Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

Posts in "Trucking"

December 17, 2014

For FedEx, Fuel Price Drop Is Not All Good News

460564358 445x296 For FedEx, Fuel Price Drop Is Not All Good News

Workers prepare to offload a FedEx plane at Newark, N.J. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

FedEx chief financial officer Alan Graf said Wednesday the company had “a spectacular second quarter” in fiscal year with a 36 percent increase in earnings per share.

But Graf said on a conference call for investors that performance wasn’t largely due to the dramatic drop in oil prices.

The jet fuel price decline provided “only a slight benefit to operating income” due to the way FedEx passes along costs to its customers through its fuel surcharge and the way it buys fuel.

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FedEx See Big Port Congestion Spillover Effects

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FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith said Wednesday, “The slow-down in the West Coast ports has been a much bigger deal than people think and a tremendous amount of inventory was simply not put through the ports in the time frame that the retailers had expected.”

Smith spoke on his company’s earnings conference call for the second quarter of its 2015 fiscal year.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been in contract talks for months with port operators represented by the Pacific Maritime Association. In addition, there have been severe problems with the distribution of truck chassis and other factors slowing down traffic.

Smith said “because of these delays at the West Coast ports and the East Coast ports, because a lot of people saw this coming and diverted traffic into the East Coast ports, we [FedEx] received a lot of traffic on the two coasts which normally we would have anticipate being from distribution centers in the middle of the country.”

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December 12, 2014

Friday Q & A: World Shipping Council’s Christopher Koch, Part Two

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A cargo ship is loaded with containers for export at Jakarta, Indonesia (Photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s the second part of our interview with Christopher Koch, president of the World Shipping Council.

Regarding port congestion, especially at Los Angeles and Long Beach, how much of that is due to the shipping companies using bigger and bigger ships so that when they arrive, there’s more stuff to unload?

The terminals are still going to have to handle the same volume of cargo. It’s coming in bigger blocks.

There are many parents to the congestion on the West Coast….  These same ships are not causing congestion problems in the Asian ports where the cargo is being loaded so I think you can’t really lay it off all on big ships.

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December 10, 2014

Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding

Cardin25 010407 445x297 Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., played a leading role in designing the omnibus spending bill.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill unveiled Tuesday night includes important transportation policy provisions.

Here’s a brief summary:

  • According to a summary from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the bill provides $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, an increase of $141 million over fiscal year 2014.

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November 24, 2014

No Holiday Cheer In Ports Dispute

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The Port of Los Angeles (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s Christmas shopping season; do you know where your gift is in the supply chain?

For some people, gifts may be delayed by the congestion and long-running contract negotiations at West Coast ports.

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The Week Ahead: OPEC, Oil, Shipping, Shopping

72849335 445x285 The Week Ahead: OPEC, Oil, Shipping, Shopping

Workers place boxes on a conveyor belt at the FedEx facility at the Oakland International Airport. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This week’s most significant transportation event won’t take place in Washington, or in the United States at all, but in Vienna where representatives of the OPEC oil cartel will be meeting on Thanksgiving Day.

The 12-member cartel is under stress from lower oil prices, with the price of benchmark Brent crude having fallen by 30 percent since June.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that U.S. crude production, driven in large part by advances in hydraulic fracturing, will increase from an average of 7.5 million barrels a day last year to 9.4 million barrels a day in 2015.

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November 17, 2014

Q & A: Rep.-Elect Aguilar, Part Two

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Pete Aguilar, just elected to represent California’s 31st congressional district. (Photo By Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call)

Here are more excerpts from our conversation with Pete Aguilar, whom voters just elected in California’s 31st congressional district.

The California high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco has been a high-profile issue here in D.C. 

Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the railroads subcommittee, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from California are both opposed to federal funding of it. Where do you stand on that?

I would have liked if they had started in more populated areas as they began the project…. When we have lines like the San Bernardino County line that has 12,000 people in it every day, I would have liked to have seen the population centers [included in the plan for high-speed rail]… That was a flaw that I saw in the project.

Would that line run anywhere near you?

It would not. Eventually in future segments, it may come into the city of Ontario.

Is Amazon building a big facility in your district?

They have three. They’ve opened two in the city of San Bernardino, these are distribution centers. And they have just open a third two months ago in the city of Redlands….

The Inland Empire is growing and expanding and I think that the fact that we were able to have Amazon come to our region shows that there is continued growth opportunity.

These are good paying jobs that have health care benefits and education reimbursement on Day One. Those are things that the Inland Empire needs and that’s why we’re so excited to have them.

Could you tell me about Ontario Airport?

Ontario Airport is a part of the Los Angeles World Airports; they own Burbank, Ontario, and LAX.

Many local governments have passed resolutions in support of local control, ensuring some local stakeholders are part of that process.

We have seen rapid declines of people traveling through Ontario airport and we want to make sure that that airport returns to what it should be, which means more non-stops, more activity: commuters, travelers, business people all getting where they need to be.

Ideally you’d like your constituents to be able to fly non-stop from Ontario to Chicago or from Ontario to New York?

Absolutely. We’d love expanded opportunity. Right now LA controls the gate fees and they control many of the things that would impede airline operators to come to the region. So we need to make sure there are local voices who con to advocate for improvements.

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 14, 2014

A Look Back: Slow Down, New Yorkers, Road Salt & Girding For 114th Congress


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New York City drivers must adjust to a new 25 mile per hour speed limit. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This week we looked at New York City’s new 25 mile per hour speed limit. Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said public attitudes toward speeding will need to change just as they did toward drunk driving in the past few decades.

A culture change is what’s needed since “Culture eats policy for breakfast,” she said.

Snow storms have hit parts of the country this week and we examined the cost increases that states and counties are facing for a commodity they need to keep highways open: salt.


Full story

November 13, 2014

Price Increases Vary Widely For Strategic Asset: Salt

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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.

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November 12, 2014

McGovern Weighs Voters’ Contradictory Infrastructure Views

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Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is a seasoned observer both of his state’s politics and of the politics of transportation.

We got McGovern’s assessment Wednesday of Massachusetts voters’ defeat last week of automatic gasoline tax increases, as well as their election of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley.

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November 11, 2014

Crumbling Infrastructure Creates Opening For Railroads

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A Union Pacific freight train in California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In one sense, the deteriorating highway infrastructure that road builders and members of Congress complain about is good news for freight railroads.

In a presentation at the Stephens Fall Investment Conference in New York Tuesday, Rob Knight, the chief financial officer of Union Pacific, said the trucking industry “faces continued challenges from regulations, highway congestion, and a deteriorating infrastructure.”

One reason that highway infrastructure is deteriorating, of course, is that Congress and most states haven’t been willing or able to raise new revenue to fix and expand it.

By contrast, Knight said, rail traffic moves “over a right of way privately owned and maintained.”

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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.

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November 4, 2014

In GOP Senate, Thune Would Be Pivotal Dealmaker

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Sen. John Thune, R-S. D., speaks to reporters as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

South Dakota Sen. John Thune is in line to become a pivotal transportation policy maker if his party wins the Senate majority.

Thune would be the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in a GOP-controlled Senate. He also serves on the Finance Committee which would need to approve any new revenue source for transportation funding.

A veteran labor union leader involved in transportation issues said that he and some unions with interests in the committee would be able to work with Thune who has a reputation as a pragmatist.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Friday Q & A: Todd Spencer Of The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, Part Two

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Kevin Roper, the truck driver accused of causing the New Jersey Turnpike accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another man, arrives for a court appearance at the Middlesex County Courthouse in June. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

We continued our conversation with OOIDA’s Todd Spencer about the June accident on the New Jersey Turnpike and what options the driver of the Walmart truck had…..

How about him getting off at an exit and resting?

Getting off at an exit is not too easy to do and, again, understand what I’m talking about is the impact of the regulations themselves.

And, of course, the delivery schedules that he doesn’t set; they laid out for him.

These are all things that should be considered as part of the investigation.

Every day we have shippers and receivers that tie truckers up, oftentimes putting them in situations where they can’t be in compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

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