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U.S. states’ drones inspect bridges, help predict avalanches

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This Jan. 16, 2019 photo taken by a Utah Highway Patrol drone shows a big rig that has crashed into a restaurant in Wellington, Utah. In Utah, drones are hovering near avalanches to measure roaring snow. In North Carolina, they're combing the skies for the nests of endangered birds. In Kansas, meanwhile, they could soon be identifying sick cows through heat signatures. A survey released Monday, May 20, 2019 shows transportation agencies are using drones in nearly every U.S. state. (Utah Highway Patrol via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah, drones are hovering near avalanches to watch roaring snow. In North Carolina, they’re searching for the nests of endangered birds. In Kansas, they could soon be identifying sick cows through heat signatures.
Public transportation agencies are using drones in nearly every state, according to a survey obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release Monday. The report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows a sharp increase in their use over the last few years, reflecting the rapid adoption of the technology by governments as well as hobbyists.
In 2016, the nonprofit group found no state transportation agency was using drones on a daily basis. Now, 36 states have certified drone pilots on staff. When the survey was done this month, all but one state was using drones in some way. Since then, the lone holdout — Rhode Island — has bought a drone, said Tony Dorsey, a spokesman for the group.
The small, unmanned aircraft are often used for mundane tasks, like inspecting bridges and roads. With sophisticated cameras and thermal technology, they can detect tiny cracks and identify potential potholes before they’re visible to the human eye.
Drones have caused their share of headaches for officials over the years as personal devices forced the grounding of planes at airports or those fighting wildfires.
But they also can be useful for work that’s dangerous for people. In Utah, drones record from the air as state workers set off planned avalanches, allowing them to watch the slides close up in real time, said Jared Esselman, director of aeronautics at the state Department of Transportation.
Drones also can measure snow and other elements of the state’s rugged terrain to keep them from blocking roads or other infrastructure.
“We can predict not only snow slides, but mudslides and water runoff as the snow melts,” Esselman said. “Drones are a perfect tool for any job that is dangerous or dirty.”
Utah is getting 40 new drones to take photos at traffic wrecks for the investigation.
In North Carolina, drones are finding the nests of endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, said Basil Yap, unmanned aerial systems program manager at the state’s transportation department.
People used to fan out in helicopters or all-terrain vehicles to check for evidence of the protected birds before building new projects, but the drones can do the job quicker with less disruption, Yap said.
They’re also used to check for protected bats nesting under bridges and to spray herbicide on invasive plants near shorelines.
North Carolina is one of three states working with the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones beyond the operator’s line of sight, at night and over people. The FAA does not usually allow those uses without a special waiver.
Also part of the program is Kansas, where workers are using drones to create sophisticated farming programs and monitor cattle heat signatures to prevent any illnesses from spreading.
A number of states are beginning to explore how to regulate a flood of private drone traffic expected in the future. In Ohio, the state is working on an air-traffic control system called SkyVision, which would allow drones to detect and avoid other aircraft in flight.

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House Appropriations Committee approves FY2020 transportation budget

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The FY2020 THUD appropriations bill includes $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday approved the fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill on a vote of 29-21.

The legislation funds the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies, including the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

In total, the legislation provides $137.1 billion in budgetary resources, an increase of $6 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill includes $75.8 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion over the President’s 2020 budget request.

“This year’s Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding bill represents a positive, inclusive vision for our country,” said House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Chairman David Price. “It makes forward-looking investments in our housing and transportation infrastructure, while ensuring concerted attention to safety, the needs of the most vulnerable, and resilience.  It will benefit all American communities — urban and rural — and lays the foundation for economic growth and opportunity. I’m thankful for the collaborative effort by all our members to pass the bill through committee and look forward to working together to enact it into law.”

“The Department of Transportation should prioritize safety, and this bill would equip the Department to fund safety upgrades on our roads and rails as well as safety research,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “The bill also would provide adequate funding for the federal share of one of the most important transportation projects in our country to advance commuter safety and the economy – the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Additionally, robust investments in the bill, such as increases to CDBG, HOME, and Lead and Healthy Homes, would make our communities heathier and safer, and critical language would protect the most vulnerable, including undocumented individuals and their U.S. citizen children and LGBTQ youth, against eviction. With this bill, we have the opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and fundamentally improve the lives of our constituents.”

For the Department of Transportation, the bill provides a total of $86.6 billion in total budgetary resources, $167 million above the 2019 enacted level and $3.7 billion above the President Donald J. Trump’s budget request.

Of this amount, some of the items the bill includes are:

  • $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $10 million above the 2019 enacted level and $1 million above the President’s budget request. None of the funds can be used to enforce the use of ELDs by carriers transporting livestock.
  • $48.9 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $404 million below the 2019 enacted level and $1.7 billion above the President’s budget request.
  • $1.75 billion for discretionary Highway Infrastructure Programs, $1.5 billion below the 2019 enacted level and $1.45 billion above the President’s budget request.
  • $1 billion for the Newsal Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $44 million above the 2019 enacted level and $81 million above the President’s budget request.

 

 

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John Christner Trucking’s John Mallory wins TCA safety award

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John Mallory, recipient of the Truckload Carriers Association Clare C. Casey Award, serves on the American Trucking Associations' Safety Management Council for driver recognition and accident review. (Courtesy: TRUCKLOAD CARRIERS ASSOCIATION)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Truckload Carriers Association has named John Mallory, John Christner Trucking’s director of safety, as the 2019 TCA Safety Professional of the Year and made him recipient of the Clare C. Casey Award.

The award was presented during the TCA’s 38th Annual Safety & Security Division Meeting in Memphis.

John Christner Trucking is located at Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

The award is bestowed upon a trucking industry professional whose actions and achievements have made a profound contribution to enhancing safety on North America’s highways.

“John has an absolute passion for our industry, particularly making it safer,” said John Christner Trucking’s vice president of risk management Shannon Crowley. “He spends much of his free time in pursuit of just that.”

In addition to being employed by John Christner Trucking for 13 years in its safety department, as well as a third-generation professional truck driver for more than two decades, Mallory has an extensive list of accomplishments.

Crowley said Mallory was persistent in obtaining his safety professional credentials once arriving at the company.

“His tenacity is what got him in the door and that same tenacity is what led him to achieving his Certified Director of Safety designation and becoming our director of safety,” Crowley said.

During his career, Mallory has served on the Oklahoma Safety Management Council for 12 years, is a member of the Oklahoma Trucking Association, and serves on the American Trucking Associations’ Safety Management Council for driver recognition and accident review.

He is also a recipient of the John Christner Trucking, Inc.’s Pete Osborne Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017; Oklahoma State Management Council’s Past Chairman Award; and Oklahoma Trucking Association’s 2012 Safety Professional of the year.

He serves as a judge, chairman and as “The Duck” mascot at the Oklahoma Truck Driving Championships.

“John is a great leader in his church as well as other organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking,” shares his wife, Dianne Mallory, who nominated him for this award. “He is most loved by many for his role as ‘The Duck.'”

Crowley said Mallory is a pillar in his community. He serves on the Tulsa Tech Truck Driving School advisory council, is a member, usher and greeter at Life Church in Owasso and Catoosa, Oklahoma, and is active in the Owasso Police Department K9 unit training canines and officers how to maneuver around and inside 18-wheelers. He also participates in the annual Sapulpa Truck Touch.

On behalf of John Christner Trucking, Mallory has accepted numerous Fleet Safety Awards from TCA, several other industry associations, and both Walmart and Tyson Foods.

“John is always eager to learn, willing to participate, and simply will not be outworked. If there is someone more deserving of this recognition, I haven’t met them,” Crowley said.

Nominees for TCA’s award must exemplify leadership and demonstrate the goals of protecting lives and property in the motor transportation industry while serving their company, industry, and the motoring public. The award is named after Clare Casey, a safety professional who actively served TCA from 1979 until 1989. He was devoted to ensuring that all truckload safety professionals build a strong safety network, and was instrumental in forming the first annual Safety & Security Division meeting in 1982. The first Clare C. Casey Award was presented in 1990, one year after his death.

 

 

 

 

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FMCSA accepting applications for military pilot program for 18- to 20-year-olds

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During the military pilot program, the safety records of the participants will be compared to the records of a control group of drivers. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Monday it is accepting applications for a pilot program to permit 18- to 20-year-olds who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s to operate large trucks in interstate commerce.

“This program will help our country’s veterans and reservists transition into good-paying jobs while addressing the shortage of truck drivers in our country,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

As directed by Section 5404 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the pilot program will allow a limited number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 to operate large trucks in interstate commerce — provided they possess the military equivalent of a CDL and are sponsored by a participating trucking company. During the pilot program, which is slated to run for up to three years, the safety records of these drivers will be compared to the records of a control group of drivers.

“We are excited to launch this program to help the brave men and women who serve our country explore employment opportunities in the commercial motor vehicle industry. With the nation’s economy reaching new heights, the trucking industry continues to need drivers and have job openings. We encourage veterans and reservists to apply and to learn more about this exciting new program,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez.

The program was revealed by Chao in July 2018 during a news conference in Omaha, Nebraska, which was attended by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., himself a military veteran having served in the United States Air Force United States Air Force from 1985 to 2014, reaching the rank of brigadier general.

“This innovative program offers a way for our younger veterans and reservists to transition to the civilian workforce. I personally thank Secretary Chao and officials with the DOT who continue to find ways to utilize the training and talent of the men and women who served in uniform for our country,” Bacon said.

To learn more about this program and how to apply, visit

For complete information on USDOT’s Veteran transitions programs into the civilian careers, visit 

 

 

 

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