Random Tolling

How do you pay for a bridge that was constructed before funding was secured?  You toll an entirely different road of course!

The 520 bridge in the Seattle area is just this project.  One plan to pay for the bridge, which also has experienced $100 million in engineering snafu’s, is to toll Interstate 90 to help pay for the $1.4 billion shortfall.

This proposal, and how we arrived at this point, is just too outlandish to write about…..so why not listen….

Learn more about this “fundamentally flawed” proposal, as well as other disturbing and related issues with this project by listening to my interview with Paul Guppy, VP of Research for the Washington Policy Center (originally aired on my local radio program, In The Booth).

Click Here to Listen: Bad Tolling Plan

I’ve long been an opponent of toll roads in most cases.  Proponents of toll roads generally argue tolls are nothing more than a “user fee,” while I argue the gas tax is that “user fee” – unfortunately states and the federal government generally don’t use the gas tax entirely for what I believe it’s intended purpose is, to fund highways.  This proposal, however, takes the idea of tolling to an entirely new disturbing level.

Driver Shortage In Canada?

Driver Training at Saferway
Driver Training at Saferway Driver Training School in British Columbia, Photo Courtesy of Randy Eckert

In the US we have heard for years about the driver shortage.  But, what about in Canada – are they experiencing the same issues?  That’s the topic of one of my latest columns for Western Trucking News.

Is the story really in different on either side of the border?

Article Highlights:

    • A new report (February 2013)  by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) suggests that due to aging in the driver workforce and a growing demand from trucking services, “the for hire trucking industry can expect to face a driver supply and demand gap of nearly 25,000 drivers by 2020 in a business-as-usual scenario.” But, it could become worse if labor productivity is lower in future years.
    • A 2012 report by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage identified truck drivers as the most important asset of the industry and that respect would go a long way in helping with recruitment and tenure.
    • Randy Eckert, President of Saferway Driver Training School in British Columbia says the demand for new truck drivers is palpable.
    • Eckert suggests that the standards are too low, the testing at the Drivers Service Centers is too low, and the training standards are too low.
    • North America has known of the driver shortage problem for many years, yet it is as if the governments have had their heads shoved in the sand

READ THE FULL ARTICLE BY CLICKING HERE


Hours of Service Questions

It’s fascinating how the new US Hours of Service rules are impacting drivers across North America.  Quite frankly, there is significant concern about the financial impact to drivers of the new rule.  And, that concern is not just relegated to American drivers.  Interestingly, that’s the topic of my latest column in Canada’s Western Trucking News, where I try to get some clarification.

US DOT
US DOT Headquarters

Read the column, which includes commentary from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and an expert in DOT rules, Chett Winchell of Your Compliance Center.

 

 

 

 


Long Term Highway Funding, Step 1

Congressman Tom Petri

The first step toward authorizing a long term highway funding bill takes place Thursday, March 14.  The Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, under Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) will hold a hearing on the implementation of reforms and requirements including in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

Petri told me this hearing will lay the foundation for a series of hearings over the next year or so that he hopes will lead to a “real highway program reauthorization before the Congress is over.”

When asked what he meant by “real highway authorization” Petri told me, “A 6 year one that is adequately funded.”  He suggested adequate long term funding is needed to ensure the country has a first rate infrastructure.

Click Here To Listen to my brief conversation with Congressman Petri.

MAP-21 is the current surface transportation law, which was enacted last July and expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2014 (September 30, 2014).

“Ensuring that the Department of Transportation is making progress in implementing MAP-21 provisions, and preparing for the next surface transportation reauthorization are both priorities for the Committee and Subcommittee this Congress,” Petri said in a prepared statement.  “I look forward to hearing from the Department on its efforts to implement major reforms, such as project delivery and program consolidation required by MAP-21.”

Scheduled to appear are:

  • Victor M. Mendez, Administrator, Federal Highway Administration
  • Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration
  • Anne S. Ferro, Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • David L. Strickland, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Additional information, testimony, and live webcast link will be posted here as it becomes available.

Diesel Price Outlook

My latest article in Canada’s Western Trucking News (March 2013) addresses the outlook for diesel prices.




The good news – barring any major global events affecting oil supply, diesel prices should remain fairly steady with only moderate increases over time.  There are some indications diesel fuel prices could even decrease in the short term (though I would not hold my breath for that to happen).

Read the column by clicking here.

 

 

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