Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 28, 2015

Posts in "Trucking"

January 27, 2015

CBO Reminder To Congress: Infrastructure Funding 101

House Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly rebuffed the idea of a fuels tax increase (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly rebuffed the idea of a fuels tax increase (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In its annual budget and economic forecast Monday the Congressional Budget Office reminded members of Congress of some of the basics that set the bounds of the infrastructure debate:

  • While federal spending on highways and mass transit has been running at about $53 billion a year in recent years, “annual receipts from highway taxes, which are largely dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund, are projected to stay at $38 billion or $39 billion each year between 2015 and 2025….” Thus the shortfall is about $14 billion a year.
  • CBO predicts that over the long term gasoline consumption will decline, as vehicles’ fuel economy improves. This will “more than offset increases in the number of miles that people drive stemming from both population increases and real income gains per person.”
  • But just for this year, the drop in gasoline prices (down nearly 40 percent from this same point last year) will cause drivers to drive more miles, so CBO projects that “gasoline use and tax revenues will be roughly in line with last year’s figures….”
  • CBO predicts that oil prices will rise again later this year – a forecast which some private-sector economists and investors don’t agree with at all.

Full story

January 16, 2015

A Look Back At Our Week: It’s Just Congestion All Over

Traffic jam in Mill Valley, Calif., this one caused by rain and flooding. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Traffic jam in Mill Valley, Calif., this one caused by rain and flooding. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Congestion. Transportation planners spend their lives analyzing it and trying to devise ways to relieve it.

Especially with lots of transportation wonks in Washington this week for the 94th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, we heard much expert discussion about congestion on the highways, in our cities, and at our seaports.

On the highways, HNTB’s congestion pricing guru Matthew Click gave us his thoughts on why the San Francisco Bay area is the most interesting place in country in 2015 to watch for development of toll lanes.

Once you exit the highway and arrive in the big city, you may face the question: where can I find a place to park?

We heard from urban planners at the TRB meeting who find that, in fact, parking is much over-supplied in many cities. Maybe not in midtown Manhattan at high noon on a weekday, but in small and mid-sized cities.

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January 15, 2015

Drivers Suffering As Delays Continue To Clog Ports

Truck near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Truck near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Drayage, the business of carrying cargo containers by truck from a port terminal to a distribution center, warehouse, or rail ramp, is in a god-awful mess right now at ports from California to New Jersey.

The problems:

  • Shortages of chassis and dislocations of chassis, meaning that chassis are in the wrong places at a port when truckers need to put a container on a chassis and move it to a distribution center. The chassis problems mean delays for truckers.
  • Growing frustration among drayage drivers and shortages of drivers.
  • Bigger ships bringing more containers when they arrive at a port.
  • A labor dispute between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators and shipping companies.

“The current congestion issues that we’re facing now are unprecedented, both nationally and in the San Pedro Bay port complex [the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles],” said Alex Cherin, a former executive at the Port of Long Beach who is now senior vice president at Englander Knabe & Allen, a Los Angeles lobbying and public policy firm.

Full story

January 9, 2015

Cole Suggests Replacing, Not Raising, Gas Tax

Rep. Tom Cole, R- Okla., who has just been elected to his seventh term (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Tom Cole, R- Okla., who has just been elected to his seventh term (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Capping a week in which some Republicans, most notably Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, indicated an openness to a possible increase in the gasoline tax, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Friday that raising the gasoline tax isn’t what Congress should do to raise revenue for infrastructure.

Asked on C-Span’s Washington Journal whether low gasoline prices – at their lowest levels in four years – make it easier now to pass a gasoline tax increase, Cole replied, “Most of my constituents would say, ‘Don’t take away the benefits of lower prices.’”

Full story

December 23, 2014

Most Encouraging, or Discouraging, Of 2014, Part Four

Underside of the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River in New York City. It opened in 1883. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Underside of the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River in New York City. It opened in 1883. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Here’s the final installment in our round-up of views on the most encouraging, or discouraging, transportation news of 2014.

We thank all our contributors and wish all of them, and all of our readers, a very happy 2015.

“2014 ended on an encouraging note as Congress listened clearly to the safety concerns of professional drivers on the hours-of-service issue and FMCSA [the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration] started the ball rolling on creating the first real training requirements for truck drivers. OOIDA is hopeful that this momentum will carry forward into 2015 and a new highway reauthorization bill.”

Ryan Bowley, director of government affairs, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

Full story

December 17, 2014

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)

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.

Full story

FedEx See Big Port Congestion Spillover Effects

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

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.”

Full story

December 12, 2014

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

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

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.

Full story

December 10, 2014

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.

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.

Full story

November 24, 2014

No Holiday Cheer In Ports Dispute

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

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.

Full story

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)

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.

Full story

November 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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