Transportation News for June 22, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on June 22, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 6/22/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Kathryn A. Wolfe

SENATE SET TO CONFIRM TSA HEAD TONIGHT: Senators vote this evening on confirmation of the Obama administration’s nominee to run the TSA, likely tallying overwhelming support for promoting Adm. Peter Neffenger from the post of Coast Guard deputy commandant to TSA administrator. From here on out, life will surely be harder for Neffenger, who is taking on the largely thankless mission of trying to make the unpopular agency more effective following news that screeners failed more than 95 percent of the time to detect covert threats. And with lawmakers antsy for quick results, his honeymoon with the legislative branch may be short-lived.
THIS WEEK: Tax writers on both sides of the Capitol are publicly deliberating again this week over how to pay for the Highway Trust Fund for years to come. House Ways and Means lawmakers meet Tuesday to talk about whether repatriation is doable, and Senate Finance continues a general discussion about possible revenue sources on Thursday. Although Congress’ tax gurus haven’t come to agreement yet on a funding option, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to proceed Wednesday with a markup of its multiyear transportation investment vision.

Today — Out in northwestern Illinois, Rep. Cheri Bustos holds a meeting this morning with BNSF Railway to talk about response to the fiery March derailment there of a train carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota. Aviation industry experts and transportation reporters speak at a briefing in D.C. about FAA reauthorization Senators cast roll call votes at 5:30 p.m. on the Neffenger nomination.

IT’S MONDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

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Tuesday — Senate appropriators mark up their fiscal 2016 THUD bill in subcommittee: NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind and DOT’s inspector general testify before Senate Commerce about the Takata airbag recall and the agency’s vehicle safety work:

The NTSB holds an investigative hearing on Metro’s January smoke incident, focusing on emergency response efforts, WMATA’s work to improve its overall safety culture, the state of Metro infrastructure, the FTA’s rulemaking on public transportation safety and oversight responsibilities of the Tri-State Oversight Committee: Nextgov hosts a discussion on the role of chief data officers, with words from DOT’s chief, Dan Morgan:

Wednesday — The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plans to mark up its multiyear highway and transit bill. House Ways and Means lawmakers host a hearing on using repatriation to fill the Highway Trust Fund: The House T&I subcommittee that oversees railroads presses FRA acting administrator Sarah Feinberg and the head of the FCC’s wireless telecomm bureau about positive train control implementation, with testimony from leaders in the commuter and freight rail industries as well.

The NTSB investigators meet for a second day to talk about the Metro smoke emergency at L’Enfent station this year:

Thursday — The Senate Finance Committee meets again to talk over options for keeping the Highway Trust Fund afloat over the long haul, holding a hearing with testimony from the president of Purdue University and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation: A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on vehicle-to-vehicle communications:

The Air Line Pilots Association hosts a conference in Arlington to talk about ways to attract and retain pilots:

WATCH THE HIGHWAY TRUST FUND WANE: Beginning to count down to the day the Highway Trust Fund’s balance will be too low to make payouts, DOT just brought back its transportation funding ticker: The tracker predicts the account falling below $4 billion toward the end of July and below $2 billion around the end of August, with less than $1 billion in the mass transit account as lawmakers wrap up August recess.

INITIAL PAIN, LONG-TERM GAIN, UNDER TRUCK FUEL RULES: The Obama administration says its impending rules for truck fuel efficiency will cost the country a lot up front but will end up amounting to a nearly tenfold savings on that investment. Pro’s Eric Wolff explains that “Complying with the new truck and heavy-duty vehicle rule will cost $26.1 billion, but fuel savings and other benefits will net the U.S. economy $242 billion over the lifetime of truck model years 2018 through 2029, according to a draft regulatory impact analysis produced by EPA and the Department of Transportation. Those figures work out to an annual cost of $1.4 billion, counterbalanced by $8.7 billion a year in fuel savings and $4.9 billion a year in other benefits.” More from Pro: A refresher on the proposed rules laid out Friday:

Savings and flexibility: On a conference call on Friday, NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind highlighted the opportunity for truck owners to recoup their investment. “After that, it’s money in their pocket,” he said. “These savings bring down the cost of transporting goods, consumers pocketbooks also benefit.” And the EPA’s acting head of the Office of Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, emphasized the fact that the new standards would allow operators options for meeting the fuel reduction standards. “Everybody will have lots of choice,” she said. “There are multiple pathways to get to these performance standards.”

INHOFE CALLS FOR CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW OF TRUCK REGULATIONS: Congress’ most famous global warming sceptic, Senate EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe, says the Obama administration’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy program is just another way for the president to “solidify his legacy on climate change by imposing unreasonable red tape that will hurt America’s long-term economic potential and global competitiveness.” Pro’s Darren Goode reports that Inhofe says the administration’s impending fuel regulations for trucks are “excessive” and “more of the same.” The chairman called in a written statement last week for Congress to look into the program, saying that “there are many inequalities built into the program that warrant review, and this latest announcement is another excessive rule that adds layers onto similar EPA mandates that are already in place.”

Industry wariness: The top trade group for commercial trucks is prefacing its support for the proposed rule change, warning that truck and engine manufacturers will need enough time to come up with ways to comply. Glen Kedzie, the American Trucking Associations vice president, said the proposal “could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable.”

IG EXPECTED TO REPORT ON NHTSA FAILURES IN GM INVESTIGATION: DOT’s inspector general is getting ready to release a report confirming what NHTSA officials have already largely confessed: that the agency missed major signs that GM ignition switches were faulty and didn’t have the knowhow to correctly size up the situation. The New York Times first wrote about the impending IG’s report on Friday, reporting that “the inspector general made 17 recommendations for the safety agency. Among those were to improve methods to assess injury and death claims reported by manufacturers. It also recommended improving staff training, developing a quality control process to ensure that consumer complaints are thoroughly reviewed and updating procedures for identifying and documenting safety defect trends. The report also urged the agency to streamline how it opens investigations into potential safety concerns.”

OPEN SKIES FOES FACE OFF OVER COMPETITION REPORT: In the back-and-forth of the Open Skies debate, the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies is bashing the U.S. Travel Association’s efforts to tout a report ( on the competitiveness of Gulf airlines. The “so-called ‘report’ shows just how desperate” U.S. Travel is “to hide the fact that the Gulf carriers are undermining fair competition and negatively impacting U.S. airlines and American jobs,” the partnership’s chief spokesperson, Jill Zuckman, said in a statement to MT. “The facts show that the Gulf carriers are not stimulating travel or spending and aren’t creating U.S. jobs … The Gulf carriers are using their subsidized capacity to grow their networks at the expense of the American aviation industry and at the cost of good-paying American jobs.”

EIGHTH DEATH LINKED TO TAKATA AIRBAGS: Federal investigators have concluded that another faulty Takata airbag was likely involved in a deadly crash in Los Angeles last summer, bringing the tally to eight fatalities linked to the airbags. The 26-year-old who died last summer in California was driving a rental car at the time of her crash, and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement on Friday that “the fact that this was a rental vehicle that had not been remedied is more evidence for why we are seeking authority to prohibit sale or rental of any vehicle with an open safety recall.”

MT MAILBAG: Dozens of trucking and transport groups wrote to Senate EPW members ahead of the panel’s markup this week of a multiyear transportation bill, asking the committee to craft language that would prevent tolling of existing interstates. The letter:

MOVING ON UP: Jeremy Latimer has been promoted to the position of Rail Transportation Programs Administrator at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Before this jump, Latimer managed the state’s Intercity Passenger Operating and Capital Fund Program, the Shortline Railroad Preservation Program and the Rail Industrial Access Program.


— Airline web services near a big upgrade. The Wall Street Journal:

— Study finds that Twitter posts about TSA are mostly negative. LA Times:

— NY lawmakers set penalty for improper subway touching. AP:

— Ad woman behind Ford’s Mustang defies gender bias before cannes. Bloomberg Business:

— D.C.’s new identity? A hub for transportation innovation. The Washington Post:

— Polish airline cancels flights after hacker attack. AP:

— Captain once more? Tom Hanks circles Sully biopic. LA Times:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 40 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 101 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 507 days.