Transportation Infrastructure / Amtrak #Fail

  As the country approaches yet another fiscal cliff (though this time it is called a sequester), the President’s 2013 State of the Union Address outlined an aggressive program to address America’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure.

  The President said, “America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.”

  Specifically, the President proposed “a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.”

  Although it is difficult to disagree with the call to improve America’s infrastructure, it’s also unfortunate that no specific plan was proposed to pay for these improvements. The fact that the country is likely to experience a sequestor whereby $85 billion from the budget will be slashed, resulting in a loss of 750,000 jobs (according to the Congressional Budget Office) and a lower economic growth rate, it’s unlikely any meaningful infrastructure improvement funding will occur.

Amtrak  Fortunately, there is still hope for the President’s call for high speed rail, right? At least that segment of the transportation industry will see a benefit, right? Well, perhaps not. A recent column by Daniel Hanson, and economist with the American Enterprise Institute, calls for an end to Amtrak. One might wonder why when Amtrak posted its best year in 2012 since 1975- it only lost $361 million.

  Yes, it ONLY LOST $361 Million in 2012 – it’s best year since 1975. Given the relative success, or lack thereof, of the Amtrak system, why would high speed rail be a priority? Will it suddenly become profitable (or at least break even)?

  At minimum, I agree with Hanson in that Amtrak should be required to submit a legitimate business plan to Congress showing how it will be in the black – even with federal funding.

Listen to my interview with Daniel Hanson discussing Amtrak and its financial comparison to the Interstate system. (From my local radio program)

  The President’s call to action on infrastructure improvements with no specific funding mechanism, the upcoming sequestor with no solution in sight, and the failed Amtrak program, highlights the need for the American citizenry to demand real leadership both in Congress and in the White House.

Increasing Fuel Taxes

My latest column for Challenge Magazine discusses state and federal fuel taxes.  While it is apparent there will be an increase in some form of fuel tax, especially at the state level, it’s currently unclear as to what that impact will be on the trucking industry.

In my column, I write, “From my perspective, it’s far easier to accept tax increases from state governments than the federal government.”  And, “Hopefully this will result in improved highway infrastructure, but unfortunately it will also likely result in increased costs to consumers – even those consumers the president has promised not to raise taxes on.”  I also reflect upon Congressman Tom Graves fuel tax devolution proposal from the last Congress – perhaps its time to take a closer look at that.

Click Here to Read the full article here at Challenge Magazine.


Red Eye Radio

Prior to the holidays I had the opportunity to visit with Eric Harley and Gary McNamara, hosts of Red Eye Radio.  This, in my opinion, is one of the best talk radio programs on the air – even for those not in the trucking industry.

Red Eye RadioRead my feature story on Red Eye Radio in the February 2013 edition of Truckers Connection by clicking here.

On a side note, I have written frequently for Truckers Connection in the past, but have not done so for several years.  It is great to be back in this high quality magazine – it was one of the first print publications I had ever written for.


Canada’s Pipeline Controversy

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project appears to offer an impressive upside for the Canadian trucking industry and North America’s energy and economic future.  However, not unlike the Keystone XL Pipeline Project controversy I addressed last week (calling on President Obama and his Administration to approve it), Canada is also experiencing it’s own share of pipeline controversy.

Click here to read my feature about the project in the February 2013 Western Trucking News, a Canadian trucking industry publication from Woodward Publishing.

Kitimat Terminal



On a personal note, I’m honored to have this new opportunity to contribute to Western Trucking News.

Truckers and Guns

  The gun control issue has really heated up in Washington as of late (be sure to scroll down for my interview with NRA President David Keene).  And, as I wrote in my January 2013 Layover.com column, it will continue to be a topic of discussion:

  “Over the course of the next several months the President, Congress, and special interest groups will continue to debate how to best address the issues related to gun violence. The elevation of this issue to primacy has also raised questions in the trucking industry as many truckers wonder if they are allowed to carry a gun while operating a commercial motor vehicle.”

  Click here to read my entire Layover.com column “Can Truckers Carry a Gun”, which includes a discussion of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Part I, Chapter 44, Section 926A (18 USC Sec. 926A).  This actually allows for the transport of a gun across state lines, yet it’s not quite that simple and in fact can become rather complex for OTR drivers.  If nothing else, do your research!

  On a side note, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview David Keene, President of the National Rifleman’s Association, back in October 2012 for my local radio program “In the Booth.”  Though some of it is specific to the 2012 election, including some of the more local races, much of what he says is quite prophetic regarding President Obama and his intentions on gun control.  I share that audio here:  NRA President David Keene