Transportation News for August 12, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 12, 2015
  • Senate – bill introduced re multimodal network — Senator Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bill (S. 2008) to enhance transportation programs in order to achieve an interconnected transportation system which connects people to jobs, schools, and other essential services through a multimodal network, and for other purposes. Official text of the bill is not yet available, but Senator Merkley issued a press release explaining the measure.
  • Sacramento Bee: California leaders try to fix freight system, once again — Last month, just as he departed for a Vatican conference on climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order calling on state agencies to devise by next July an integrated action plan “to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.”


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/12/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES. with help from Lauren Gardner and Heather Caygle

SENATE COMMERCE SETS SIGHTS ON FAA OVERHAUL, LONG-TERM HIGHWAY BILL: Even touting a 178 percent increase in “likes” on Facebook this year, the Senate Commerce Committee is out with a self-praising, midyear report card this week that runs through all of the panel’s legislative accomplishments and sets goals for work to come. Among the nine items listed as “work ahead,” the panel highlights FAA overhaul as an aspiration, noting that “while a short-term extension is possible, the committee will focus on a long-term reauthorization.” The report also mentions pressing forward with legislative efforts to address the “systemic problems” that “still plague TSA,” working with House lawmakers to come to agreement on a multi-year transportation funding plan and passing the latest Coast Guard reauthorization.
The rundown of accomplishments of course cites approval of the committee’s passenger rail measure, its safety title to the transportation bill and the surface transportation plan the Senate passed in June. But the panel is also touting its work on measures like airport security legislation, a bill aimed at protecting drivers’ privacy and a slew of maritime commerce proposals. Check it out:

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“Armored cars like Berettas, flags on the antennas, designed to keep me safe.”

NTSB FATIGUE FINDING FUELS TRUCK SAFETY DEBATE: Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pointing to the NTSB’s latest trucker fatigue finding in renewing his calls for Congress to restore rest rules and to nix language in the Senate’s multiyear transportation bill that would allow drivers as young as 18 to take the wheel of big rigs. The safety board stated Tuesday during an investigative hearing that the truck driver in the 2014 crash that killed Tracy Morgan’s friend and seriously injured the comedian hadn’t slept for more than 28 hours and was fatigued when his vehicle plowed into the limo van on the New Jersey Turnpike. “Today’s meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board underscores a sad and tragic fact we already know: a tired trucker is a dangerous driver, capable of turning a big rig into a killing machine,” Blumenthal said.

Degraded performance: Our Kathryn A. Wolfe reports ( that the NTSB found that “in addition to having been on duty for 13 hours of a 14-hour shift, the Georgia-based driver had driven 12 hours overnight to his job in Delaware before starting his shift. The driver’s overnight commute caused him to miss a sleep cycle, which degraded his performance and caused him not to slow adequately or notice the slowed traffic ahead of him until it was too late to avoid. … NTSB is reiterating its recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require commercial carriers to have a Fatigue Management Program, which, among other items, would address employees’ off-duty sleep habits. Many carriers have adopted FMPs voluntarily, but Wal-Mart is not one of them, NTSB said.”

A mother’s take: Daphne Izer, whose son was killed more than two decades ago when a Wal-Mart truck driver struck his vehicle, released a statement on Tuesday saying she is “saddened that despite years of advocating to prevent overworked and overtired truckers from jeopardizing public safety on our roads, the economic interests of the trucking industry have prevailed.” Izer, who is also founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, criticized congressional efforts to scale back rules on how many hours truck drivers can work. “There are several ways in which elected officials could end driver fatigue, but our legislators continue to ignore the problem.”

Bus connection: Union officials drew a parallel Tuesday between the fatigue finding and exhaustion among intercity bus drivers, who are exempt from federal overtime restrictions. “The pressures compelling drowsy truck drivers like this one to skip their rest stops to make the company’s tight delivery schedules is similar to what’s happening in the tour bus industry,” Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley said in a written statement. “Bus drivers earning low wages for unscrupulous operators are being forced to work second jobs to make ends meet, creating a situation in which many drivers are climbing into the driver’s seat sleep deprived.”

FLYER GRIPES ON THE RISE: If it seems like air travelers are growing increasingly disgruntled, it’s because they are — or at least they’re filing more official complaints with the federal government. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported ( this week that DOT logged 20 percent more complaints about airline service in the first six months of this year. The roughly 9,500 grievances included submissions about discrimination, customer service and animal transport issues. But our Kathryn A. Wolfe reports that “complaints about flight problems — missed connections, delays and cancellations — remained the leading category, and also was up the most in terms of sheer number of complaints.”

A TINY CYBER VULNERABILITY POSES BIG RISK TO AUTO INDUSTRY: It’s probably a lot easier to hack vehicles than the sophisticated demo last month on hijacking a Jeep. Just think of all those wifi-connected gizmos that get plugged into cars, Andy Greenbeg writes for Wired. A group of university researchers from California has revealed how they could hack into thousands of vehicles through devices designed to be plugged into dashboards and used by insurance firms and trucking fleets to monitor vehicles’ location, speed and efficiency. Wired reports: “By sending carefully crafted SMS messages to one of those cheap dongles connected to the dashboard of a Corvette, the researchers were able to transmit commands to the car’s CAN bus — the internal network that controls its physical driving components — turning on the Corvette’s windshield wipers and even enabling or disabling its brakes.” More:

CHAMBER SAYS OZONE RULES THREATEN TRANSPO CASH OPPORTUNITITES: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released the second report ( in a series Tuesday on the potential for regions to lose federal highway funding if they can’t comply with a stricter ozone standard. The EPA must finalize a new ozone rule by Oct. 1, and regulators have proposed lowering the 75 parts per billion standard to a 65 ppb to 70 ppb range. The latest report focuses on the Las Vegas metro area, highlighting concerns among industry groups that areas of the west that are experiencing booming population and economic growth — and already have high levels of background ozone unrelated to human-caused pollution — could see their federal transportation dollars frozen if they can’t meet more stringent standards. However, sanctions haven’t been widely wielded by the EPA.


— Police search Uber offices in Hong Kong and arrest five drivers. Reuters:

— Not a happy hour: Beer truck overturns, dumps cans on highway. AP:

— How old people became the future of the U.S. auto industry. Bloomberg Business:

— U.S. airline accident rate remained near record low last year. The Wall Street Journal:

— Dutch prosecutors claim to have uncovered evidence confirming a missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. AP:

— Safety advocates funnel grants to state grade crossing ad campaigns. Pro:

— Emirates Airline rejects Delta’s criticism of overcapacity on Dubai-U.S. routes. Reuters:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 79 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 51 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 457 days.