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Lack of reauthorization could imperit future transportation spending

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Lack of reauthorization could imperit future transportation spending
Jim Tymon, third from left at desk, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said current funding challenges demand bold action to invest in the U.S. transportation infrastructure. (Courtesy: HOUSE T & I REPUBLICANS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. transportation infrastructure market is expected to grow at least 5% next year, according to an annual economic forecast released December 4 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

However, that growth could evaporate if surface transportation funding legislation is not reauthorized in a timely fashion.

“The real market growth for 2020 is being fueled by increased transportation investments from federal, state and local governments,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black in a statement published in the Journal, the official publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Yet she added that a major “variable” in that outlook is reauthorization of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act funding law, due to expire in September 2020, and the ability of Congress to find additional revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund.

“Any project delays because states are concerned about whether the next federal surface transportation bill is completed in a timely matter could temper 2020 market growth,” Black said.

Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director, expressed that same concern in testimony in a House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure joint subcommittee hearing on December 5.

“We need to enact a long-term, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund,” he said. “Our current funding challenges demand bold action to invest in our transportation infrastructure. This action has the clear support of the American public, and it is time for the President and Congress to make it happen.”

At risk is the potential for significant growth in transportation infrastructure spending, ARTBA’s Black said.

She said total domestic transportation construction and related-market activity in 2020 should reach $300.4 billion, up from $286.5 billion in 2019, after adjusting for project costs and inflation.

Black added that the transportation construction market grew by 8% in 2019 compared to 2018, driven largely by gains in highway, street, and pavement work.

ARTBA projects that the “real value” of public highway, street and related construction investment by state transportation departments and local governments is expected to increase by 6% to $77.5 billion in 2020 after growing 15 percent in 2019.

Construction work on private highways, bridges, parking lots, and driveways will increase from $69.1 billion in 2019 to $71.8 billion in 2020 and will continue to grow over the next five years as market activity increases in those sectors, ARTBA’s Black said.

She noted that the pace of bridge and tunnel construction work stayed flat in 2019 and is forecast to grow by $800 million, or 3%, in 2020.  By contrast, public transit and rail construction are expected to grow by 5% to $24.2 billion in 2020, up from $23 billion in 2019. ARTBA added that subway and light rail investments are expected to set a record in 2020, topping $11 billion compared to $10.3 billion this year.

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Minnesota Trucking Association names Scott Post as 2019 driver of the year

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Minnesota trucking association names 2019 driver of the year
Scott Post, a contract truck driver for FedEx Ground, has been selected as the Minnesota Driver of the Year by the Minnesota Trucking Association. Post has been driving a truck for 41 years and has more than 2.5 million safe miles. (Courtesy: Minnesota Trucking Association)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Minnesota Trucking Association named Maplewood, Minnesota resident, Scott Post, a professional truck driver contracted for FedEx Ground in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the 2019 Minnesota Driver of the.

“This award is a great way to honor the best in our industry. Driving safe is no easy task, especially when you take into consideration his daily driving conditions like congestion, driver distractions and Minnesota winters. Having 2.5 million safe driving miles is an outstanding accomplishment,” said John Hausladen, MTA president. “We’re proud to award Scott for this achievement.”

Post is employed by Spartan Logistics in Newport, Minnesota which is a contracted service provider for FedEx Ground. FedEx Ground provides 1-5-day delivery of small packages to all 50 states, plus Canada. Scott has been driving a truck for 41 years and has driven more than 2.5 million safe miles.

“Scott Post is one of the safest, most attentive, detail-oriented drivers I’ve ever had,” said Randy Kurek, Owner of Spartan Logistics. “He’s always ready to learn and at the same time, is a sponge for industry knowledge. He lives and breathes trucking.”  In addition to being an outstanding professional truck driver, Post is involved with many community organizations, including Operation Lifesaver, the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics and the Minnesota Trucking Association’s Trucks for Toys program.

Throughout 2019, drivers are nominated by their companies and one driver is chosen each month to be the Driver of the Month. The drivers who are chosen meet a high standard of requirements including an outstanding driving and work record; contribution to industry and highway safety; and involvement in the community.

In January, MTA hosts the Driver of the Year Banquet and one of the twelve nominees is selected as Driver of the Year by a panel of judges including Matthew Marin, division administrator for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Deb Ledvina, director of commercial vehicle operations at MnDOT; and Captain Jon Olsen, Minnesota State Patrol.

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Transportation Secretary calls on industry to ‘Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking’

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trucks on highway
The Department of Transportation wants to train the transportation workforce, including professional truck drivers, on the issue of human trafficking. The DOT anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this program. (iStock.com/WendellandCarolyn)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has announced a series of efforts to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector. Secretary Chao was joined by leaders from Congress, state governments and the transportation industry responding to this call to action.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to working with our public and private partners to fight human trafficking on America’s transportation system,” Chao said.

Among the initiatives announced by Secretary Chao is a renewed focus on the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking” pledge to train the transportation workforce and raise public awareness on the issue of human trafficking across all modes of transportation.  Secretary Chao is challenging the transportation industry to commit to “100 Pledges in 100 Days.” The Department anticipates over 1 million employees across all modes of transportation will be trained because of this initiative.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, affecting millions of adults and children in the United States and worldwide. Victims are of every age, race, gender, background, citizenship, and immigration status. Some are trafficked within their own communities on various forms of transportation, while others are transported to new locations.

To amplify counter-trafficking efforts, Secretary Chao established an annual $50,000 award to incentivize individuals and entities, including non-governmental organizations, transportation industry associations, research institutions, and state and local government organizations, to think creatively in developing innovative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation industry. The Department will review applications and determine the individual or entity that will most effectively utilize these funds to combat human trafficking.

Secretary Chao also announced $5.4 million in grant selections through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative. Twenty-four organizations across the country will each receive funding for projects to help prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation. A list of the selected projects is available online.

To support the Department’s counter-trafficking efforts, the DOT Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking completed a report in July 2019 that recommends actions the Department can take to help combat human trafficking and best practices for states and local transportation stakeholders.

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Former NASCAR driver and Talladega’s iconic trucker John Ray dies at 82

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Former nascar driver and talladega superspeedway’s iconic trucker john ray dies at 82
John Ray whose diesel big rig sporting the giant American flag became iconic during the track’s national anthem performances, has died. (Courtesy: Talladega Superspeedway)

TALLADEGA, Ala. —John Ray, whose big rig sporting a giant American flag became iconic during Talladega Superspeedway’s national anthem performances, has died, according to a news release. The former NASCAR driver was 82 years old.

Since 2001, Ray had driven his gold, brown and chrome Peterbilt with a large American flag down the Talladega frontstretch prior to the start of races.

“National anthems at Talladega Superspeedway are the most iconic, and it’s because of our great friend John Ray,” said Speedway President Brian Crichton. “What he brought to our fans can’t be duplicated. He was an incredible, passionate man who supported the track and all of motorsports with everything he had. His spirit will live here forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ray family.”

For more than 40 years, Ray was a member of the White Flag Club, a dedicated service group of local businessmen from surrounding communities that assist during race weekends.

In 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks and the tragic passing of his longtime friend Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ray, along with then Talladega Superspeedway Track Chairman Grant Lynch, looked to boost the morale of a country, and a fan base that had gone through tough times.

“I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back,” said Ray, who lived down the street from the track in Eastaboga, three years ago. “It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale.

“I never thought it would become the heart-felt moment that it has over the past some-odd years, but I’m glad it has become a tradition that means so much to the fans and the Talladega family. It represents such a sense of pride that we all share together as a nation and as a community. It is my honor and privilege to do it,” added Ray, who eventually gave up the driving duties of his big rig and handed them off to his late friend Roger Haynes, and last year to his son Johnny.

That wasn’t Ray’s first time at the 2.66-mile track. Ray, who owned “John Ray Trucking Company” since the early 70s, actually set the world speed record for a semi-truck and trailer around the mammoth track at 92.083 mph in 1975 — in a powerful Kenworth.

“We were testing brakes for a company out at the track,” Ray said. “One thing led to another — and there I was truck, trailer, and all — making my way around the track, trying to set a speed record. It was something else.”

Ray drove in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1974-1976. He competed in eight races, four at Talladega (where his best career finish was 22nd in 1974), but an accident at Daytona in 1976 ended his driving career. He continued as a car owner and essentially gave one of the sport’s greatest legends one of his first opportunities: 10-time Talladega winner Earnhardt. It would be Earnhardt’s third career start.

To read the full release, visit Talladega Superspeedway’s website.

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