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Government Passes New Transportation Highway Bill

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan committee in the U.S. Senate has unveiled a new six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that includes more than a quarter-trillion dollars in infrastructure investment and designated funding for freight corridors.

Shippers and transportation providers tired of uncertain highway funding and the congestion is ultimately causes would be wise to hold back on their applause, as the bill doesn’t outline how it will bankroll the spending.  That’s going to be up to the Senate’s commerce and banking panels.

Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee introduced the measure, known as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy or DRIVE Act, Tuesday. The latest measure calls for appropriating nearly $43 billion each year to the trust fund that maintains America’s roads and bridges, which has faced chronic shortfalls and required nearly 30 short-term extensions since 2009.

After Congress approved another short-term extension last month, the fund is now set to expire July 31.

The legislation now up for consideration would introduce a new grant system for projects of strategic or national significance, as well as place a new priority on the nation’s off-system bridges.

For many in the transportation sector, the bill also provides for a long overdue formula-based program for funding the nation’s freight corridors — something shippers and transportation providers have been pushing for years.

The bill includes a minimum annual investment of $2 billion in dedicated funding for freight infrastructure, as well as state-level freight planning for both public and private sector involvement. It also calls for the inclusion of all National Highway System freight intermodal connectors on the Primary Highway Freight Network.

“This bipartisan bill,” EPW Chairman and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement, “contains the hallmark accomplishment of a new freight program to prioritize federal spending on the facilities that will most directly benefit our economy, in addition to prioritizing federal dollars towards bridge safety and the interstate system.”

The DRIVE Act would provide roughly $260-270 billion over the next six years for highway projects across the U.S. That remains only rough a approximation, however, as the bill does not address funding, which is within the purview of the Senate Finance Committee and other commerce and banking panels.

The bill’s sponsors recognized their work was far from finished.

“In order to make the DRIVE Act a reality, we must provide full funding so that city, state and local governments have the certainty they need to make the investments we’ve outlined in this bill,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who helped sponsor the bill, said in a statement.

The DRIVE Act, however, remains an important first step, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., another one of the bill’s primary sponsors.

“The clock is ticking, and action in the EPW Committee is a major first step — the other committees also need to act,” Boxer said.

The next step? Finding some means of bankrolling the bill’s projects and programs.

Completing that step, however, has historically been a challenge for Congress.

For years, lawmakers have been wrestling with how to support the cash-strapped Highway Trust Fund. The fuel tax on gasoline and diesel continues to be the primary contributor to the fund. Fuel taxes, however, haven’t been raised since 1993 and Americans’ recent proclivity for driving fewer miles and operating more fuel-efficient cars has only contributed to the shortfall.

Today, the federal government typically spends about $50 billion each year on transportation projects, while the gas tax annually nets only $34 billion to cover those costs.

Neither Congress nor President Obama have endorsed raising the fuel tax.

Article courtesy of www.joc.com

Driver-less Trucks May be the Future

In a ceremony at Hoover Dam, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, what it says is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S.

The vehicle promises to reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and have less of an environmental impact than other trucks.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval affixed a license plate to the truck and took part in the ceremonial first drive.

In 2012, Nevada was the first state to approve a license for Google to test its autonomous car.
Driver-Less Truck License Plate

Freightliner Inspiration autonomous truck Nevada license (Daimler Trucks North America)

(Daimler Trucks North America)
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is not driverless. Its highway pilot technology links together cameras and radar with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates what is called a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions. The autonomous vehicle system is responsible for maintaining legal speed, staying in the selected lane, keeping a safe braking distance from other vehicles, and slowing or stopping the vehicle based on traffic and road conditions. The vehicle monitors changes in conditions that require transition back to driver control when necessary in highway settings. The driver is in control of the vehicle for exiting the highway, on local roads and in docking for making deliveries.

The driver is a key part of a collaborative vehicle system, according to Richard Howard, senior vice president, DTNA. “With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, drivers can optimize their time on the road while also handling other important logistical tasks, from scheduling to routing,” he said. “The autonomous vehicle technology not only contributes to improved safety and efficiency, but allows for improved communication through connectivity and integration.”

Freightliner Driver-less Truck

Other manufacturers are also developing vehicles that partially automate driving but do not eliminate drivers completely.

Also, while the DTNA exhibit is the first on roads in the U.S., Australia mining firms have been using driverless trucks for hauling at iron ore mines.

DTNA unveiled two trucks with this equipment.

Trucking industry analysts and media will be given the chance to ride in the two trucks on public roads near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Wednesday as the vehicle operates in autonomous mode.

Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

This article courtesy of InsuranceJournal.com. Original article can be found at: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2015/05/06/367055.htm

Safety & Compliance

Now four years old, the safety enforcement program known as Compliance, Safety, Accountability relies on almost nothing but numbers. And as numerous studies keep telling us — and as many trucking professionals already know — those numbers are not always reliable.

At the top of the list are your CSA scores, perhaps flawed but visible to the world and used to decide if the DOT needs to pay you a visit, or at least send you a letter.

Pull the curtain on those scores and you can find a mass of interesting and (arguably) more reliable data: the raw numbers coming in from enforcement personnel on the front lines.

Besides giving insight into your CSA scores, the enforcement data can reveal important clues about your drivers and overall safety management. It can tell you where to focus your compliance efforts.

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What You Should Know About the DOT New Entrant Safety Audit

New entrants looking to conduct interstate operations within the United States need to pass a safety audit before being legally registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

What does the audit consist of?

The safety audit will consist of a review of the carrier’s safety management system. The areas of review include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Driver qualifications
  • Accident register
  • Driver record of duty status
  • Controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Hazardous materials

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The Plight of the New Entrant

mcsap2Every entity or person who has a dream of being in heaven as they drive an eighteen wheel truck across the country with a trailer full of commodities must first pass through a little hell. The life of a “New Entrant” begins simply with a desire to work for yourself instead of somebody else but like everything else in life the learning process can be a hard road to travel.

So you wake up one morning and decide that what you need is your own operating authority. You diligently fill out your MCS-150 (DOT Number application) and OP-1 (Motor Carrier Authority). You push the enter key filled with excitement at the prospect of your new adventure and before your back can hit the chair your phone rings. The journey begins.

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A Little Note on Fuel Economy

Fuel EconomyThe low-hanging fruit when it comes to fuel economy has all been picked. Now truck and engine makers are examining every part and component of the truck in exacting detail to figure out where they can cut the smallest amount of drag or the small parasitic loss of power that drag down fuel economy. Here are two examples used on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution:

No Antenna Drag
Bulky cab and roof antennas will no longer cause air resistance in the new generation of Freightliner trucks, while making it impossible to damage the antennas during operation.

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Jason’s Law

Recently out on the road I passed a truck with a sign posted on his truck that read, “I support Jason’s Law.” Working so close to the trucking industry, I was a little embarrassed that I was not familiar with this law. A quick Google search informed me that “Jason’s Law” is and initiative to provide increased safety for our hard working truck drivers while out on the road. The bill was passed by the Senate on March 13, 2012 by a 74 to 22 vote.

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