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NATSO advocates take truckstop, travel plaza message to Capitol Hill

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Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., center left, with NATSO Board Member Robin Puthusseril, vice president and owner of Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza, left, David Fialkov, NATSO vice president, government affairs, and Tom Kirby, right, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores' manager of government Affairs. (Courtesy: NATSO)/CHARLIE ARCHAMBAULT)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NATSO, the national association representing the truckstop and travel plaza industry, this week brought more than 65 truckstop and travel plaza owners and operators from across the country to Capitol Hill as part of its annual advocacy event.

Participants traveling to Washington represented locations that span 49 states and nearly every community in America.

Collectively, they held more than 125 meetings with members of Congress and their staff to advocate for the policy needs of the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

“Truckstops and travel centers are the bedrock of many communities across the United States,” said NATSO Chairman Bob Wollenman, managing partner of Deluxe Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Missouri. “It’s important that our elected officials understand the vital role that our industry plays as an employer and a taxpayer in communities throughout the country.”

This year, NATSO members are urged Congress to seek long-term, sustainable solutions to infrastructure funding and reject funding proposals that would harm off-highway businesses, communities and the traveling public.

Rex Davis, left, president of Melvin L. Davis Oil, speaks with Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va. (Courtesy: NATSO/CHARLIE ARCHAMBAULT)

Specifically, NATSO supports increasing the motor fuels taxes, which haven’t been increased in more than 25 years, as a means of increasing critical infrastructure revenues.

NATSO opposes short-sighted proposals such as tolling existing interstates and commercializing rest areas.

“If Congress fails to act in the coming months, yet another year — possibly longer — will pass without our nation’s lawmakers addressing our real and present infrastructure funding problems,” said Ernie Brame, chairman of NATSO’s Government Affairs Committee and General Manager of Kenly 95 Truckstop in Kenly, N.C. “Advancing infrastructure policy in 2019 is imperative.”

Beyond sustainable, long-term infrastructure funding, advocates are asking elected officials to extend the biodiesel tax credit, which expired at the end of 2016.

The $1 per gallon biodiesel blenders’ tax credit has helped fuel retailers sell biodiesel at a price that is cost-competitive with diesel since 2005, thereby incentivizing consumer consumption.

Furthermore, NATSO said biodiesel helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every gallon of biodiesel that displaces a gallon of petroleum-based diesel represents at least a 50 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the Capitol Hill visits, participants were joined by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who delivered a breakfast address to the assembled group.

Founded in 1960, NATSO represents the industry on legislative and regulatory matters, serves as the official source of information on the diverse travel plaza and truckstop industry, provides education to its members, conducts an annual convention and trade show and supports efforts to generally improve the business climate in which its members operate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Report says raising fuel tax won’t adequately, fairly pay for future road needs

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A Competitive Enterprise Institute report on highway funding suggests that states be given increased procurement and operating flexibility by eliminating federal restrictions on tolling state-owned Interstate Highway System segments. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — Raising the federal fuel tax won’t adequately and fairly pay for future roadway infrastructure needs, argues a new Competitive Enterprise Institute report released Tuesday.

“Our interstate highway system is crucial to promoting commerce and Americans’ quality of life, and lawmakers must decide how to direct $1 trillion in needed rehabilitation and enhancement of that system over the next two decades,” said Marc Scribner, CEI senior fellow and author of the report. “With rising vehicle fuel economy and declining fuel tax revenue per mile traveled, a new approach is needed to support roadway investments.”

The report also highlights the fact that motor fuel taxes are regressive, because lower-income Americans tend to drive older, less fuel-efficient vehicles and thus pay more to drive the same distances.

“Instead, Congress should eliminate barriers to state, local, and private investment, re-evaluate what transportation infrastructure projects truly merit federal support, and transition away from per-gallon taxation toward per-mile road usage fees,” Scribner said.

The report urges Congress and the administration to support crucial reforms for the next federal surface transportation reauthorization, also known as the highway bill. The current law is set to expire at the end of September 2020.

Specifically:

  • Reconsider federal priorities. Continue funding highway freight corridors — major roadways used by heavy trucks — but stop funding roadways that are used mostly by state and local residents not engaged in interstate commerce.
  • Change how roadways are funded. Instead of a federal fuel tax, switch to a system of mileage-based user fees whereby users are directly charged based on the distances (and perhaps weight of the vehicle) they drive.
  • Promote local self-help. Give states increased procurement and operating flexibility by eliminating federal restrictions on tolling state-owned Interstate Highway System segments.
  • Harness private investment. Empower states and localities to seek private partners by eliminating the $15 billion lifetime volume cap on private activity bonds used in surface transportation.
  • Remove red tape. Take a hard look at procurement, labor, and environmental rules, and eliminate the policies that drive up costs and create delays for no or trivial public benefit.

CEI recommendations are counter to the beliefs of the American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that an increase in the fuel tax is needed to sustain the Highway Trust Fund.

The report drew the immediate praise of Patrick D. Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, the worldwide association representing toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them.

“The CEI’s report calling on Congress to embrace alternative sources of transportation funding like tolling and a mileage-based user fee is a welcome addition to the growing chorus of voices speaking out in support of new ways to invest and fund our nation’s infrastructure,” Jones said. “The Highway Trust Fund is insolvent, and Congress continues to use billions of dollars in general purpose funds to keep it limping along.  The gas tax is unsustainable and continues to fall well short in paying for our roads, bridges and tunnels. Our underfunding and under investment in our nation’s infrastructure is showing in degraded roadways, deteriorating bridges on the 60-year-old interstate system and other highways across America. If we continue to do nothing, or do not properly invest in our infrastructure, the U.S. economy and drivers will continue to suffer, slipping further behind as a world leader.”

According to the organization’s website, CEI is a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty. CEI said its mission is to promote both freedom and fairness by making good policy good politics.

Deadline for top military vet rookie driver set June 25

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KIRKLAND, Wash. — As the June 25 deadline for nomination approaches, Kenworth, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes Program and FASTPORT will look to find America’s top rookie military veteran who is driving for a commercial fleet after retiring from the U.S. Armed Forces.

Under the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” recognition program, Kenworth will again provide the top award – a Kenworth T680 fully loaded with a 76-inch sleeper and the PACCAR Powertrain, which includes the PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission, and PACCAR 40K tandem rear axles.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for fleets to recognize and nominate veterans that have excelled in their transition to working in the trucking industry,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “A well-deserving veteran will receive the keys to a Kenworth T680 as America’s top rookie military veteran in the industry.”

The program is entering its fourth year of providing military veterans, now driving for a commercial fleet the opportunity to become an independent contractor.

To be eligible to win the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award, candidates must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Military veteran or current or former member of the Newsal Guard or Reserves.
  • Graduate of a PTDI-certified, NAPFTDS or CVTA member driver training school, and a current CDL holder.
  • Employed by any for-hire carrier or private fleet trucking company that has pledged to hire veterans through the Trucking Track Mentoring Program (https://truckingtrack.org).
  • First employed as a CDL driver in trucking between January 1, 2018 and June 25, 2019.
  • Legal resident of the continental United States.

Full criteria and online nomination forms can be found on the “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence” website (www.transitiontrucking.org).

An expert panel of judges will determine the top rookie based on criteria in the contest rules, including availability of loads, on time delivery, highway safety performance, customer relations, work record, military service record, and non-job related activities/community service.

The Hiring our Heroes program runs throughout the year, with hiring fairs slated at military bases, truck industry events, and at venues near military bases.

For more information, visit the websites of FASTPORT (www.fastport.com) and Hiring Our Heroes (www.uschamberfoundation.org/hiring-our-heroes).

Past Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award Winners: Where They Are Now

TROY DAVIDSON

2016 Winner: Troy Davidson

For Troy Davidson, the inaugural “Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award top military rookie driver in 2016, earning the honor has completely changed his life. Davidson, who was nominated by Werner Enterprises for the award, now has 350,000 miles under his belt in his truck. Davidson is currently leased on with Wenger Truck Lines.

“I’m having a great time. It’s incredible how many opportunities have opened up for me,” said Davidson, a former crew chief with the famed Blue Angels. “I’ve visited all the states in the continental U.S. I constantly meet people on the road who recognize me from the Transition Trucking program, which helps me build connections in the industry.”

2017 Winner: Gregg Softy

For Gregg Softy, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and the 2017 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award winner, life on the road has never been better. Since being nominated for the award by Stevens Transport, Softy continues to work with the company as an owner-operator. On average, Softy will tack on 10,000 to 12,000 miles a month.

Transitioning to life after the military can often be a difficult time for veterans as they seek out what to do in the next stage of life. After retiring from the military, Softy knew he wanted to pursue a career in the trucking industry, since he had experience operating heavy equipment.

“I have always been fascinated by heavy machinery. I thought becoming a truck driver would be a natural transition. Many veterans believe they can do well in the trucking industry. If you work hard, you can excel as a driver. Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the great support from my family, friends, and those I’ve met in the industry. I feel fortunate to have won the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award,” said Softy.

“I can’t speak highly enough about the support from Stevens Transport. Winning this award opened so many doors for me in my career. The people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made, as well as the financial opportunity I have working as an owner-operator, is something I only dreamed of when I first started in the industry. The Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence recognition program provides an incredible opportunity for us new drivers in the industry, as well as to share the stories of amazing veterans,” Softy said.

QUINTON WARD

2018 Winner: Quinton Ward

Quinton Ward, former U.S. Army mechanic, instructor, career counselor, and top military rookie driver in 2018, appreciates the opportunity the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence program offers veterans.

“Transitioning into any new career field can be difficult and for veterans coming out of the service, that challenge can be even greater,” said Ward. “Nominating military rookie drivers not only shows a company’s dedication to its service members, but it also allows those military rookies the opportunities to network within the industry.”

According to Ward, the truck he was awarded has tacked on more than 47,000 miles since he received the truck in December 2018. The truck operates under Werner Enterprises and is a part of the Operation Freedom fleet, which consists of nine military themed trucks, piloted by veterans – used to honor and recruit military members. Ward’s truck honors military service dogs with his special commemorative wrap.

“My service dog, Kirra really helped me in my recovery process after medically retiring from the military due to injury,” said Ward. “The truck is a big hit on the road. The Kenworth T680 garners a lot of attention from drivers at truck stops who like to take photos and chat about the meaning behind the service dog wrap.”

 

 

 

FMCSA seeks driver, carrier comments on delays loading, unloading

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Delays at shippers and receivers has long been a frustration for both drivers and carriers. Both groups have been asking the FMSCA to look into the matter. (FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration is seeking comments from carriers and driver on how much time is spent at shippers and receivers loading and unloading.

In a notice to published in the Federal Record Monday, the FMCSA said a number of studies have examined the issue of CMV driver delays in the loading and unloading process, and what their potential impact may be on roadway safety and the economy.

The agency noted that the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in its report “More Could Be Done to Determine Impact of Excessive Loading and Unloading Wait Times on Hours of Service Violations, recommended that “FMCSA examine the extent to which detention

time contributes to hours of service violations in its future studies on driver fatigue and detention time.”

In response to the GAO report, FMCSA sponsored a study among a sample of carriers which generated estimates of driver delay times.

Among the sampled carriers, the study found that drivers experienced detention time during approximately 10 percent of their stops for an average duration of 1.4 hours beyond a commonly accepted two-hour loading and unloading time.

Most recently, in a 2018 report titled “Estimates Show Commercial Driver Detention Increases Crash Risks and Costs, but Current Data Limit Further Analysis,” the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General recommended that FMCSA collaborate with industry stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze reliable, accurate, and representative data on the frequency and severity of driver detention.

“Although the above referenced studies estimated overall wait times, they were not able to separate normal loading and unloading times (e.g., the time it would usually take to load and unload a CMV under typical schedules) from detention time (delays in the start of the loading and unloading process which disrupt the driver’s available driving and/or on-duty time). This is a critical data gap in our understanding of the detention issue,” the FMCSA said.

Specifically, FMCSA requests information that addresses the following questions:

  • Are data currently available that can accurately record loading, unloading, and delay times?
  • Is there technology available that could record and delineate prompt loading and unloading times versus the extended delays sometimes experienced by drivers?
  • How can delay times be captured and recorded in a systematic, comparable manner?
  • Could systematic collection and publication of loading, unloading, and delay times be useful in driver or carrier business decisions and help to reduce loading, unloading, and delay times?
  • What should FMCSA use as an estimate of reasonable loading/unloading time? Please provide a basis for your response.
  • How do contract arrangements between carriers and shippers address acceptable wait times? Do these arrangements include penalties for delays attributable to a carrier or shipper?
  • What actions by FMCSA, within its current statutory authority, would help to reduce loading, unloading, and delay times?

To submit a comment online, go to , put the docket number, FMCSA-2019-0054, in the “Keyword” box, and click “Search.” When the new screen appears, click on the “Comment Now!” button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit.

 

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