As Infrastructure Crumbled, Congress, Obama Couldn’t Get Roads Deal...

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By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 19 & 26 print edition of Transport Topics.

When it comes to the nation’s transportation infrastructure, 2011 was a year marked by frustration.
Despite reports about costly congestion and the deteriorating state of America’s roads and bridges, Congress failed for the third consecutive year to produce a long-term surface transportation spending plan.

Even with high unemployment and intense lobbying by road builders, labor, trucking, and manufacturers, 2011 ends with the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives saying it could be February before a transportation bill is even introduced there.

Meanwhile, SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 law that governs federal spending on highway construction and safety programs, initially expired in 2009.

Congress has since passed a series of temporary extensions, lest all highway programs come to a halt as airport projects did for nearly two weeks this summer when Congress could not agree on new authorizing legislation for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The latest of the SAFETEA-LU extensions was approved by Congress in September but runs out on March 31. And while a transportation reauthorization bill was introduced in the Senate in November, the bill is only a two-year plan and has been declared unacceptable by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.)

President Obama presented a $556 billion transportation reauthorization blueprint in February that called for $336 billion in highway spending over the next six years, a 48% increase over highway spending in SAFETEA-LU.

The president did not, however, suggest a new revenue source to pay for his plan, and the White House has ruled out an increase in the fuel taxes that provide most of the money in the Highway Trust Fund.

In late May, a bipartisan coalition of four senators led by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, outlined a six-year reauthorization plan that at $339 billion was less ambitious than the president’s. By Sept. 9, when the senators finally introduced their bill, it was a $109 billion measure and for only two years.

Besides Boxer, the coalition included Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), EPW’s ranking minority member; Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member on EPW’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee; and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who chairs the EPW subcommittee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Like the president before them, the senators did not suggest a way to fund their plan.

On the House side, the new Republican leadership took charge of the reauthorization debate early in the year, passing a rule that transportation spending must be limited to the about $35 billion a year that flows into the Highway Trust Fund from fuel taxes.

That would have meant a reduction of about 30% in current transportation funding, which for years has been supplemented by the general fund.

As a result, in July, Mica outlined a dramatically spare reauthorization spending plan, saying he had to abide by the leadership’s rule.

By September, however, as President Obama called on Congress to agree to his new $447 billion jobs and infrastructure plan, the Republican leadership changed course.

It said it would abandon the 30% cuts and find a way to sufficiently fund a long-term reauthorization bill that would stand as the party’s jobs bill.

In November, Mica and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced they had a plan: a five-year reauthorization bill funded with expanded oil drilling along coastal areas and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and increased production in the nation’s oil shale areas.

That bill has yet to be introduced and Mica has since announced that he will not introduce a reauthorization measure until January or February.

By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 19 & 26 print edition of Transport Topics

NTSB Wants Ban on All Phone Use and Texting While Driving

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U.S. drivers would not be able to send text messages or use mobile phones — even with headsets or speakers — under a recommendation Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board aimed at preventing distracted-driving crashes, Bloomberg reported.

“Too many people are texting, talking and driving at the same time,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at a hearing in Washington. “It’s time to put a stop to distraction. No call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” she said, Bloomberg reported

Systems built into cars, like General Motors Co.’s OnStar, and global positioning systems would not be affected by the ban, an NTSB spokeswoman said... Continue reading.


Senate Panel OKs Freight Program, EOBRs In Funding Package

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By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the Dec. 19 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill to create a national freight program that its sponsors said would boost America’s global economic competitiveness, improve its mobility and promote energy conservation.

The bill was one of four the committee approved Dec. 14 in connection with a larger, two-year transportation reauthorization measure moving through the Senate.

Under the freight program, the federal government would develop goals for freight transportation and make strategic investments in projects that relieve congestion and speed the movement of goods on highways, rail and water.

The proposal recognizes “the importance of efficiently and safely moving goods” in order to keep businesses competitive and create jobs, said its sponsor, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

“The fundamental infrastructure, highway infrastructure, was done in the 1950s,” Lautenberg said. “We were 170 million people in this country. We’re now 310 million people . . . and the infrastructure is wobbly, shaky, and unsafe in many areas.”

In a letter sent to the committee before the vote, however, American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said the industry is “concerned that neither the source nor the amount of funding for the new freight funding program has been specified.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) tried unsuccessfully to kill the proposed freight program, saying that trucking was worried Highway Trust Fund money would be diverted to support the program as well as the proposed new freight office within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Lautenberg and other senators supporting the freight proposal said trust fund money would not be used.

Graves in his letter applauded the committee for moving a reauthorization bill closer to reality and commended the senators for their “efforts to produce a bill that will have a positive impact on truck safety.”

The legislation proposes a mandate for electronic onboard recorders on all trucks and buses. ATA has called for an EOBR mandate, a measure opposed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association... Continue reading.

Requested Action: Contact your local Congressional Representative

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Requested Action: Contact your local Congressional Representative and ask them to reject the recommendation to eliminate ATB students from Pell Grants

Republican Buck McKeon and Democrat George Miller are key votes on this action.

Congressman George Miller
Phone: 202-225-2095
Fax: 202-225-5609

Congressman Buck McKeon
Phone: 202-225-1956
Fax: 202-226-0683

Below you will find the latest proposed Congressional Budget Changes to be voted on next Saturday.

Please note that Ability To Benefit (ATB) Students will be eliminated from Pell Grant Eligibility effective July 1, 2012.

ATB students comprise 23% of our sectors students and are often working adults who are the most in need of financial assistance to complete their education. Many will be unable to barrow to replace the lost grant funds and will have to drop out.

Federal Pell Grant FY12 Maximum:  $5,550

Comprised Of:

  • Federal Pell Grant FY12 Appropriations:  $4,860
  • Federal Pell Grant Mandatory Additions:  $690 (Mandatory funding increases incrementally and then sunsets at conclusion of FY17 - September 30, 2017)

Federal Pell Grant FY12 Shortfall:  $1.3 Billion

Offsets to Fund Shortfall/Program:

Federal Student Loan Program Revisions - INCLUDED:

  • TEMPORARY Elimination of Federal Stafford Loan (Subsidized) "Grace Period" Subsidy  - Effective only for FDS loans made on or after July 1, 2012 and before July 1, 2014.
  • Providing Lender/Servicers with the Option to Use TRANSITION FROM  "Commercial Paper" or "LIBOR" for Special Allowance Payments  - Effective for the calendar quarter beginning April 1, 2012 (and all previously originated loans) if the lender chooses to switch.

Federal Pell Grant Program Revisions - INCLUDED:

  • Reduction in Maximum Years of Pell Eligibility to 6 Yrs./12 semesters or their equivalent (previously 9 Yrs./18 semester or their equivalent) - Effective July 1, 2012 to coincide with the new Academic Award Year.
  • Decrease in "Auto-zero" to $23,000 (previously $30,000) - Effective July 1, 2012 to coincide with the new Academic Award Year.
  • Elimination of Federal Pell Grants, SEOG, FFELP, Work-study, and FDSLP eligibility for Ability-to-Benefit Students -Effective for any student who first enroll in a program on or after July 1, 2012 - all currently eligible students maintain eligibility through completion of the current program.
  • Elimination of Eligibility for Student with grants calculated below ten percent of the maximum basic grant (previously students with greater than five percent, but less than ten percent were awarded eligibility at the ten percent threshold) - Effective July 1, 2012 to coincide with the new Academic Award Year.

Help make this a better Holiday for our ATB students, Contact your local Congressional Representative and Mr. Miller and Mr. McKeon. Ask them to support our ATB students ability to access Pell Grants.

Congressman George Miller
Phone: 202-225-2095

Fax: 202-225-5609

Congressman Buck McKeon
Phone: 202-225-1956
Fax: 202-226-0683

Truck Fatalities Rise 8.7%

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Source: (This is a premium article. You must subscribe to Transport Topics)
By Michele Fuetsch and Eric Miller, Staff Reporters
This story appears in the Dec. 12 print edition of Transport Topics.

Fatalities in U.S. highway accidents involving large trucks increased 8.7% in 2010, the first increase in four years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week.

NHTSA said in its annual report that 3,675 people died in truck-related accidents in 2010, an increase of 295 from the 2009 total of 3,380.

In addition, the number of people injured in truck-related accidents rose to 19,000 in 2010, from 17,000 in 2009, a 12% increase.

At the same time, truck occupant fatalities increased by 6%, to 529 in 2010 from 499 in 2009.

“We’re still trying to figure out clearly what [caused] this uptick,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said at the Dec. 8 press conference where the report was unveiled.

Increased truck traffic because of the economic recovery could be a factor, he said. The Federal Highway Administration tracks truck miles traveled each year but is not expected to complete its 2010 mileage analysis until next month... Continue reading.

Source: (This is a premium article. You must subscribe to Transport Topics.)

Randall-Reilly's Digest Dispatch - December 2011

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Welcome to your December issue of the Randall-Reilly Digest Dispatch e-Newsletter. It has been an interesting and innovative year for recruiting media, and we continue to develop new solutions for our customers.

In this month’s issue, we talk about how utilizing Twitter can help your drivers and highlight how to reach the mobile driver audience with our new Truck Driving Jobs smartphone app.

We also showcase the positive changes to the Great West Truck Show, which will offer a fresh format and new venue in 2012.

As always, we bring you recruiting and retention tips from nationally known speaker, teacher and trucking consultant Dan Baker. This month, Dan advises you to be efficient and effective in your recruiting efforts, and he emphasizes the importance of the driver/dispatcher relationship.

Click here to view your December issue of Digest Dispatch e-Newsletter.

The December 2011 Issue Includes:

  • Randall-Reilly Recruiting Media
  • Truck Driving Jobs Smartphone App Launched for Android Market
  • Retention Tip of the Month
  • Recruiting Tip of the Month
  • Great West Truck Show to Offer New Format, New Venue

I hope you enjoy this e-newsletter and I welcome any feedback you have for future issues. Also, if someone else at your company could benefit from the content, please send me their email address so they can be added to the distribution list.


Scott Miller

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Trucker Helps Boy Who Wandered onto Highway 395

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By Paula Horton, Tri-City Herald, Paula Horton: 582-1556, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ELTOPIA — A 4-year-old boy who wandered away from his aunt's house near Eltopia, crawled under a barbed wire fence and crossed four lanes of Highway 395 is home safe with his family thanks to a trucker who looked a little like Santa Claus.

The boy got about a mile away while his aunt was taking a shower, but other than some scrapes on his hands and cuts on his pants, he was found and kept safe by a passing truck driver, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Robert Lamay.

"God was watching over this little guy," Lamay said. "It could have been pretty bad."

It was about 2 p.m. Tuesday when the boy, wearing jeans and a red shirt, was found walking on the highway. There was heavy truck and other vehicle traffic and low spots in the median, so some drivers didn't even see him, Lamay said.

Fortunately, Dan Barton of Portland, who drives for KKW Trucking in Pomona, Calif., spotted him. Barton had picked up a load of paper Tuesday morning in Usk, about 50 miles north of Spokane, and was heading to Marysville, Calif.

He was going south on Highway 395 about a mile south of the Eltopia exit when traffic suddenly stopped and Barton couldn't figure out why.

"I looked to my left and saw this little boy running in the median away from traffic," Barton told the Herald. "I opened my door and kind of waved him over to me. I didn't expect it, I thought he'd just run past me, but he stopped. I picked him up and put him in the truck to just get him out of the danger -- out of the traffic."

Then everybody drove off and Barton was left on the side of the road with a little kid.

"It was a very strange experience," he said.

The boy, who spoke only Spanish, told Barton he was 4 -- almost 5 -- but when Barton asked where his mother was, Barton couldn't understand the answer... Continue reading.