Section 3696 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

‘(d)(1) The Secretary shall not approve under this chapter any course offered by an educational institution if the educational institution provides any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments or financial aid to any persons or entities engaged in any student recruiting or admission activities or in making decisions regarding the award of student financial assistance.

‘(2) To the degree practicable, the Secretary shall carry out paragraph (1) in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of Education’s enforcement of section 487(a)(20) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1094(a)(20)).’.
SEC. 3. DEDICATED POINTS OF CONTACT FOR SCHOOL CERTIFYING OFFICIALS.
Section 3684 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

‘(d) Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this subsection, the Secretary shall ensure that the Department provides personnel of educational institutions who are charged with submitting reports or certifications to the Secretary under this section with assistance in preparing and submitting such reports or certifications.’.

SEC. 4. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES TO EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.
For fiscal year 2013, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs may not pay more than $395,000,000 in awards or bonuses under chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other awards or bonuses authorized under such title.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.