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DOT Leaders’ Plans for Future Not Expected to Be Settled Until Early 2013

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By Michele Fuetsch
Staff Reporter, Transport Topics

The future leadership of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is not expected to be settled until early 2013, according to officials with the agencies.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a speech to the Peoria Rotary Club in Illinois on Dec. 7 that he and President Obama will not discuss his future until the new year, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

When asked for further comment by TRANSPORT Topics, LaHood spokesman Justin Nisly said: “I don’t have anything to share beyond what the secretary has said publicly.”
LaHood said he and the president talked about the future “shortly after” the election and “will continue to-talk after the first of the year, and we’ll see where it takes us,” the Journal Star reported.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro did not respond to requests for comment about her future plans.

However, FMCSA Deputy Administrator Bill Bronrott said in an e-mail to TT that Ferro and “other appointees at U.S. DOT serve at the pleasure of the president, and will speak with Secretary LaHood about second-term plans in the coming weeks.”

Ferro was nominated by Obama in 2009. She had been president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association and previously ran the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

She became the fourth permanent administrator of the truck-safety agency, which was officially established in 2000.

Ferro succeeded John Hill, who departed as part of the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations. Rose McMurray, FMCSA’s chief safety officer, served as acting administrator in the interim.

Before the president selected LaHood as DOT secretary in 2009, he was the congressman from Peoria for 14 years. He is currently the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet.

LaHood first brought up the issue of his tenure in October 2011, when he said he planned to leave the cabinet to go into the private sector and would not be serving in a second Obama administration.

In recent months, LaHood appeared to be backtracking, as when he told reporters ‘on Sept. 19 that he didn’t know “if I’ve -ever had a better job.”

At that time, he said he planned to talk to Obama after the election about his future as secretary.

Source: Transport Topics

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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
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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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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