HOS Impacts Both US and Canada

The US’ new Hours of Service rules for truck drivers went into full effect on July 1, 2013, and there are very real implications for drivers on both sides of the border (US / Canada).

CLICK HERE to read the full story in the July/Aug 2013 Edition of Desi Trucking Magazine.

 

Special thanks to Chett Winchell of C.W. Enterprises for his commentary on this topic.

 


Interestingly, the article is also translated into Punjabi:

Earth Day – Environmental Con

Michael Howe Hosts "In the Booth"Today is Earth Day, a day celebrated by environmentalists since 1970 in hopes of creating greater awareness of environmental issues. The trucking industry has long been a target of environmentalists, whether it is emissions, fuel efficiency, tire disposal, or for other reasons.

The Federal Highway Administration even has a web page devoted to outlining the vast number of environmental regulations affecting transportation that is worth checking out.
While no one in the trucking industry is an anti-environment, there are many who question the extremes to which regulators and legislators go. With every new environmental regulation costs go up for those in the industry. Are these regulations and costs always necessary?

The answer is NO! Interestingly, there is evidence that many environmental regulations are the product of pressure to appear environmental, not actual science. Some legislators and regulators even know certain policies are ineffective or worse yet, bad for the environment.

Click Here to Listen to what Todd Myers, Director of Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment, had to say about Earth Day and current environmental policy. He was a guest on my local radio program this past weekend.

Driving With Tax Freedom

Tax Freedom Day

How sad is it that we have to work nearly 1/3 of the year just to fund the government?  And, this year the date of April 18 is 5 days later than it was last year.  Things don’t look better for next year either, especially with Obama Care fully kicking in.

I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Elizabeth Malm, Economist with the Center for State Tax Policy at the Tax Foundation on my local radio program about Tax Freedom Day and what it really means. Listen by Clicking Here.

Nonetheless, Tax Freedom Day has come and gone, so as you drive down the road the remainder of this year you can now rest easy because you are finally driving for yourself and not the government.


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.


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

 

Keystone XL – Approve It!

Keystone Oil Pipeline Contruction - North Dakota; Copyright © TransCanada Corporation. All rights reserved.

The TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Project had been the source of much controversy during President Obama’s first term.  Opposed by environmental groups, touted by the energy industry, the debate is endless.  The Governor of Nebraska had to address to pressures from environmental interest groups in 2011 and ultimately denied a pipeline siting permit for the project that stalled the remainder of the planning.

Beyond state siting issues, the US State Department must also issue a Presidential Permit for the project (because it crosses international borders).  The President has enjoyed the cover of the state of Nebraska’s delay since 2011, but that delay is now over.  On January 22, 2013, Governor Dave Heineman gave approval for the pipeline’s siting through Nebraska.  The new path avoids the controversial “Sand Hills” area of Nebraska.

Read the Governor’s Approval Letter by clicking here.
Read TransCanada’s Statement on the Governor’s Approval by clicking here.


On the same day Gov. Heineman approved the pipeline, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked if we could expect the project to move forward now.  Carney largely avoided the answer, suggesting these things take time, and reminding folks that the Obama Administration blames the Nebraska Governor for the delay.  “One of the things that delayed or postponed this process had to do with the opposition of the Nebraska Governor and others in that state to the route that Keystone was proposed to take, the pipeline was proposed to take,” said Carney.  The “others” mentioned by Carney will likely oppose the pipeline regardless.

   If the President’s State of the Union is any indication, it’s unlikely he will move quickly on giving final approval for the pipeline.  The only comments related to energy security or independence in that address were directed at “green energy.”  “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise,” said Obama.

Read the President’s State of the Union Address by clicking here.

What the President and others in the Administration need to understand is that no matter how promising new energy technologies might be in the future, the United States and the globe are largely a carbon based society.  To do anything significantly different that would truly eliminate the need for carbon based energy will take much larger investments and infrastructure than most are willing to discuss.  That, in part, is why we need to continue to look at new energy technologies while still working to become more energy independent in the current reality.

  We need the Keystone XL Pipeline Project to be approved.  As such, I send kudos to my old friend, U.S. Senator John Barrasso and about 52 other Senators for sending a letter to President Obama encouraging him to “finish the review process and approve the Keystone XL pipeline by the Administration’s own March 2013 deadline.”

Read the text of the letter by clicking here.

  The letter concludes, “After four and a half years of stude, we urge you to stick to your deadlines.  The American people need a timely decision on the Presidential Permit.”

  I would argue that the American people not only need a timely decision, but they DESERVE a timely decision.  Far too often government delays important decisions in the name of appeasing certain interest groups.  Any delay in approving this project only hurts the American people.  The American people deserve the 5000-6000 temporary construction jobs; the American economy deserves the private sector investment of $20+ billion; states and communities along the pipeline route deserve the $585 million in new taxes; and the nation deserves strengthened energy security with the pipelines 1.1million barrels per day capacity (with contracts to support it).

Learn the facts by clicking here.

   Mr. President, approving the pipeline is good for America!


Marijuana Legal – Not for Drivers!

USDOT Reminds Drivers Marijuana is Still Illegal

It’s my hope that professional truck drivers really did not need a reminder that marijuana use is not permitted, but with Colorado and Washington voters making recreational use legal it was probably a good idea for the US Department of Transportation to remind drivers of just that.

So, because the November 2012 elections not only elected a President of the United States but also legalized recreational use of marijuana in two states the US DOT issued a clarifying statement about marijuana.

In that statement, issued January 24, 2013, the US DOT says, “We want to make it perfectly clear that the state initiatives will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program.”  In other words, marijuana – recreational or medical use – remains illegal.  The drug is still illegal on the federal level after all.

Read the text of the full notice here.

While Colorado and Washington were the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, despite the fact that the drug is still illegal at the federal level, other states and local governments are likely to follow suit.  This could be the beginning of a change in how the nation views marijuana, or it could be setting up quite the battle between governments (hang on to your hat federalism).

Regardless, truck drivers should make certain they understand the implications the new laws.

Learn more about FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Programs by clicking here.


Too Much Regulation?

My January 2013 ”Driving Through DC” Column in Challenge Magazine focuses the relief efforts that followed Hurricane Sandy.  Specifically, the federal government stepped in to help, in part, by waiving certain regulations that limited efficiency.  Though I applaud the federal government for recognizing the inefficiencies created by over-regulation, it also makes me wonder….

In the column I ask, “While it would be silly for anyone to argue the government should not be involved in an emergency relief effort, it does seem reasonable to question whether the regulations that were waived are perhaps too stringent as is. If they must be waived to create greater efficiency, why is it that efficiency is only important after a storm?”  Read the full article here.