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Under plan, DOT would see duties deleted, added to porfolio

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WASHINGTON — As part of the 132-page reorganization plan proposed by the Office of Management and Budget to reorganize the federal government’s structure, the Department of Transportation would undergo a series of changes that would see duties added as well as deleted from its portfolio, according to an article in the Journal of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

First, Army Corps of Engineer commercial navigation functions would move to USDOT, while all of the other activities of the Corps – including flood and storm damage reduction, aquatic ecosystem restoration, hydropower, regulatory, and other duties – would shift to the Department of the Interior.

“Transferring Corps navigation programs to USDOT would consolidate responsibility across all transportation modes within a single federal agency, thereby encouraging consistent federal policy in the transportation sector,” OMB said. “This consolidation would leverage USDOT’s expertise in infrastructure, and make its maritime responsibilities analogous to its role in other transportation sectors. In the maritime sector, USDOT’s mission would expand to helping States and non-Federal partners make infrastructure investment decisions.”

Second, federal responsibility for the air traffic control system would be spun-off to a “non-profit entity” as would control of the Saint Lawrence Seaway – two areas where OMB said there is “significant misalignment” in USDOT duties.

“Both of those components could be spun off from the government, which would allow them to have better structures and insolation from the political system, and allow them to better assess fees based on actual usage of their systems,” OMB said in its report. “Spinning FAA air traffic control services out of the government to a non-profit entity, similar to the Canadian system, has strong policy merits, evidenced by the approximately 60 countries that have shifted air traffic control responsibilities to non-governmental providers.”

Third, two security-related surface transportation functions would be transferred from the Department of Homeland Security to USDOT.

As a result, transit security grants currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) surface transportation inspection and guidance activities would come under USDOT oversight.

Fourth, a “re-examination” of programmatic responsibilities tucked into the Officer of the Secretary of Transportation – such as the Build America Bureau, which, among other responsibilities, administers transportation credit programs, awards INFRA grants, allocates private activity bonds, and communicates best practices and funding opportunities to project sponsors, as well as the BUILD grant program – could result in a shift to “alternative” governance structures.

Fifth, to better support the USDOT’s operating administrations or “OAs,” offices and positions would be consolidated in areas such as research and development.

Finally, USDOT workforce development grants would be transferred to the new Department of Education and the Workforce to “centralize workforce development policy and to deliver more efficient and effective outcomes,” OMB said.

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Mexican officials uncover smuggling ring using truck disguised as freight companies

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Some trucks used in the smuggling ring had air conditioning units, but didn't use them when carrying migrants. (FOTOSEARCH)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials said Monday they have uncovered an industrial-scale migrant smuggling ring using tractor-trailer rigs disguised as freight deliveries for major companies.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities found a tractor-trailer disguised with the logo of a major grocery store chain. But instead of groceries, it was carrying about 150 migrants.

‘The (grocery) company has filed a complaint, because it was fake, it was camouflage to transport migrants,” Lopez Obrador said.

In June, Mexico detected five freight trucks carrying 925 migrants, almost all from Central America. Some of those trucks bore the logos of well-known firms, though it was not clear if those trucks were also fakes or had been used illegally by drivers without the companies’ knowledge.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that four or five of the freight trucks found in June belonged to the same independent trucking company, based in central Mexico.

Ebrard said the company operated trucks equipped with air conditioning units, but didn’t turn on the ventilation when carrying migrants.

That led officials to believe it was just a matter of time before migrants would die aboard the overcrowded vehicles.

“The biggest concern is that there is going to be a tragedy, that is what we don’t want,” said Lopez Obrador.

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3 Estes Express employees steal $23,000 worth of water heaters

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff’s Department says they have arrested three employees of a delivery company, after discovering $23,000 worth of stolen inventory in one of their homes.

Officials became suspicious when some retail stores reported that not all of the products supposedly being shipped from Home Depot’s West Columbia distribution center were reaching their final destination.

An investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and officials from Home Depot and Estes Express Line led authorities to get a search warrant for the home of Cody Bessinger. That is when they found more than $23,000 worth of stolen water heaters that Bessinger and two other thieves reportedly accumulated over one years time.

Authorities arrested Bessinger, along with Joe Gunter and Chris Shumpert, who were both managerial employees for Estes Express Line.

This begs the question…”why water heaters”?

Could it be that besides working for Estes Express Line, these guys had a clandestine plumbing operation on the side?

You might even say these three men are in hot water.

 

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FMCSA seeks comments on definitions of agri, livestock commodities in HOS rules

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The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the Hours of Service rule. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)  

WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Monday said it is seeking public comment on revising agricultural commodity or livestock definitions in Hours of Service regulations.

The agency said it worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this effort to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.

The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the HOS rule.

“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation and we look forward to receiving input that will help clarify these definitions, improve safety and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“The current regulations impose restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chao on revising these regulations.”

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source.

The advanced rule (ANPRM) authored by FMCSA was prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.

“FMCSA has worked closely with the agriculture industry and USDA in crafting this advanced notice. We have heard concerns from the industry, and we are acting,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.  “We encourage all CMV stakeholders, especially those involved in transporting agricultural commodities and livestock, to provide valuable feedback on how the current definitions impact safety, compliance, and enforcement.”

FMCSA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate confusion and align the agencies’ agricultural commodity definitions.

The American agriculture industry contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy.

The FMCSA said in a news release that the Trump administration has been working to strengthen the agriculture industry by streamlining regulations, bolstering farm programs, and renegotiating the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to improve access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

Additional information on the ANPRM, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers-definition-agricultural-commodity.

In June 2018, FMCSA announced regulatory guidance for transportation of agricultural commodities. Learn more at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/regulatory-guidance-concerning-transportation-agricultural-commodities.

 

 

 

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