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Alabama governor signs gas tax increase into law

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Gov. Kay Ivey said members of the Alabama Legislature have improved Alabama's infrastructure for generations to come. (Associated Press)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama drivers will see a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax to fund road and bridge construction, under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

Calling it a historic day for the state of Alabama, Ivey signed the bill, and related measures into law, shortly after they won final approval in the Alabama Legislature. Ivey said lawmakers made a “bold statement that they are all in when it comes to investing in Alabama’s future.”

“What the members of the Alabama Legislature have done today is to improve Alabama’s infrastructure for generations to come,” Ivey said in a bill-signing ceremony at the Alabama Capitol.

The swift legislative approval was a political victory for Ivey, who called lawmakers into special session to consider the tax increase, and for Republican legislative leaders who also threw their support behind the bill.

The 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase will be phased in over three years, beginning with an increase of six cents later this year. The state tax would then be adjusted up or down with the National Highway Construction Cost Index and could increase up to a penny every two years. The proposal would also place an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles and a $100 annual fee on hybrid vehicles.

The bill also sets aside $11.7 million of the revenue to be used for a bond issue for improvements at the Port of Mobile.

The Republican governor found broad support in the GOP-dominated legislature for raising the motor fuel tax to fund road and bridge construction. State senators approved the tax increase on a 28-6 vote. The state House of Representatives approved the bill, 83-20.

Supporters said Alabama’s current 18-cent gas tax has been unchanged since 1992, leaving the state without adequate funds to replace aging bridges and improve congested and dangerous roads.

“We addressed this because it’s the responsible thing to do. It’s been 27 years since we had an increase in revenue. We had to do something,” Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, said after the vote.

A Democratic senator who voted against the bill said the tax increase would be a burden on low-income drivers in a state where politicians have rejected Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increases and tax reform efforts.

“I cannot with a clear conscience vote yes on this bill because of what it does to low-income people and people under the poverty level,” said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat from Mobile.

Senators tabled a proposed change by Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Birmingham, that would have created a $40 million pool for tax rebates for low-income motorists. Roberts also proposed to end any automatic increases through indexing in 2039.

Roberts said he wanted to revisit the idea in the regular session.

Despite the broad legislative support, the proposed gas tax increase has divided Republicans. The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee approved a resolution opposing the measure.  However, the Republican governor had the backing of GOP legislative leaders.

Road building companies, county commissions, chambers of commerce and cities mounted a push for the legislation.

Ivey made the infrastructure proposal one of her first initiatives after winning a full term in office in November. The governor called lawmakers into a special session that began Wednesday to consider the gas tax increase. The proposal went before a Legislature with a large number of freshmen in a body that has often been resistant to tax increases.

Marsh said he had cautioned legislative candidates that he met with, telling them infrastructure would be a “something we had to deal with.”

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The Nation

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)

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)

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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The Nation

Sales of Kenworth ‘hereos’ T680 nets $162,000 for TAT

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From left, are Kylla Lanier, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT); winning bidder Collin Stewart, president of Stewart Transport; Don Blake, new truck sales manager at Inland Kenworth – Phoenix; and Gilbert Orrantia, director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security and co-chair Arizona’s Human Trafficking Council. This year’s auction of the Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 raised $162,000 for TAT, which is the largest donation made to that organization.

PHOENIX — The “Everyday Heroes” Kenworth T680 was auctioned recently at Ritchie Bros. in Phoenix with the winning bid submitted by Collin Stewart, president of Stewart Transport, which helped net $162,000 in support of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT).

TAT is the 501(c)3 non-profit is dedicated to stopping human trafficking by educating, mobilizing, and empowering the nation’s truck drivers and rest stop employees.

Stewart Transport is a Phoenix-based company specializes in delivering refrigerated and dry van freight and is a long-time supporter of TAT and its mission to end human trafficking.

Stewart attended and placed the winning bid at the live auction. For Stewart, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to place a bid on a truck that supports an organization he believes in so strongly.

“Our new Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 will allow us to help support and promote TAT’s efforts in the fight against human trafficking,” Stewart said. “Our drivers are TAT-trained so they’re knowledgeable about the program and know how to help identify human trafficking on the road. This Kenworth T680 will be a great addition to our fleet.”

“The Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 auction was a fantastic success, thanks to our incredible sponsors, who generously donated parts and money to build this special truck,” said Don Blake, new truck sales manager at Inland Kenworth-Phoenix, TAT board member, and driving force behind this year’s auction. “Two years ago, our first Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 auction netted $83,000 for Truckers Against Trafficking and served as a stepping-stone to increase the trucking industry’s awareness of human trafficking. That effort helped us to achieve this year’s even larger donation.”

The $162,000 donation nearly doubled the previous donation TAT received from the previous Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 auction, making it the largest one-time gift in the organization’s history, according to Kendis Paris, TAT executive director. “We are so grateful to have Collin and Stewart Transport submit the winning bid. Not only will Collin’s generous purchase help us fund our programs, but they obtain a high-performing Kenworth T680 that will serve as a great addition to its fleet,” Paris said.

The Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 is fully loaded with a 76-inch sleeper, and features the PACCAR Powertrain with a PACCAR MX-13 485-hp engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission, and PACCAR 40K tandem rear axles. According to Stewart, the company’s new Kenworth T680 will join a fleet of more than 100 trucks and will be utilized in the Western region of the United States.

“The industry again showed its generosity by coming together to support TAT and its important work. The funds will be used to expand our work within the trucking industry, and further our partnerships with law enforcement, additional modes of transportation and multiple countries, in the fight against human trafficking,” Paris said. “Special thanks to Kenworth and Ritchie Bros., as well as all of our amazing sponsors. And, I can’t say enough about Don Blake’s contributions to TAT. This major fundraising project required a tremendous amount of time and effort, and illustrates his dedication to our cause.”

According to Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director, Blake’s dedication to TAT and the ultimate goal of ending human trafficking is admirable. “Don is an excellent example of making a difference by putting his heart into something he cares about,” said Swihart. “He had the idea to auction off an Everyday Heroes Kenworth T680 two years ago, and it’s great for Kenworth to help him do it again this year. He is truly an inspiration to all of us, and an excellent representative of Inland Kenworth and the Kenworth dealer network. This auction showed how the industry can pull together to make a difference and support the fight against human trafficking.”

Human trafficking is an industry estimated to be worth $32 billion in the United States alone, and $150 billion globally, according to Truckers Against Trafficking. To further its education, TAT operates the Freedom Driver’s Project – a mobile exhibit, which educates members of the trucking industry.

 

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The Nation

4 CMVs involved in Arkansas crash; one person reported killed

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This photo from the Arkansas Department of Transportation, shows a big rig damaged in crashes involving eight vehicles Wednesday morning on I-40 in eastern Arkansas. (Courtesy: ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

ST. FRANCIS COUNTY, Ark. — Four commercial vehicles and four other vehicles were involved in a series crashes Wednesday morning on Interstate 40 about 25 miles west of Memphis, Tennessee, in which at least one person died.

The crashes, which occurred about 7:45 a.m., brought traffic on I-40, one of the busiest truck traffic lanes in the U.S., to a halt, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

The highway department said it cleared debris and damaged vehicles blocking the entire westbound around noon, more than four hours after the wrecks.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Arkansas State Police spokeswoman Cpl. Liz Chapman confirmed at least one person was killed. A report of the crashes also listed injuries.

It wasn’t immediately known what caused the wrecks or the number of people hurt.

“It could be anything,” Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the transportation department, told the Democrat-Gazette.

Straessle told the newspaper Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the busiest days for commercial trucks along the mainly rural interstate corridor connecting Little Rock to Memphis. Daily travel sees some 40,000 vehicles pass through, and about half are commercial trucks.

“We just see an enormous uptick in the number of trucks that come through,” Straessle said.

The eastbound lanes remained open, and authorities detoured westward traffic around the crash using U.S. Highway 70.

 

 

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