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Transportation News Bulletins - Logistics

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Senate confirms Hersman as new chairman of the NTSB
Monday, 27 July 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—The Senate on Friday confirmed the nomination of Deborah A.P. Hersman as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Senators also confirmed Hersman to be a member of the board for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2013.

The confirmation drew commendation from the president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFLCIO.

“Transportation unions are pleased the Senate has confirmed Deborah Hersman to lead the National Transportation Safety Board,” Edward Wytkind said in a prepared statement. “Hersman is deeply committed to the safety mission of this agency and has demonstrated her passion to learn from accident investigations and advocate federal safety policies that make the U.S. transportation system safer. And rather than simply assigning blame to individuals, she investigates the policies, procedures and practices that threaten safe operations.

“Ms. Hersman has always understood that well trained front-line workers play a critical role in moving goods and people safely across our vast transportation network. We applaud Hersman’s confirmation and look forward to working with her to advance transportation safety.”

President Barack Obama nominated to become chairman of the NTSB in early June.

She was first appointed to the board in June 2004 by then President George W. Bush.

The board has no power to force the federal agencies charged with transportation safety to adopt its recommendations, but the NTSB Federal Most Wanted List is often cited during Congressional budgeting and oversight hearings of the “modal agencies” such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.

TheTrucker.com, 7/27/2009

 
House Bill Adds Tax on Imports, Exports
Friday, 24 July 2009 00:00

Shippers would pay ad valorem fee for infrastructure improvements

Shippers would pay an ad valorem fee on imports and exports if Congress passes a bill supported by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill.

The ON TIME Act of 2009 (Our Nation’s Trade, Infrastructure, Mobility, and Efficiency) would designate “national gateway corridors” that would radiate inland from any port of entry, whether by ocean, land or air, Calvert told a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Thursday.

Calvert said shippers would pay 0.075 percent of the value of their goods, to a maximum of $500. Revenue would be deposited in a gateway fund to be used for transportation and intermodal infrastructure improvements.

Grants from the fund would be disbursed by the Department of Transportation in amounts equal to the money collected by each gateway corridor, Calvert said. For example, revenue collected by the port of Charleston would be used for infrastructure projects in the Charleston corridor.

Calvert’s bill does not specify if the new fee would be in addition to or deducted from the existing Harbor Maintenance Tax. Customs and Border Protection assesses the tax at 0.125 percent of cargo value. In 1998 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the HMT on exports was unconstitutional.

Another proposal to use a substantially higher HMT to pay for infrastructure has been filed by Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif. Unlike Calvert’s bill the Richardson bill does not cap the amount a shipper would pay on goods.

Journal of Commerce, 7/24/2009

 
Company forecasters less pessimistic
Monday, 20 July 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—With the U.S. economy expected to emerge this year from the longest recession since World War II, business forecasters are feeling a bit less gloomy about the future.

The latest outlook from a quarterly survey being released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics finds that companies are still looking at job cuts in the coming months, though they may be scaling back.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed expect their companies to cut jobs through attrition or layoffs in the coming six months, the survey found, compared with 33 percent in April and 39 percent in January.

And some companies are even hiring. Eighteen percent of those surveyed expect their companies to start adding jobs in the coming months, the highest level in a year.

The industry survey “provides new evidence that the U.S. recession is abating, but few signs of an immediate recovery,” said Sara Johnson, NABE’s lead analyst on the survey and an economist at IHS Global Insight. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed expect the gross domestic product to fall by 2 percent or more this year, while only 6 percent project economic growth.

The NABE’s survey of 102 forecasters at companies and trade associations was taken June 19 through July 1.

Even if the recession ends this year as the Federal Reserve and many private economists expect, companies are expected to keep trimming payrolls. The unemployment rate will climb because companies won’t be in any mood to hire until they feel certain a recovery is firmly rooted.

The Federal Reserve last week projected that the national unemployment rate, currently at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, will pass 10 percent by the end of the year. Most Fed policymakers said it could take five or six years for the economy and the labor market to get back on a path of long-term health.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department on Friday said unemployment topped 10 percent in 15 states and the District of Columbia last month. And the jobless rate in Michigan surpassed 15 percent, the first time any state hit that mark since 1984.

In the NABE survey, there was broad consensus that the worst will be over this year. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed expect sales will hit bottom by the end of this year, while 14 percent see that bottom happening next year or later.

The survey, however, found that credit remains tight. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed found that difficulty obtaining loans had a negative impact on their operations in the second quarter, up from 45 percent in the first three months of the year.

TheTrucker.com, 7/20/2009

 
Importers Press Congress to Renew Tariff Program
Monday, 20 July 2009 00:00

Time is running out on program that reduces duties on products not available in U.S.

In an economy measured in trillions of dollars, saving $500,000 in taxes might seem like small change, but for Church and Dwight, the maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda, it’s enough to keep factories open in Ohio and California, and workers on the payroll, said Curt Siverling, vice president of animal nutrition products.

Church and Dwight imports palm fatty acid distillate, or PFAD, a byproduct of palm oil refining, used to make a feed supplement for dairy cows. Siverling recently told a group the company got a temporary reduction from 2.3 percent to 1 percent in the duty it pays on PFAD thanks to the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2006.

The so-called Miscellaneous Tariff Bill gives companies up to a $500,000 break on customs duties for goods they import that are not manufactured in the United States.

Church and Dwight import its PFAD from Malaysia and Indonesia. According to PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions, in 2007, the company imported some 69,380 tons of PFAD valued at $76.4 million. At 2.3 percent, the company would have paid nearly $1.8 million in duties, but with the MTB reduction, the company paid about $260,000.

The MTB is usually about as exciting as oatmeal and as noncontroversial as a bill naming a post office in honor of a deserving public servant. It’s a congressional evergreen, so it’s unusual to have importers form a coalition to nudge Congress to pass the bill. Time is running out, they worry. If Congress doesn’t approve a new bill, the duty breaks for Church and Dwight and other MTB beneficiaries will expire on Dec. 31.

Doug Goudie, director of international trade policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said the House has largely completed its MTB list. The holdup is the Senate.

“The real issue is that it’s July. If we don’t get the Senate process started, we’re going to run out of time,” Goudie said. “These bills are usually passed by unanimous consent. It’s very collegial, very bipartisan, and extremely transparent. No one is trying to hide anything, but it takes time to get all the things done that make this a non-controversial bill.”

Congress has been passing tariff exemptions almost since the founding of the republic. Some 30 years ago, Congress began consolidating individual tariff bills into a single easy-to-manage bill. The process starts when manufacturers ask their members of Congress to sponsor a bill to exempt or reduce tariffs on goods, usually ingredients or components used in producing the finished product.

The main requirement: There can be no U.S. source for the same item. The U.S. International Trade Commission and the Congressional Budget Office review the requests to verify that no U.S. manufacturer will be put at a competitive disadvantage. Once individual items have been screened, they are rolled up into the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, and passed on a voice vote.

Chemicals comprise a large part of the list, so the MTB coalition has strong support in the chemical industry.

The MTB has grown in popularity as more manufacturers have discovered it, Goudie said. In 2006, Congress exempted or reduced the duty rate on some 700 items in two bills. This year, the House list alone covers more than 800 items; no one has tallied the Senate’s list yet.

The ITC and CBO reviews can take months. Not only could the clock run out, but getting Congress’s attention also may be a challenge, given its focus on health care, climate change and the state of the economy.

The MTB coalition wants the public to know the economic benefits of tariff exemptions and reductions: They can raise gross domestic product by $3.5 billion and create 90,000 jobs, said Andrew Szamosszegi, an economist with Capital Trade Inc., who analyzed the MTB for the coalition.

“U.S. manufacturers become more competitive and they sell $3.3 billion more in the domestic market, and some $1.3 billion in exports,” he said. The economic gains “would certainly not spell the end of the recession, but these are not insignificant figures either.

“At a time when the economy is weak, an MTB would give a meaningful boost to manufacturers who benefit from the program, and the gains would ripple beyond manufacturing,” Szamosszegi said.

Goudie said the U.S. is by far not the only country providing breaks on duties. The European Union, he said, lets companies apply for duty suspensions twice a year.

“If you’re importing a volume of something, a saving of a few cents on the dollar adds up. If you can save yourself some tariff revenue, that’s jobs you can create,” he said. “People don’t know the benefits of this. The issue today is we don’t want time to run out and have these things expire.”

Journal of Commerce, 7/20/2009

 
Wal-Mart Launches Sustainability Index
Friday, 17 July 2009 00:00

Wal-Mart’s is planning to launch a Sustainability Index by the end of the year to evaluate its 60,000 suppliers and determine future product requirements.

In 2005, Wal-Mart set an aspirational goal to sell products that sustain both natural resources and the environment. The company estimates that 90 percent of its sustainability footprint is associated with the products it sells.

During the past few months it has been talking to a diverse group of individuals and organizations in order to come up with a usable index.

On July 14-16 it got leaders in sustainability, lifecycle analysis, complex scoring expertise and industry to help design the index—starting with the greatest potential business, social, and environmental impacts envisioned in the future.

As a result, Wal-Mart has turned a working model into an actionable design and rollout plan that will begin to be put into effect immediately.

Air Cargo World, 7/17/2009

 
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