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Buzz on highways? Florida may see new honeybees license tags



The traditional Florida license plate with the two oranges may soon be taking a seat beside five new specialty plates. (Courtesy: STATE OF FLORIDA)


Fresh Take Florida News Service

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Tired of the typical Florida orange stamped on the back of your car?

The Legislature is considering five new specialty license plate options for motorists, including ones promoting honeybees and the gopher tortoise. Another would pay for mental health counseling for shooting survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, which killed 49 people.

Orlando is still recovering emotionally from the devastating shootings, said Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, who proposed the new “Orlando United” plate. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history.

“It doesn’t go away overnight,” Stewart said. “It will take more than two, more than three, probably more than five years of counseling for those who need it.”

With approval from lawmakers, organizations that expect to receive funding from sales of the plates must receive approval from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and pre-sell at least 1,000 of them. Then they become available to drivers on Florida’s highways.

Drivers would pay $25 each year for the specialty tags. It costs the state about $10,000 to set up printing for each new design.

The proposed “Save the Bees” plate could save bees buzzing on farms. It would provide funding to the Florida State Beekeepers Association for honeybee research and education. The group would spend the research money at the University of Florida’s Honey Bee Lab and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said Jennifer Holmes, the association’s president.

She said the nonprofit will ask members to propose plate designs.

One of the sponsors of the bill for the bees plate is newly elected Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, whose husband is a commercial beekeeper. A House transportation subcommittee has already approved the bill, sending it to other committees for further consideration.

“If our bee population goes away, our food supply goes away,” Bell said. “We are losing bees each day.”

The Orlando plate would raise money for Mental Health Association of Central Florida Inc. and Two Spirit Health Services Inc. to offer free counseling to anyone affected by the nightclub shooting. Money would also build and maintain a memorial to victims.

Other new plates would recognize the gopher tortoise, which can be found in every Florida county, and the Highwaymen, a group of 26 African-American artists from Fort Pierce who used vivid colors to paint Florida landscapes from the 1950s to 1980s. The Highwaymen plate would pay to build and operate the Highwaymen Museum and African-American Cultural Center and provide art education in St. Lucie County public schools.

The “Protect the Gopher Tortoise” plate would provide money the Tampa nonprofit Wildlands Conservation Inc. It said it would use the funds to offer grants for research and acquiring and managing land that gopher tortoises inhabit.

The nonprofit has already drafted designs, and one of a gopher tortoise emerging from its burrow is a favorite, said David Sumpter, the organization’s executive director.

“Their burrows provide refuge for other species, making them a keystone in Florida,” Sumpter said.

Stewart, the lawmaker, also sponsored the bill for the tortoise plate. She said environmentally focused friends told her the species was in danger due to construction.

“When development happens, they get bulldozed over and killed,” she said.

A fifth, proposed new plate would recognize ethical tourism in Florida. Money from the plate’s sales would be split between the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism in Fort Myers and Paddle Florida Inc. in Gainesville.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.


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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006



Diesel prices jumped 4 cents a gallon to ring up Tuesday at $3.006. (The Trucker file photo)

For the past several months, including the end of 2018, all the “experts” said oil (and consequently diesel) was going nowhere but up. It had to, they reasoned, after prices had almost literally scraped the bottom of the barrel.

Then oil and diesel both went down for weeks. After that it stayed the same.

Now diesel prices are finally up — 4 cents a gallon — to $3.006 a gallon Tuesday from $2.966 a gallon last week.

Normally, diesel prices would have been announced Monday, but since it was President’s Day, diesel prices were released Tuesday.

And it may be a testament to how long prices had been going down or stayed flat that none of the U.S. Information Administration’s 10 reporting regions were clocking $4-a-gallon diesel, not even California, where diesel was ringing up at $3.739.

Also, four regions were still below $3 a gallon as of Tuesday.

And although 4 cents a gallon for the on-highway national average was a significant jump from the week before, the Lower Atlantic and Midwest regions each jumped 5.5 cents a gallon. Diesel in the Lower Atlantic sector went from $2.872 last week to $2.927 Tuesday while in the Midwest, diesel prices went from $2.849 last week to $2.904 today.

The Gulf Coast had the lowest prices at $2.809 a gallon, up 3.3 cents from the week prior.

Is this the start of an upward trend? It’s hard to know what oil prices will do in a global economy that is teetering since what seems like a bandwagon jump out of the European Union.

Meanwhile, oil was trading up:

U.S. crude added 48 cents to $56.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after gaining $1.19 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $66.34 per barrel, The Associated Press reported.

For diesel prices by sector, click here.

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The Nation

Ohio governor to reveal gas tax hike plan Thursday



Ohio's tp Transportation Department executive says the state is facing an "impending crisis" unless more road funding is provided. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll announce Thursday his proposed recommendation for increasing the state’s gas tax to deal with a chronic shortfall in spending on road construction.

DeWine, a Republican, says there are no other solutions outside a gas tax increase, while warning that any increase simply keeps Ohio from falling behind.

He wouldn’t provide details or say what the proposed increase will be. He spoke at an annual forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

DeWine says the increase is “just to keep us where we are today.”

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation director said earlier this month that Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided.

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The Nation

OOIDA Foundation issues information it says debunks driver shortage ‘myth’



Most carriers with high turnover do so by design, says OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions,” he said.

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research foundation published two new documents it says debunks the driver shortage “myth.”

A fact sheet explains how the industry isn’t afflicted with a shortage of drivers, but is actually plagued with overcapacity and driver retention, the foundation reported.

A second, accompanying document talks about how wages have decreased for truck drivers at large carriers and many have moved toward smaller fleets.

Last year, the association also created a short video that explains why there is high turnover as opposed to a shortage.

“We are concerned about the perpetuation of a myth of driver shortage,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA President. “This misinformation is used to push agendas that are harmful to the industry and highway safety.”

To address the supposed driver “shortage,” some organizations have suggested that the age requirement to obtain a commercial driver’s license should be lowered from 21 to 18.

“If safety is the top priority when considering a change to a regulation, when it comes to age, the number should be raised, not lowered.” Spencer said.

OOIDA also contends that any issue with retention could be mitigated with other solutions that would be safer for all highway users.

For example, compensation has been shown to be tied directly to highway safety, as revealed in studies that suggest there is a strong correlation between driver pay and highway safety, Spencer said.

“Most carriers with high turnover do so by design,” he said. “They could deal with driver turnover by offering better wages and benefits and improved working conditions. But putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck isn’t the solution because it does nothing to address the underlying issues that push drivers out of the industry. It merely exacerbates the churn.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. The association currently has more than 160,000 members nationwide. OOIDA was established in 1973 and is headquartered in the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area.




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