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Transportation News Bulletins - Logistics

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Highway Bill Prospects Are Dim As Congress Returns to Session
Monday, 14 September 2009 00:00
Other Issues Take Lead on Legislative Agenda.

When Congress went back into session last week, the prospects for passing a long-term highway bill appeared to be dimming as other issues continued to dominate the legislative agenda.

“Unfortunately there will have to be a compromise instead of a long-term authorization,” said Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “I think that the new deficit and debt projections make getting a long-term authorization in place and the funding sources for that more of an uphill battle.”

Before leaving for the August recess, the House and Senate agreed on a roughly $7 billion patch for the ailing Highway Trust Fund, but the two bodies still differ on how to approach a long-term transportation bill.

The Senate, supported by the Obama administration, favors an 18-month extension of the current highway bill to take effect when the bill would otherwise expire on Sept. 30.

The House, however, led by Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is continuing to work on a long-term, six-year authorization bill and opposes a significant delay.

“Right now, we’re not paying attention to what the Senate is doing,” said Jim Berard, a spokesman for Oberstar. “The schedule is still [to] wait for Ways and Means to mark up the revenue title, then we’ll bring our bill to full committee markup and put the two together.”

Calls to the Ways and Means Committee were not returned by press time, but the committee’s Web site did not list any upcoming hearings on the transportation bill.

A Senate staffer who asked not to be identified told Transport Topics on Sept. 10 that they expected Senate leaders “to send a bill to the floor this week, if not today.”

That bill, the staffer said, would be a combination of the 18-month extension that a series of committees passed in late July, minus the $7 billion used in the short-term trust fund patch passed before breaking for recess, but providing “almost $19 billion” for the trust fund.

Despite Oberstar’s pushing, it appears unlikely that a long-term bill will be enacted this year.

A transportation lobbyist, who asked not to be named, told TT “the reality that nobody is talking about” is that “nobody wants to tell Chairman Oberstar that he’s not going to get a bill.”

“In every meeting that you have [Hill staff] tell you: ‘We’re not getting a bill now and, in fact, it’s somewhat unlikely that we’re going to get a bill next year,’ but no one wants to tell Mr. Oberstar that,” the lobbyist said.

In addition to funding issues, there’s a lot of “little battles,” ranging from donor-donee issues to truck sizeand- weight limits and hours of service.

Berard said Oberstar would not commit to a compromise extension, but there was “a whole lot of wiggle room” between the Senate’s proposal and a shorter term extension.

The Senate staffer said that the “18 months isn’t the monolithic thing some in the Senate want to believe it is,” and suggested that if House leadership “is going to be at all deferential to Oberstar, I don’t see how it ends up being 18 months.”

The highway bill is not the only piece of legislation being pushed back, as Senate Democrats said they are pushing back introduction of sweeping cap-and-trade climate change legislation until later this month.

Transport Topics, 9/14/2009

'Worse still to come' predicts survey
Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00

Transport firms are predicting the recession will get worse before any real upturn begins, according to a survey from legal group Norton Rose.

It said the lack of bank lending in the shipping sector had created a funding gap that needed to be filled from other means but added that enforcement on outstanding loans would tighten over the coming months.

Some 654 people in the rail sector, 153 people in the shipping sector and 154 in the airline sector were surveyed between 17 June to 3 July 2009.

Around 81% predicted it would be at least 12 months before the number of banks actively lending to the shipping sector increases. Some 63% of those surveyed foresaw widespread bank enforcement of troubled shipping loans while 66% expected those enforcements to peak in three to nine months time.

Harry Theochari, head of transport at Norton Rose LLP, London said: “The current financial crisis was sudden, unforeseen and global. Most transport businesses did not plan or make provision for such an eventuality, particularly the difficulties in obtaining finance, especially from the banking sector.

"Bearing in mind that we are only beginning to see the real ‘fall out’ of the crisis, as evidenced by the recent foreclosures and enforcements in the industry, it comes as no surprise that most respondents are of the view that the crisis will not be short and sharp.

“Notwithstanding improvements in certain sectors, the prevailing view seems to be that business will get worse before it gets better.”

While three quarters of shipping respondents see no return to pre-crisis levels of available bank debt within three years, more than half of shipping respondents think it likely or highly likely there will be a significant role for private equity or hedge funds in shipping markets.

“Another 68% believe it is more likely that joint ventures between private equity or hedge funds, banks and those with technical expertise will increase to take advantage of opportunities presented by low vessel and stock values.” International

Freighting Weekly, 9/11/2009

Infrastructure A Top North American Challenge
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 00:00

Naming Virginia the Infrastructure State of the Year and highlighting issues and challenges to funding and improving North American infrastructure, CG/LA Infrastructure LLC offered a preview for the North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum.

"Financing and building infrastructure is probably the greatest current challenge that we face as a country," according to Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LA. "Virginia has put itself into a strong leadership position, developing creative new ways of financing almost every type of critical infrastructure—urban mass transit, highways, ports and logistics, and freight rail—and the Commonwealth has done so in the face of the serious financial challenges faced by the state, and every state in the country, every single day."

Pierce Homer, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation, added: "We are extremely pleased by this recognition of our creativity and hard work in addressing not only the infrastructure needs of the Commonwealth in the 21st Century, but in attracting private capital for our vision of the future."

According to CG/LA, in 1980 federal government transfers accounted for approximately 70% of infrastructure investments; by 2008 that situation had been reversed, with the states investing 70% and the federal government accounting for only 30% of investment in infrastructure projects.

Five transformational infrastructure projects from Virginia, totaling $13.8 billion presented at the Leadership Forum include:

Northern Virginia's $1.4 billion public/private I-495 Hot Lanes Project to take full advantage of new technology to facilitate transit, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and general traffic movement on Northern Virginia's congested Capital Beltway.

The Dulles Metrorail Corridor Project, a $5.3 billion project to extend the Washington Metrorail system to Dulles Airport and beyond.

Norfolk Southern's Crescent Corridor Project. Virginia was the first to invest in this $2.5 billion project, focused on the I-81 corridor from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, and removing long-haul trucks from the highways.

The Port of Virginia Expansion Projects, which entail $3 billion of incremental public and private port and rail improvements to position Virginia to capture global market share when the Panama Canal expansion is completed.

CSX/High Speed Rail Improvements, which involved $1.6 billion of incremental public and private rail improvements to improve freight movements and extend the high speed Northeast Corridor to the Richmond/Petersburg area, and then onwards to both the Tidewater area and to North Carolina., 9/08/2009

U.S. Amends Cuba Trade Restrictions
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 00:00

Longstanding embargo remains in place, but range of interaction expands

The U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday issued amended regulations that will facilitate commercial contact with Cuba, without signaling an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo of that country.

On the one hand, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued the longawaited final rule that implements changes to the U.S. embargo on Cuba passed by Congress in March of this year. On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to implement the President's directive of April 13, 2009 aimed at making it easier for Americans with family members in Cuba to visit and send gifts to their relatives.

At Treasury, the amended OFAC regulations "expand the ability of Americans to visit close relatives in Cuba and send remittances to family members in Cuba," the agency said in a statement.

For U.S. exporters, there are two important changes.

First, the amended OFAC regulations authorize a greatly expanded range of commercial telecommunications transactions with Cuba, such as cellular and satellite communications. The new regulations contain a general license authorizing travel to Cuba related to the commercial export of telecommunications-related items that have been authorized by the Department of Commerce.

Second, the amended OFAC regulations authorize a general license that will enable employees of producers or distributors of medical or agricultural products (including food) to travel to Cuba to engage in the marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing in Cuba of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices eligible under the Department of Commerce's export or re-export licensing policy to Cuba. All previous travel to Cuba was required to take place pursuant to a specific license issued by OFAC.

At Commerce, the amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) authorize items normally exchanged between individuals as gifts to be included in gift parcels going to Cuba. The amendments remove the previous requirement that gift parcels be sent only to members of the donor's immediate family. Gift parcels may now be sent from an individual in the United States to an individual or an independent religious, educational, or charitable organization in Cuba. The amendment also raises the value limit for gift parcels from $400 to $800, while increasing the number of parcels that an individual donor may send each month.

The EAR amendments also remove the previous 44-pound limit on personal baggage that had applied to travelers to Cuba. The new rules create a License Exception that authorizes exports and re-exports to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, satellite receivers and digital cameras.

Journal of Commerce Online, 9/08/09

DOT Launches Freight Management Software
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 00:00

The Department of Transportation has released a new software application that it said will help the transportation industry to deliver products more efficiently.

DOT worked with the Federal Highway Administration’s Freight Office and other agencies to develop the Electronic Freight Management service, which DOT is offering for free on its Web site.

The software is scalable from small to large businesses, DOT said, and it worked to maximize cargo visibility, which improves asset utilization.

Click here for information about downloading the software.

Transport Topics, 9/8/2009

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