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Transportation News Bulletins - LTL and TL

Our current transportation LTL and TL news bulletins are powered by SMC3

LaHood announces new details on distracted driving summit
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 00:00

WASHINGTON—Mark your calendars: the U.S. Department of Transportation will hold its summit to determine the best ways to reduce the number of crashes and deaths due to distracted driving on Wednesday, Sept. 30 and Thursday, Oct. 1.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “As we become a more mobile and wireless nation, we can’t afford to ignore new technology’s impact on roadway safety.”

The distracted driving summit will bring together senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, private sector representatives and academics to address a range of issues related to reducing accidents through enforcement, public awareness and education.

Speakers from around the nation will lead interactive sessions on a number of key topics including the extent and impact of distracted driving, current research, regulations and best practices.

Participants will also examine distractions caused by current and planned devices, such as navigational systems. The summit’s second day will include a panel of state and local officials to discuss solutions from their perspectives.

“This summit will not only bring leaders in transportation safety together to talk about this issue,” said LaHood, “It will also give people from all over the country—and world—the opportunity to be a part of this historic dialogue.”

To accommodate the expected response, the summit will be available live by Webcast and members of the public will be given the opportunity to submit questions online for each individual panel discussion. The Department has also created a Web site to provide information and updates on the summit.., 8/19/2009

Oberstar Blasts White House over 18-Month Road Bill Delay
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, accused the White House of running for cover in its push to delay consideration of a new highway bill for 18 months.

In an Aug. 5 speech at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Oberstar outlined ways to fund the multiyear transportation bill he has drafted. He said private groups, including American Trucking Associations, should take the lead in developing a consensus on how to pay for the new transportation plan, since the White House and Senate are not.

“The ‘Yes we can’, ‘Change you can believe in’ White House ran for cover,” he said during his speech.

The Obama administration, with the backing of several key Senate transportation leaders, has pressed for an 18-month delay in reauthorizing transportation legislation and has opposed increasing fuel taxes to pay for transportation projects.

“You don’t have to say ‘Osama bin Laden’ at the White House, you just have to say ‘5 cents [a gallon]’ at the White House and they all run for cover,” Oberstar said.

A six-year reauthorization bill, which Oberstar said he expected his committee to mark up shortly after Congress returns from recess next month, would cost $450 billion—or $140 billion more than the current fuel tax can support.

To partially bridge the gap, and to allay the “the queasiness in the Washington political environment,” Oberstar said he would seek $60 billion in bonds from the Treasury Department for the Highway Trust Fund, and allow the fund to repay those bonds “after the economy has returned to two quarters of positive economic growth.”

Once the economy recovers, he said, a 5-cent-per-gallon increase in the fuel tax could also kick in, indexed to the highway construction cost index, “and that would generate the revenues we need out over the six years of this program.”

“I think that is a politically savvy way of trying to try to move a multiyear bill balanced against the concerns of the White House and perhaps members of Congress to be voting an increase in the fuel tax in a recession,” said ATA Senior Vice President Tim Lynch. “In essence, you get to move a bill which really defers the decision of increase until after we get out of this economic hole.”

ATA is one of several groups Oberstar said he has assembled to push for an increase in highway funding.

“We’ve been meeting periodically over the last few weeks and over the coming couple weeks of August, I’m hoping we can reach an agreement on a consensus plan that we all can rally around and then lead this administration into support of a financing mechanism,” Oberstar said. “Otherwise we’ll just pass it and roll over them.”

Oberstar added that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) “has committed to giving us floor time by the third week of September.”

In addition to ATA, Oberstar mentioned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, The Associated General Contractors of America and several trade unions as allies he had enlisted.

Brian Turmail, AGC spokes-man, said the construction trade group “is currently involved with some other organizations in meeting on a regular basis with the chairman and his staff to look at ways to craft the final portions of a six-year transportation bill.”

“To our knowledge, nothing’s been set at this point,” Turmail said, “but every option is on the table.”

Turmail said AGC supported “both right-sizing of current user fees and enhanced opportunities for state and local governments to tap into a range of funding vehicles including tolling, private activity bonds and public private partnerships.”

Even with Oberstar’s fiery rhetoric, prospects for a long-term bill may be dim because the Senate and White House “just don’t want to deal with this issue right now,” a transportation lobbyist, who asked not to be identified, told Transport Topics. The lobbyist noted that “the three committees with jurisdiction [in the Senate] have already reported bills that are simple 18-month extensions” without the program changes Oberstar wants.

Transport Topics, 8/17/2009

Cargo thieves step up activity
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

According to a new cargo crime trend report, cargo thieves are becoming more organized and are more frequently targeting trucking company facilities for their heists.

Data compiled by LoJack Supply Chain Integrity via its Supply Chain Information Sharing and Analysis Center (SC-ISAC) in the second quarter this year noted that 34 cargo theft incidents occurred at trucking company facilities, including secured drop yards, an increase of more than 300% over the number of thefts at such carrier facilities in the first quarter of 2009. The number two and three locations for theft were at truck stops (24 incidents) and parking lots (21 incidents), LoJack SCI said.

“This theft trend tells us that these loads were under surveillance and had been targeted from their point of origin, implying that these criminal acts were the results of very specific planning at the hands of organized thieves,” said Robert Furtado, LoJack SCI’s CEO. It also shows cargo thieves are becoming bolder as well, as they are seeking out vehicles containing cargo even when secured with fencing and other surveillance systems, targeting very specific loads versus simply pursuing “opportunistic” thefts, he noted.

LoJack SCI’s cargo theft trend bulletin also revealed that vehicles and their cargoes are at rest for a shorter period of time before they are stolen. For example, in the second quarter of 2009, the company identified 19 incidents that occurred in less than four hours time, eight of which had been parked for less than one hour. This is a further indication that thieves are more organized, targeting specific locations and/or loads and not relying on “chance” to secure stolen items, said Furtado.

The company’s cargo theft data is based on a total of 221 incidents LoJack SCI collected and analyzed from the 1,650 users and 650 member companies of its SC-ISAC network.

Federal law enforcement trend data backs up LoJack SCI’s findings. “There are some cargo thefts that are crimes of opportunity, but the vast majority are committed by criminal enterprises,” noted Ron Koziol, assistant section chief-violent crime section of the criminal investigative division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Sophisticated cargo theft groups plan the operations through surveillance of truck stops and distribution centers. They carry equipment to defeat tractor/trailer security mechanisms, they pre-position empty trailers to off load the stolen cargo trailer, or they may temporarily rent warehouse space to transfer loads between a stolen trailer and a legitimate trailer,” Koziol told FleetOwner.

“Many of the criminal enterprises seen today may be organized based on familial, ethnic, or nationality ties,” he added. “Also, they may employ violent street gang members, have established complex multijurisdictional theft, fencing and distribution operations, and are sometimes involved in other types of criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, violent crimes, and other property crimes like organized retail thefts.”

Industry professionals also report seeing more organization within the ranks of cargo thieves. Walt Fountain, director of enterprise security at TL carrier Schneider National, told FleetOwner that his company is indeed seeing more reports of thieves targeting warehouses and other facilities. In effect, “they are going where the freight is,” he said.

“These are sophisticated [cargo theft] crews working the business, spending weeks, if not months targeting warehouses,” Fountain said. “There’s more profit in that than chasing tractor-trailers down the highway.”

However, he added that thefts from truckstops or other unprotected parking areas still remains the real threat. “Any kind of unprotected area where trucks and trailers may stop is what worries us,” Fountain said. “That’s why we work constantly with our drivers to maintain cargo security discipline, making sure they follow security procedures at all times to lower their risk of theft, while we send them regular updates on developing cargo theft ‘hot spots’ so they are kept in the loop about the bigger cargo crime picture.”

“The fact that thieves are stealing goods increasingly from secured areas is further proof that ‘cargo at rest is cargo at risk,’ even if the cargo is located in an area with some measures of physical security,” added Lojack SCI’s Furtado. “It’s further proof that companies need to take extra precautions to ensure their loads—as well as their trucks and trailers—are fully protected from today’s sophisticated thieves.”, 8/17/2009

U.S. Still Wants Trucking Deal, Obama Tells Mexico’s President
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

$2.4 Billion Trade Dispute Remains Unresolved.

President Obama last week assured Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the United States remains committed to reaching a cross-border trucking agreement with its southern neighbor.

However, meeting privately last week in Guadalajara during a summit conference of Obama, Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the two leaders did not reach a solution to the nearly five-month-old, $2.4 billion trade dispute stemming from the shutdown by Congress of a pilot program that allowed a few carriers from each country to deliver freight to the other country.

A senior administration official told The Associated Press that Calderon pushed Obama on his earlier promise to resume longhaul trucking between the two countries during the Aug. 9 discussion.

According to the U.S. official, Obama told Calderon he would “try to move forward,” with a new program, but he added that Congress has “legitimate safety concerns” about Mexican trucks.

In a 2009 spending measure, Congress prohibited the Department of Transportation from continuing its crossborder trucking program, which was aimed at testing the safety of Mexican trucks delivering in the United States.

The 2009 spending ban expires Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, and neither the House nor the Senate has included a similar provision in its appropriations bill for 2010.

However, the Senate Appropriations Committee said in a report accompanying its version of DOT’s budget that Congress had closed the program “because of serious and legitimate safety concerns, and expects that the administration will not commence another Mexican trucking pilot program until those concerns have been addressed and resolved.”

The committee also “urges the administration to work expeditiously . . . to establish a proposal to implement a cross-border trucking program that maintains the safety of our roads and highways and enhances the efficient movement of commerce.”

The program, launched by the Bush administration in 2007, has been unpopular with Congress, which attempted to shut it down several times.

In response to the United States closing the pilot program, Mexico slapped $2.4 billion in tariffs on dozens of U.S. products.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States, Mexico and Canada are supposed to allow each other’s trucking fleets free access. However, since 1994, with the exception of a handful of carriers allowed by the now-defunct pilot program, the United States has had a moratorium on Mexican trucks.

In a joint press conference on Aug. 10, neither Obama nor Calderon directly addressed the trucking program, but each raised the issue of complying with trade agreements and protectionism.

“It is essential to abide by NAFTA and to resolve the pending topics that impede us to reach greater regional competitiveness,” Calderon said.

Obama, citing the amount of trade that flows between the three countries, said the leaders “reaffirmed the need to reject protectionism.”

In Washington, Candice Tolliver, spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Transport Topics that the agency “continue[s] to work to find a solution that addresses the concerns of Congress and is consistent with our international obligations.”

FMCSA is the agency within DOT responsible for overseeing cross-border trucking.

Before Obama’s trip, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters DOT had sent a proposed new program to the White House for review.

“We’ll come back in the fall and assess where things are at with that,” LaHood said Aug. 4.

Despite the public commitment to resolving the dispute, at least one opponent of the program said he sensed the administration was wavering in its support for cross-border trucking.

“I thought there would have been a bit more committed rhetoric, but from what it sounds like, there was not much movement on the issue,” said Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA, along with the Teamsters union and other advocacy groups, has been a vocal opponent of the crossborder trucking program.

Nofziger said the reports from Mexico were “surprisingly less specific, less detailed than what some other administration officials have been saying,” citing LaHood’s previous commitments.

“Overall, Obama sounded to us much less committal on the issue,” Nofziger said.

Separate from the international trade dispute, Mexico’s largest trucking association, Camara Nacional del Autotransporte de Carga, or Canacar, also has sought billions of dollars in damages resulting from the border closure.

Transport Topics, 8/17/2009

Rural Highway System Is Vital to Commerce, S.D. Trucking Executive Tells Senate Panel
Monday, 17 August 2009 00:00

Future U.S. economic vitality depends on an adequately funded rural road system that can accommodate heavier trucks, a South Dakota trucking company president told a Senate committee last week.

“The highway system, which the vast majority of rural businesses and residents rely on exclusively for their transportation needs, is the key to good mobility and must take precedence when rural transportation priorities are determined,” said Larry Anderson of A & A Express, who testified on behalf of American Trucking Associations.

Anderson spoke at a field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee in Sioux Falls, S.D., which was conducted on Aug. 10 as the committee begins work on crafting long-term federal transport spending.

A key ingredient in that legislation, Anderson said, should be a series of reforms to truck size-and-weight laws advocated by ATA that would give states more flexibility in setting truck size-and-weight standards.

That seven-point program includes allowing individual states to authorize six-axle, 97,000-pound tractor-trailers. “I think that the testimony went over pretty well,” said Anderson, who told Transport Topics the ATA message of lower costs, a reduced carbon footprint and greater uniformity for longer combination vehicles was particularly important in his state.

He explained that two key highways recently were widened with the intention of accommodating LCVs that aren’t yet allowed there under current regulations.

“Given the significant investments that will have to be made in rural highways, it is critically important to make sure that the next federal surface transportation bill does not limit or take away the flexibility of state departments of transportation to invest in rural highway maintenance and new capacity,” he said in his written testimony.

Rural roads deserve adequate funding for multiple reasons, Anderson noted.

“Almost all of the United States’ natural resources and food production are located in rural areas,” Anderson said in prepared testimony. “These products all must be transported to processing plants, warehouses and ultimately to population centers in the U.S. and abroad for consumption.”

With the increase in the number of rail abandonments over the past three decades in rural areas, farmers have fewer choices to move their crops to market, he said. That has made an efficient highway system more important, he added, noting that legislators in his home state allowed heavier trucks to operate in communities where rail tracks were removed.

He also advocated that the legislation not shift money away from basic highway programs to alternative investments.

In addition, his testimony stressed the importance of safety and maintenance.

Anderson explained that one-third of major highways in the state were in mediocre or poor condition, with more than 100,000 bridges that are obsolete or structurally deficient.

More attention is needed to safety, Anderson said, because 56% of highway fatalities occur on rural roads, far more than the 34% of total vehicle miles traveled on the same roadways.

Transport Topics, 8/17/2009

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