Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 26, 2014

Posts in "Autos"

November 25, 2014

Lame Duck Isn’t Done With Takata Airbag Issue

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., along with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is seeking a wide range of documents from airbag manufacturer Takata. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Congress returns to lame-duck business next week, the Takata airbag recall will continue to be under lawmakers’ scrutiny.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hear from Takata executive Hiroshi Shimizu and David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

Full story

November 20, 2014

A Bipartisan Move To Reward Whistleblowers


nelson 11 031009 445x314 A Bipartisan Move To Reward Whistleblowers

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has introduced a bill with Sen John Thune, R-S.D. to incentivize auto industry whistleblowers

In a bipartisan response to a spate of automobile industry recalls, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Thursday they were introducing a bill to give automobile industry whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the penalties resulting from a Department of Transportation or Justice Department investigation when the penalties are $1 million or more.

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By Tom Curry Posted at 4:38 p.m.

Despite Airbag Defects, Driving Safer Than 20 Years Ago

454356950 445x238 Despite Airbag Defects, Driving Safer Than 20 Years Ago

Labor Day holiday traffic in Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2014. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

On the eve of Thursday’s Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on defective vehicle airbags that may have killed four people in the United States, President Obama nominated Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, to fill the long-vacant job as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Governors Highway Safety Association cheered the nomination, calling Rosekind a leader in investigating and deterring drunk driving, drugged driving, and distracted driving.

Full story

November 17, 2014

Coming Up This Week: Airbags, California’s Electric Vehicle Future, Freight Wish List

nelson 13 031611 445x295 Coming Up This Week: Airbags, Californias Electric Vehicle Future, Freight Wish List

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., will preside at a hearing Thursday on the Takata airbag recalls. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

As the lame duck session of Congress ponders how to pay for government operations after Dec. 11 when the continuing resolution expires, some members are looking ahead to the transportation policy choices they’ll have make in the new Congress.


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hears from Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and other witnesses as it looks to its complex task of reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The current FAA authorization expires in September.

Also on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the Freight Stakeholders Coalition will present its ideas on how next year’s surface transportation bill could help American manufacturing and U.S. workers’ productivity by financing freight rail projects.

The speakers include Robyn Boerstling, the director of transportation and infrastructure policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, and Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities.


The R Street Institute, a Washington think tank whose mission is to “promote free markets and limited, effective government,” hosts a panel on how cities, including the nation’s capital, are regulating driver-for-hire services such as Lyft and Uber.

Chris Massey, director of government relations at Lyft and Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute will be among the speakers.

Last week the R Street Institute issued a report grading 50 of the largest U.S. cities on their friendliness to for-hire vehicle services.


The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing on the Takata airbag defects and the vehicle recall process.

Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who’ll become ranking Democrat on the committee next year, will chair the hearing. Nelson has been one of several senators to voice his unhappiness with the performance of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency which after 10 months still lacks a permanent head since President Obama hasn’t nominated one.

Two weeks ago. two members of the committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Takata.

The New York Times has reported that ex-employees of Takata said the company knew as far back as 2004 that some of its airbags were defective, but executives didn’t alert regulators.

Also on Thursday, from the land of Tesla, the California Institute for Federal Policy Research holds a briefing on Capitol Hill on the progress of electric vehicles in California and efforts by utilities to invest in infrastructure and support electric fleets.

Executives from PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric will brief and field questions.

November 13, 2014

Price Increases Vary Widely For Strategic Asset: Salt

460965345 445x296 Price Increases Vary Widely For Strategic Asset: Salt

A snow plow clears snow and drops salt in Detroit, Mich. last January. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Sixteen inches of snow fell in Marquette, Mich. on Tuesday, while 13 inches fell in St. Cloud, Minn.

Before the snow starts coming down, states, counties, and cities must have road salt stockpiled to keep traffic moving.

Last week, the Michigan Department of Transportation reported that it had to pay an average of $65.81 per ton for road salt, an increase of nearly 50 percent over what it cost last winter.

Department officials said vendors have indicated that the increase was due to a depleted salt inventory following the brutal winter of 2013-2014.

Full story

November 12, 2014

Mass Transit Advocates Seek Tax Break Parity

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D- Ore., left, suggested that Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., center, who is up for re-election in 2016, has reason to back tax break parity for commuters. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Unless Congress takes action in the lame-duck session, commuters who use mass transit and van pools will continue to get a smaller tax break than the one available to drivers who get a tax break for employer-provided parking.

Current law allows a $130 a month mass transit tax break (an exclusion from taxable income) compared to $250 a month for car commuters.

Mass transit and van pool advocates are urging Congress to restore tax break parity, which the tax code provided from 2009 until last year.

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November 10, 2014

New York Tries ‘Culture Change’ To Cut Traffic Deaths

458583408 445x296 New York Tries ‘Culture Change’ To Cut Traffic Deaths

A 25 mile-per-hour speed limit went into effect in New York City on Friday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York City’s frenzied pace of life will continue as it always has, but state lawmakers have reduced the city’s speed limit to 25 miles per hour, from 30 mph, to try to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

Last year, more than 11,000 pedestrians were injured by cars in the city and 291 people in the city were killed in traffic accidents. There are now about the same number of traffic fatalities in New York City as there are homicides every year.

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Q & A: Marc Scribner Of The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Part Two

98439141 1 445x288 Q & A: Marc Scribner Of The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Part Two

How soon will America’s cars and light trucks be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology for collision avoidance? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here is Part Two of our interview with Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Let me ask about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s move to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications capability for cars for collision avoidance.

Won’t V2V or vehicle-to-infrastructure technology make cars more expensive?

Yes, although maybe a couple hundred dollars in additional cost. So when we’re looking at a $30,000 new vehicle sticker price, it’s not all that significant.

It’s going to be people who buy new cars who would in theory receive this benefit early on: getting advance collision warnings or if there is a car broken down in a lane ahead of you, you get an alert.

The value of that is sort of murky, because you need to have a significant degree of fleet penetration before you even start seeing that.

There’d still be people driving their 1996 Honda Civic, because it’s reliable and cheap. And they can’t afford to buy a new car.

So you’d have a mixed fleet, some people avoiding collisions, other people not. Seems like an awfully big investment to say, “We’re going to have vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications” and yet there’s a chance you collide with someone whose car doesn’t have V2V.

So where’s the benefit?

I’ve asked people, can anyone name a networked technology where there are essentially zero benefits for the first purchasers. I couldn’t think of any…. And that is the case for V2V, at least as it’s envisioned by NHTSA right now.

That’s a big challenge. The [car and light truck] fleet turnover is slowing down. In a weaker economy, people are holding on to their cars for longer. We don’t know when we’re going to start seeing people purchasing cars as rapidly as they have in the past.

But maybe this is where we start utilizing existing LTE cellular networks or something like that where you get some of these [advance collision warning] benefits out of your Smart phone.

November 7, 2014

Senators Want Criminal Probe in Airbag Case

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., right, and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., are calling for a criminal investigation of Takata (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation urged the Justice Department Friday to launch a criminal investigation of airbag manufacturer Takata.

The New York Times reported Friday that ex-employees of Takata said the company knew as far back as 2004 that some of its airbags were defective, but executives didn’t alert federal regulators about the defects.

Full story

By Tom Curry Posted at 11:24 a.m.
Autos, Uncategorized

November 6, 2014

The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

132191847 1 445x310 The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got only 45 percent of the vote in his loss Tuesday. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Transportation advocacy and lobbying groups often say they want politicians courageous enough to push for big infrastructure bills, even if higher taxes are part of the package.

But this week’s elections provided one case of a governor, Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett, who pushed for and signed into law a significant transportation funding package, and yet went down in an overwhelming defeat to Democrat Tom Wolf on Tuesday.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

martha 445x235 Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker debate indexing the gasoline tax.

Massachusetts voters Tuesday get a chance to rescind the decision their state legislators made last year to peg the state’s gasoline tax to the inflation rate.

But voters’ apparent confusion about the wording of the ballot measure, listed as Question 1 on the ballot, may skew the outcome.

A poll released by Suffolk University last Thursday found that more than three out of five voters think that the state’s gasoline tax increases should not automatically be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Full story

October 30, 2014

DIY Transportation Policy on the Ballot in Seattle

In some cities and states, voters don’t need to cede transportation policy making to their state legislators, their governor or Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and federal bureaucrats.

Voters make their own policy on Election Day. Case in point: Seattle.

The state of Washington uses vote by mail, so the city’s voters are already casting ballots to decide two transportation questions.

Full story

New Hampshire Election Gives Read On Gasoline Tax

New Hampshire is one case where we’ll get a reading on Election Day on voters’ preferences on raising taxes to pay for infrastructure.

The increase in the state gasoline tax, which Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law last May is an issue in ads which the Republican Governors Association is running against her.

It was also a focus of the televised debate Wednesday night between Hassan and her Republican opponent Walt Havenstein.

The bill Hassan signed increased the state’s excise tax on both gasoline and diesel from 18 cents to 22.2 cents per gallon.

Full story

October 27, 2014

The Week Ahead: Aviation Security Meeting, Ebola Quarantine Debate

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will address a major aviation security conference in Washington this week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A big aviation security conference takes place in Washington this week, sponsored by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Meanwhile, the debate on air travel and the Ebola outbreak will likely intensify as four states have split with the Obama administration by imposing their own quarantines on doctors, nurses and anyone else in direct contact with those who may be infected with Ebola.

Full story

October 24, 2014

A Look Back: Congestion Pricing, Fuel-Efficient Planes & Sand For Fracking

452912796 445x317 A Look Back: Congestion Pricing, Fuel Efficient Planes & Sand For Fracking

Falling prices for jet fuel won’t hurt demand for Boeing’s new fuel-efficient 787 airplanes, CEO Jim McNerney said this week. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

This week we took a look at congestion pricing, tolls that vary with the amount of traffic on a particular stretch of highway.

Can that market-based strategy reduce gridlock in some cities where it is most needed?

The problem: older highways such as the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, one of America’s most congested roads, have no adjacent space to add a new toll lane.

Full story

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