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Witnesses at Capitol Hill hearing push lawmakers to move on infrastructure funding

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YRC Worldwide CEO Darren Hawkins, testifying on behalf of the American Trucking Associations, told a House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that while the trucking industry is prepared to pay its share of the cost of improving highways, more reliance on tolls is not the answer. (Courtesy: HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES)

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday took dead aim at Washington political gridlock during a hearing before the Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, challenging many lawmakers’ assertions that a gas and diesel tax increase could cost them a seat in Congress.

Raising the gas and diesel tax is “not a partisan issue out there in America, it just seems to be a partisan issue here in Washington, D.C.,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said during opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing on “Pricing and Technology Strategies to Address Congestion on and Financing of America’s Roads.”

Also at the hearing, a representative of the American Trucking Associations assailed attempts to use tolling as a funding source, and an official from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTTI) said diversity could be an answer to help alleviate the nation’s crunch on the nation’s highways.

“The cost of congestion on an annual basis is about four times our federal investment in surface transportation and transit,” DeFazio testified. “Just think about that. We’re wasting four times as much money as we’re investing on an annual basis year after year after year. But around here we’re paralyzed. We can’t figure out how we’re going to pay for this.”

Without saying so directly, DeFazio’s testimony centered around a gas and diesel tax increase as a foremost solution.

Addressing lawmakers who are reluctant to raise the tax, DeFazio issued what might be taken as a challenge.

“You think you’re going to lose your election if gas goes up one and a half cents a gallon?” DeFazio asked. “When you drove to work today, you drove by the gas station and the price probably went up a nickel or down a nickel on the digital sign. No one’s going to notice that. And people around the country have shown that they are willing to pay to get out of congestion. Congress hasn’t gotten the message.”

DeFazio, who has represented Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District since 1987, took on the current administration.

“The White House hasn’t got the message,” he said. “They love to talk about a big infrastructure bill — we were up to $2 trillion for three weeks, and then we were down to zero.

In fact, the proposals in the president’s budget consistently cut transportation investment.

Testifying on behalf ATA, YRC Worldwide CEO Darren Hawkins urged lawmakers to put the brakes on the spread of tolls.

“While the trucking industry is willing to pay its fair share for infrastructure improvement, we believe that tolls are not the right solution, and in fact can be very harmful to our industry, our customers and ultimately, to consumers,” Hawkins testified.

Hawkins cited inefficiencies in toll collection, traffic diversion and misdirection of toll funds as significant problems with tolling when compared to other financing methods.

“Tolling has very high collection costs relative to other highway user fees,” he said. “While the cost of collection has come down with the introduction of transponders, costs can still exceed 10 percent. On some major toll facilities, these costs are much higher. On the Ohio Turnpike, for example, 19 cents out of every dollar is spent collecting tolls, while the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s collection costs exceed 20 percent. Contrast this with the 0.2 percent cost of collecting federal fuel taxes.

“Clearly, the waste that goes into collecting a toll is simply unacceptable when far more efficient alternatives are available. Our user fees should be used to build roads, not toll road bureaucracies,” he said.

Hawkins also warned that because of federal funding shortfalls, states are abusing tolls to fund other projects at the expense of toll payers, particularly the trucking industry.

“Federal law allows states to shift excess toll revenue to any Title 23 eligible purpose,” he said. “This results in toll payers bankrolling projects that they may not benefit from. In addition, because the vast majority of roads can’t support tolls, a small minority of motorists can be saddled with the subsidization of a state’s surface transportation system, regardless of whether the toll payers benefit.”

Because tolls are only a potential solution for a handful of projects, Hawkins urged Congress to do more to fund infrastructure so states aren’t forced to look to tolling or other riskier financing methods.

“It is important to note that tolls will not solve the most important challenge facing this subcommittee — the impending bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund. Failure to address the shortfall will continue to induce states to consider bad options like tolls,” he said. “ATA and nearly every organization that cares about surface transportation efficiency has proposed an increase in the fuel tax to address these needs, and we urge your support.”

Timothy Lomax, research fellow at TTTI, called for a balanced and diversified approach to reduce congestion, one that focuses on more of everything; more policies, programs, projects, flexibility, options and understanding.

“It is clear that the solution investments have not kept pace with the problems,” he said. “Most urban regions have big problems now — more congestion, poorer pavement and bridge conditions and less public transportation than they would like.”

Lomax cited some ideas:

  • Get as much as possible from what we have. “‘Get the best bang for the buck’ is the theme here,” Lomax said. “Many low-cost improvements have broad public support and can be rapidly deployed.”
  • Provide choices. “‘Customize your trip’ might involve different travel routes, departure times, travel modes or lanes that involve a toll for high-speed and reliable service,” he said. “These

options allow travelers and shippers to make trips when, where and in a form that best suits their needs and wants.”

  • Add capacity in critical corridors. “We just need more in some places. Increases in freight and person movement often require new or expanded facilities.”
  • Diversify the development patterns. “Everyone doesn’t want to live in — fill in the blank — is a discussion in most urban regions. It is always true, because there is no one-size-fits-all home type.”
  • Realistic expectations. “Large urban areas will be congested,” Lomax said. “Some locations near key activity centers in smaller urban areas will also be congested.”

Others testifying at the hearing included Miami Gardens, Florida, Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, who is also chairman of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization; Travis Brouwer, assistant director for public affairs for the Oregon Department of Transportation; Tilly Chang, executive director, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, testifying on behalf of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; and Marc Scribner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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  1. tom coen

    September 17, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Nonsense. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, is a partisan Democrat hack from the one of the most liberal states in the nation. Feds and States waste more tax dollars than ever. It is very much a “we the people” against the swamp dwellers in Washington DC. Cut spending from the bloat and waste in the federal budget. You know how I know DeFazio is lying?, the D, after his name. There isn’t a democrat out there that doesn’t want 110% of our paychecks and wealth to redistribute.

    Trucker.com, try harder. Lets get a competing political perspective. You all are either ignorant or complicit with the swamp in DC.

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The Nation

U.S. Senate introduces bipartisan bill to promote women in trucking

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Women make up 47 percent of the United States’ labor force, yet represent 24 percent of America’s trucking workforce and only about seven percent of drivers.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act.

Currently, women make up 47 percent of the United States’ labor force, yet represent 24 percent of America’s trucking workforce and only about seven percent of drivers. This legislation would support women in the trucking industry and would establish a Women of Trucking Advisory Board.

“In Wisconsin, we make things, and we need to ensure we have a strong workforce to transport our goods to market,” said Senator Baldwin. “Women currently make up less than ten percent of the truck driving workforce, and removing the barriers that get in the way of women pursuing and retaining careers in trucking is key. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Senator Moran because more job opportunities for Wisconsin women will lead to more economic security for working families.”

“As the trucking industry continues to face a driver shortage, we need to examine new ways to recruit and retain drivers that are delivering Kansas goods across the country,” said Senator Moran. “Because women are substantially underrepresented in the trucking industry, Congress should explore every opportunity to encourage and support the pursuit of careers in trucking by women. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan and sensible bill with Sen. Baldwin that will lead to new job opportunities for women and increase equality for women already in the trucking industry.”

The Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce would direct the administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to establish a “Women of Trucking Advisory Board.” Under this bill, the board would identify barriers to entry for women in the trucking industry, work across organizations and companies to coordinate formal education and training programs and help identify and establish training and mentorship programs for women in the industry. The legislation also requires the FMCSA Administrator to submit a report to Congress on the board’s findings and recommendations.

This legislation is supported by the Women in Trucking Association and the American Trucking Association.

“By creating an advisory board to utilize the expertise and resources of the Federal Motor Carrier Administration and the members of the board, we can increase the opportunities for women as drivers, technicians, owners, trainers and in other relevant career roles,” said Women in Truck Association President and CEO Ellen Voie. “I look forward to working with you and your office (Sens. Moran and Baldwin) in advancing this bill.”

“On behalf of the American Trucking Association, I write to express thanks and support for the introduction of the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act,” said American Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Spear. “Your (Sens. Moran and Baldwin) thoughtful and timely legislation brings important attention and focus to the advancement of female representation and participation in trucking.”

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The Nation

David Isaac named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September

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DES MOINES, Iowa — David Isaac has been named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September.

Isaac started at TMC on Valentine’s Day in 2014. He spent eight years in the military and transitioned into his job at TMC while he was still enlisted.

“TMC was the only flatbed company that stood out to me, especially the company being employee-owned,” he said.

After driving on his own for a year and a half, Isaac decided to give driver training a try.

“The instruction aspect of the job was interesting to me,” he said. “There are multiple ways to do one job, but I wanted to make sure that the end result is what is required of our company standards.”

When it comes to his training style, Isaac takes a supervising role.

“I try to let my trainees do as much as they can on their own, but I keep a close eye on them so I can correct them as needed,” he says. “I feel like this is the best way for them to get a feel of what it will be like once they have their own truck.”

Isaac’s favorite part of training is meeting other drivers and helping to be a part of their success. “It’s great to see new guys do well,” he said, adding that it is great for the company and himself as a driver.

“You can learn even while you’re teaching, whether it be a load you wouldn’t normally or discovering a more efficient way to do things,” he said.

Overall, Isaac is grateful for the opportunities he’s had while driving for TMC.

“From the discipline it takes to do the job to the relationships I have built with my peers, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” he said.

Each month a TMC Transportation trainer who demonstrates the outstanding qualities TMC looks for in a trainer is honored. The Trainer of the Month recipient is chosen based on their safety record and the safety performance of their trainees, the number of drivers trained and the retention percentage of those drivers.

For more information, visit www.tmctrans.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

SBTC’s anti-ELD petition stalls, Lamb uses ‘phone call’ to put blame on OOIDA

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Small Business in Transportation Coalition President James Lamb tells viewers his investigators have uncovered evidence that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is sabotaging his organization’s efforts to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ask the White House to immediately suspend the ELD mandate. (Courtesy: SMALL BUSINESS IN TRANSPORTATION COALITION)

In an online editorial we posted August 22, we described the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) as positioning itself to be a one-organization wrecking crew targeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the electronic logging device mandate.

In particular, SBTC and its president, James Lamb, have been on a tear against electronic logging devices.

(This is the same James Lamb who in early 2018 agreed to settle a probe into his business dealings brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which accused Lamb and several of his businesses of cheating owner-operators out of millions of dollars over the course of several years. Lamb denied the charges, but the FTC is in the process of paying out $900,000 to truckers who the FTC says were scammed.) 

After the FMCSA denied its application asking that carriers with under 50 employees be exempted from the ELD mandate, SBTC asked FMCSA to reconsider the denial. 

With no apparent hope that FMCSA would reverse its decision (remember ELDs were ordered by Congress), Lamb and SBTC have moved up the ladder to Congress and now to the White House.

AN EDITORIAL

Currently, SBTC is asking drivers to sign a petition asking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

SBTC says it needs to have 100,000 signatures (it’s not likely to happen) before the White House will respond to the request to suspend the rule (that’s not going to happen).

On October 31, Lamb published an e-mail asking the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to join SBTC in support of the petition.

Lamb apparently never heard from OOIDA, and with his petition drive stalled at around 30,000, Lamb decided to blame OOIDA for the slowdown and appears to have set out to make his point with an elaborate scheme that he is reporting through his e-mail blasts to the media and others, claiming that OOIDA is sabotaging his petition effort.

In a video released at 5:20 p.m. Central time November 11, Lamb said he had some “disturbing” information regarding the ELD suspension petition.

“We have through our private investigators uncovered that OOIDA has been sabotaging our petition. We hired a private investigator to follow up on leads that we have received regarding possible interferences with our petition and boy, did we find out what’s going on here.

“I’m going to play you the tape the investigators sent me (actually the tape of the phone call made only hours or maybe even minutes before) so you can listen to it yourself and boy is it bad news for Todd Spencer (OOIDA president and CEO) and this woman … at OOIDA.”

That “call” was obviously definitely recorded November 11 because the caller mentioned having to work on the holiday, which was Veterans Day. The man said his name was Mike (he also used the name Michael).

It was easy to tell the call was a set up because the man who identified himself as Mike was obviously and purposely speaking into a recording device and recording the other end of the call from a speaker phone.

(An average observer would likely have thought the call was legitimate and that Lamb’s investigators had worked hard to uncover it, but we rather suspect it was a set up and the tape was handed to him shortly after it was made. Or he might even have been in the room when the “call” was made.

A transcript of the tape shows Mike told the woman at OOIDA he wasn’t a member of OOIDA but had heard about the petition campaign and wanted to know if OOIDA was in support of the petition.

He even claimed he’d never heard of James Lamb.

The woman at OOIDA offered to send Mike information about Lamb.

She asked for his e-mail address and after a long hesitation he gave two: mikeferrili@yahoo.com and mikeferilli@yahoo.com.

E-mails sent to those addresses by The Trucker bounced back as undeliverable. (Surprise, surprise).

Based on the transcript, Mike kept trying to coerce the woman into telling him not to sign the petition (the “call” lasted almost 15 minutes), but not once did she do that, only suggesting that petitions were not effective in getting change in Washington.

Contacting members of Congress is the most effective way, she said, citing an instance when OOIDA and its members contacted a Congressman, contacts that led to him reversing his support of speed limiters.

The woman told Mike that some members of OOIDA had signed the petition.

Mike kept on and on, obviously and in the opinion of this writer hoping the woman would tell him not to sign the petition, but the woman said absolutely nothing to discourage drivers from signing the petition.

At one point, the woman reminded Mike that OOIDA had been fighting against ELDs and their predecessors since 1978.

After the tape of the telephone “call” ended on his video, Lamb reiterated that OOIDA had done everything in its power to keep truckers from signing the petition.

“Mr. Spencer it looks like we have a problem. Our legal team (the same one that handed Lamb the tape of the supposed phone call) is going to be reviewing this and you are going to have some explaining to do to a judge,” he said.

We too, have a problem, and it’s with Mr. Lamb trying to lay the blame for his failure directly on someone else.

We call on Mr. Lamb and his organization to get off his anti-ELD horse.

That horse is in the barn, sir, and it’s not coming out.

If you are as powerful as you say you are, turn that power into doing something about the real issues that plague trucking today, matters such as driver pay, the lack of safe parking and driver detention, just to name a few.

OOIDA and many others in the trucking industry are really concerned about those issues.

So should you be.

 

 

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