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Trump aides reportedly downplaying idea of increase in gas tax for infrastructure

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Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats, talks with reporters after meeting with President Donald Trump about infrastructure at the White House last month. (Associated Press: EVAN VUCCI)

WASHINGTON — It’s looking more and more likely you’ll need a pair of double — no, triple-strength binoculars to locate even a glimmering hope that there will be a viable infrastructure bill this anytime soon.

Sure, President Donald Trump and the Democrats met recently and agreed on the need for $2.2 trillion in infrastructure improvements, but as usual, there was no talk about from whence the money would come.

And now, it appears that the best way to fund the Highway Trust Fund — at least in the eyes of the trucking industry — is being quashed by the White House.

POLITICO reported over the weekend that the White House has been reassuring conservative leaders that it has no plans to hike the gas and diesel tax to help fund the massive infrastructure package that President Donald Trump hopes to negotiate with Congress.

POLITICO reported that both acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Russ Vought, Trump’s budget director, have repeatedly downplayed the possibility in private meetings with fiscal conservatives who are expressing alarm that Trump might embrace a massive tax increase. Concerns have specifically centered around a potential gas tax boost, an idea that Trump has flirted with during his presidency.

“It is my understanding that they are not going to be agreeing to any tax increases,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist in an interview with POLITICO. Norquist said he has discussed the matter with White House officials in recent days, but did not disclose specifics. He was spotted at the White House on Friday, where he attended a meeting with Vought in which conservative leaders discussed upcoming spending battles, according to two attendees.

One long-simmering rumor that took off after the Trump-Democrats meeting was that Trump might endorse an increase in the gas tax to help fund the infrastructure package. It’s a prospect that deeply unsettles conservatives and some administration officials, who oppose any tax increase to pay for the projects.

Both the American Trucking Associations and the Truckload Carriers Association have publicly said they believe a gas tax increase is the best way to fund infrastructure improvements.

 

 

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The Nation

Group pushes FMCSA for rulemaking before changing crash preventability program

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The FMCSA's Crash Preventability Demonstration Program came about after motor carriers complained that there was no method in place to determine who was at fault for accidents involving big rigs. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — A coalition of 10 trucking-related organizations has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a rulemaking if the agency intends to change how it analyzes and publishes data on motor carrier crashes.

The petition was filed on June 14, 2019, by the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform (MCRR) coalition, which includes organizations representing more than 10,000 carriers, shippers and brokers.

David Gee, chairman of Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation (ASECTT) said FMCSA officials have indicated that they plan to make permanent as a matter of enforcement policy its crash preventability pilot program, the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program, which has been in place for nearly two years.

As of the end of the first quarter this year, carriers had submitted nearly 11,000 requests for crash preventability determinations under FMCSA’s narrowly defined program since August 2017. However, Gee said the program has not been subject to a formal rulemaking process.

On its website, the FMCSA said the Crash Preventability Demonstration Program is expected to last a minimum of 24 months.

The agency plans to make the program permanent, Transportation Elaine Chao said during an appearance at the Mid-American Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.

“As you know, this program is a response to industry concerns that crashes caused by factors outside of a driver’s control are still shown on the driver’s record,” Chao said. “Based on positive feedback from industry stakeholders, the Department will propose to make this demonstration program permanent. And, the Department of Transportation will propose to add even more of these scenarios for prevention reviews.”

The demonstration program got its impetus after motor carriers complained that there was no method in place to determine who was at fault for accidents involving big rigs, and drivers were getting penalized on their CSA scores and motor vehicle records, and carriers were getting penalized on their CSA scores.

In its explanation of the program on its website, the FMCSA said studies show that crash involvement is a strong indicator of future crash risk.

“The Crash Preventability Demonstration Program allows FMCSA to gather data to examine the feasibility, costs, and benefits of making crash preventability determinations on certain crash types,” the website says. “FMCSA will use the information from the program to evaluate if these preventability determinations improve the Agency’s ability to identify the highest-risk motor carriers.”

Drivers and carriers alike believe that about 75 percent of the crashes involving tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles are the fault of the driver of the passenger vehicle.

In its petition, the MCRR coalition argued that FMCSA must conduct a rulemaking before adopting any permanent program to call balls and strikes on crashes.

Publication of preventability metrics would, among other things, constitute a violation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and federal executive orders intended to protect the industry against bureaucratic overreach in the name of guidance, the coalition told the agency.

The petition said a key problem with FMCSA’s approach is that the term “preventability” is an artificial construct that does not equate to carrier fault, much less to a systemic violation of safety regulations.

The MCRR coalition argues that the publication of preventability data and metrics would result in increased insurance rates and lost business by carriers that the FMCSA acknowledges are fit to operate and, therefore, fit for shippers and brokers to use.

The subjectivity of the preventability standard and its lack of due process suggest that adopting the trial program as policy guidance would hurt the industry, especially small carriers, the petition said.

The Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform coalition is an affiliation of organizations that frequently weigh in with FMCSA and Congress to promote reasonable regulation and enforcement affecting motor carriers and their business partners. The coalition membership varies slightly depending on the particular issue.

For purposes of the crash preventability rulemaking petition the coalition includes the Air and Expedited Motor Carriers Association, the Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation, the American Home Furnishings Alliance/Specialized Furniture Carriers,  Apex Capital Corp., the Auto Haulers Association of America, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, the Tennessee Motor Coach Association, The Expedite Alliance of North America, the Transportation & Logistics Council, and the Transportation Loss Prevention & Security Association.

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Modernize the Truck Fleet Coalition rallies support for repealing FET

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WASHINGTON — The Modernize the Truck Fleet (MTF) coalition rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge Congressional support for bipartisan legislation repealing the 12% federal excise tax (FET) on the sale of heavy-duty commercial trucks and trailers.

“The FET was first enacted to help pay for World War I,” said Jodie Teuton, chairwoman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD). “This tax may have made sense in 1917, but today the FET delays heavy-duty truck fleet turnover by adding more than $20,000 to the average price of a new truck.” Her remarks were made during a press conference held as part of Modernize the Truck Fleet Week June 17-21.

A national network of commercial truck dealers, trade association executives and trucking industry stakeholders are in Washington this week to meet with members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor H.R. 2381 and S. 1839, bills that would repeal the FET and encourage the deployment of the newest trucks and trailers.

“The FET made sense when it was implemented 100 years ago, but just like trucks that were designed in 1917, it’s no longer viable in the modern world. Today, it’s a cost-prohibitive barrier for small businesses looking to upgrade their outdated trucks to safer, cleaner, more modern vehicles,” said U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., sponsor of H.R. 2381, a bill to repeal the FET.

“The average age of most heavy-duty trucks on the road today is nearly 10 years old – that means a decade worth of technological advancements is effectively being sidelined. The 12% FET limits truck replacement by discouraging truck owners from upgrading their outdated vehicles – leading to higher emissions and more dangerous roads. We won’t truly see a modern truck fleet in the U.S. until it’s repealed,” LaMalfa said.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., sponsor of S. 1839, the Senate FET repeal bill, said, “This burdensome tax creates excessive costs that are passed on to truckers, who play an essential role in maintaining our nation’s economy. I was happy to introduce legislation to repeal it.”

The MTF coalition, launched in January, is urging Congress to repeal the FET and identify an alternative source of revenue that reflects today’s modern truck fleet. The coalition includes ATD, Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA), NTEA — The Association for the Work Truck Industry, Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) and National Tank Truck Carriers Association.

“With an infrastructure bill as likely to pass as any piece of legislation this Congress, this is the time to put all of our combined energy into finding a way to replace the onerous FET,” said Jake Jacoby, TRALA president and CEO. “We are excited to be a part of such a collaborative effort working with truck companies, manufacturers, dealers and end users who all want to put the cleanest, most technologically advanced trucks onto our highways immediately.”

Gwendolyn Brown, NTDA president, said the FET is an unfair method of taxing the trailer industry, and it limits the purchase of newer, safer and greener trailers and parts — all of which are boons to the economy.

“As increasing regulatory burdens are mandated by the EPA, CARB and other government agencies, the costs of heavy-duty trucks and trailers continue to increase making the FET that much more burdensome,” Brown said.

Teuton, a Kenworth and Hino dealer in Louisiana said that America’s trucking industry wants safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to move America’s economy.

“Repealing the FET and replacing it with a tax based on road use paid over the life of a vehicle is part of that solution,” she said. “The FET is an indiscriminate, upfront tax. It makes no sense that a truck which drives 15,000 miles a year pays the same tax as a truck driven 150,000 miles.”

At the press conference, Volvo Trucks North America, a member of the MTF coalition, displayed a World War I-era truck and a new Mack Anthem.

“There is an opportunity, right now, to modernize the nation’s infrastructure, modernize the truck fleet and modernize the Highway Trust Fund,” Teuton said. “Repeal of the FET means more trucks rolling on our nation’s highways that are cleaner and safer.”

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The Nation

CVSA’s Brake Safety Week scheduled for September 15-22

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During Brake Safety Week, CVSA is highlighting brake hoses/tubing as a reminder of their importance to vehicle mechanical fitness and safety. (The Trucker file photo)

GREENBELT, Md. — The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Brake Safety Week is scheduled for September 15-22.

Throughout that week, enforcement officials will conduct roadside safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles throughout North America.

Vehicles with critical brake violations, or other critical vehicle inspection item violations, will be restricted from traveling until those violations are corrected. Vehicles without critical vehicle inspection item violations are eligible to receive a CVSA decal indicating that the vehicle passed inspection.

During this year’s Brake Safety Week, inspectors will be paying special attention to brake hoses/tubing.

While checking these brake system components is always part of the North American Standard Inspection Program, CVSA is highlighting brake hoses/tubing as a reminder of their importance to vehicle mechanical fitness and safety.

Routine brake system inspections and component replacement are vital to the safety of commercial motor vehicles. The brake systems on commercial motor vehicles are comprised of components that work together to slow and stop the vehicle and brake hoses/tubing are essential for the proper operation of those systems. Brake hoses/tubing must be properly attached, undamaged, without leaks and appropriately flexible. Brake hoses/tubing are an important part of the braking system so when they do fail, they can cause problems for the rest of the braking system.

“We all know how important a properly functioning brake system is to vehicle operation,” said CVSA President Chief Jay Thompson with the Arkansas Highway Police. “All components of the brake system must always be in proper operating condition. Brake systems and their parts and components must be routinely checked and carefully and consistently maintained to ensure the health and safety of the overall vehicle.”

Out-of-adjustment brakes and brake-system violations represented 45 percent of all out-of-service vehicle violations issued during last year’s three-day International Roadcheck enforcement campaign.

And, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2018 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics, brake-related violations accounted for six of the top 20 most frequently cited vehicle violations in 2017.

Thompson said the goal of Brake Safety Week is to reduce the number of crashes caused or made more severe by faulty brake systems on commercial motor vehicles by conducting roadside inspections and identifying and removing unsafe commercial motor vehicles from our roadways.

In addition to inspections and enforcement, outreach and awareness efforts by law enforcement agencies to educate drivers, motor carriers, mechanics, owner-operators and others on the importance of proper brake maintenance, operation and performance are integral to the success of this safety initiative.

In the 14 jurisdictions using performance-based brake testers (PBBT), vehicle braking efficiency will be measured using that tool. PBBTs determine overall vehicle braking efficiency or the total brake force over the effective total gross weight. The minimum required braking efficiency for trucks or combinations with gross vehicle weight rating above 10,000 pounds is 43.5 percent, required by § 393.52 of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.

Brake Safety Week is part of the Operation Airbrake Program, sponsored by CVSA in partnership with FMCSA and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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