Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 24, 2014

Posts in "Trucking"

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Full story

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.

Full story

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.”

Full story

November 6, 2014

The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

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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 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.

Full story

October 31, 2014

A Look Back: Threats to Aviation, Violent Passengers & the Gasoline Tax

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Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Rassipnoe in eastern Ukraine. The flight was shot down on July 17, 2014. (Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) aviation security conference in Washington this week offered insights on the “insider” threat to aviation from people who work for airlines, airports, contractors, and vendors.

James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, launched the conference by sounding the alarm about the insider threat and aviation security experts then filled in the details of past and present insider risks.

Full story

Friday Q & A With Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers

TSpencer 261x335 Friday Q & A With Todd Spencer of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers

Todd Spencer of the Owner-Operator Independent Drovers Association (Photo: OOIDA)

This week, Todd Spencer, the executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents 150,000 truckers, gave us his views on federal regulation of the industry.

We started by talking about last week’s National Transportation Safety Board report on the collision between a trucker and a CSX train at a grade crossing in Rosedale, Md., on May 28, 2013. The NTSB cited as a principal cause the driver being distracted by a conversation he was having on a hands-free cell phone.

Full story

October 30, 2014

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 28, 2014

NTSB Cites Sleep Apnea in Fatal Train Accident

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Four passengers were killed when a Metro-North train commuter derailed in The Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday the probable cause of a commuter rail accident that killed four people in New York City last year was the engineer having fallen asleep “due to undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.”

The engineer’s sleep apnea was made worse by a recent schedule change, which had him starting work at 4 or 5 a.m.

Full story

October 24, 2014

‘Catastrophic’ Distracted Driving, And Not By a Teenager

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Smoke from a May 28, 2013 truck-train collision in Rosedale, Md. caused by a truck driver’s distracted driving. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

We’re just concluding Operation Safe Driver Week, a joint effort of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

FMCSA notes that nearly 4,000 people are killed annually in large truck and bus crashes.

This week also happens to be National Teen Driver Safety Week, with the familiar warnings to teenage drivers to not text when driving.

Full story

October 9, 2014

Minnesota Governor Wants New Tax For Infrastructure

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is running for a second term (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

In a debate Wednesday night, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, proposed a wholesale state sales tax on gasoline to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. He said the tax would raise close to the $6.5 billion the state needs for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

The state already has a 28.6 cents per gallon tax on gasoline.

Full story

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