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California gas tax repeal campaign seeks federal inquiry

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SACRAMENTO, Calif.  — Leaders of a campaign to repeal California’s recent gas and diesel tax increase asked the federal government this week to investigate their claims that public resources have been used against them.

Their allegations are based on emails and other documents that appear to show local government workers discussing the repeal effort, known as Proposition 6. In one, a San Francisco official says in an email that showing how gas tax funds benefit the city is important “to support the anti-repeal campaign.”

“It’s damning, it’s unacceptable,” Proposition 6 campaign leader Carl DeMaio said Tuesday. “They are using taxpayer dollars to influence an election.”

Republican Congressman Ken Calvert requested an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general, saying some of the agencies involved receive some federal money. De Maio said he obtained the emails through public records requests and that he also plans to file complaints with local district attorneys. He held a press conference Wednesday outlining the charges.

A spokeswoman for the anti-Proposition 6 campaign denied improper behavior.

“The No on Prop 6 campaign follows all campaign laws,” Robin Swanson said in a statement. “We’re working hard to educate voters about how damaging Prop 6 will be to the safety of our roads and bridges.”

A law called SB1 , passed by California lawmakers, raised gasoline taxes by 12 cents a gallon starting last November and diesel taxes by 20 cents. Diesel sales taxes also rose, and drivers are paying a new annual fee with their vehicle registration, ranging from $25 to $175 depending on the value of the vehicle. The taxes and fees all rise each year, based on inflation.

It’s projected to increase about $5 billion a year to address a backlog of deferred maintenance on state and local roadways. The California Department of Transportation highlights projects funded by the tax increase on signs around the state that include an address to a website outlining how SB1 money is spent.

The California Department of Transportation said Wednesday it will not include the website address on future signs after federal officials said it may not comply with rules that aim to ensure road signs are easy to read, department spokesman Matt Rocco said. The change will not affect the cost, Rocco said.

DeMaio highlighted a news story about the signs’ possible non-compliance as further evidence of wrongdoing.

Proposition 6 would repeal the tax and fee increases and also require voter approval for any future increases in gas taxes or vehicle fees. Opponents of the ballot measure say the tax increase benefits the state and is needed to repair the state’s crumbling roads.

In one email exchange from June, a few days before Proposition 6 officially qualified for the ballot, the Sacramento Regional Transit Agency asks an organization it contracts with to help with its “educational campaign” that “related to the gas tax repeal.”

Devra Selenis, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the agency has never told people how to vote. On behalf of RT, the contractor, Valley Vision, organized a community event where various groups highlighted the benefits of SB1, she said.

“We are allowed to educate on benefits of what SB1 covers and that’s all we’ve ever done,” Selenis said. “That is the public’s right to know what we spend money on.”

The Proposition 6 campaign alleges the emails show an attempt to influence the outcome of the ballot measure because the education campaign is scheduled through the election and is “related to the gas tax repeal.”

DeMaio also points to a Sept. 25, 2017, email sent by Kate Breen, the government affairs director for the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, to colleagues, in which she summarizes the progress of efforts to repeal SB1.

“To support the anti-repeal campaign, it will be important that SF continues to document how SB 1 finds (sic) are benefiting SF,” Breen wrote.

Proposition 6 proponents say the email indicates the transit agency was interested in influencing the campaign. It’s not clear what efforts the agency did to promote the gas tax. The email was sent before the measure qualified for the ballot but after the campaign had filed paperwork to begin collecting signatures.

“The proposition hadn’t even qualified for the statewide ballot,” Paul Rose, the transit agency’s spokesman, said in an email. “There was no campaign to work for or against. Since that time the measure has become real and we have been very careful not to advocate as a public agency.”

In another email released by the Proposition 6 campaign, the California Transit Association, a lobbying organization, sent a plan to local government agencies outlining campaigning plans to oppose SB1 repeal. It’s not clear from the documents if any of the government agencies copied on the email acted on the plan laid out by the association. The October 2017 email describes efforts to persuade vulnerable Republican members of Congress to avoid backing Proposition 6.

DeMaio also pointed to signs at construction sites saying “your tax dollars at work” with a prominent SB1 logo and allegations that state contractors distributed fliers urging voters to keep the tax increase in place. The Fair Political Practices Commission has said it’s investigating the matter.

PHOTO CAPTION

In this July 11, 2018, file photo, workers repave a street in Roseville, California, partially funded by a gas tax hike passed by the Legislature in 2017. Leaders of the Proposition 6 campaign to repeal California’s recent gas tax increase are asking the federal government to investigate their claims that public resources have been used against them. A spokeswoman for the anti-Proposition 6 campaign countered the allegations, saying the campaign follows all laws. (Associated Press: PEDRONCELLI)

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The Nation

Bendix offers tips on preventing OOS order during Roadcheck

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During Roadcheck 2018 brake systems, tires and wheels, and brake adjustment represented well over half – 63.8 percent – of the violations that led to vehicles being placed out of service. (Courtesy: BENDIX)

ELYRIA, Ohio — Need evidence of how important foundational maintenance is to keeping vehicles on the road and operating safely?

Try this: During last year’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) International Roadcheck, brake systems, tires and wheels, and brake adjustment represented well over half – 63.8 percent – of the violations that led to vehicles being placed out of service.

With this year’s International Roadcheck around the corner on June 4-6, Bendix (Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake) reminds fleets and owner-operators that taking care of the basics is a must.

“The 2018 Roadcheck followed a common pattern of brake, tire and wheel-end issues accounting for the majority of the out-of-service violations,” said Lance Hansen, Bendix North America regional vice president – fleet/trailer sales and service engineering. “This year’s program includes a special emphasis on steering and suspension systems – but that doesn’t mean there will be less scrutiny of brake and wheel-end concerns. Simple, routine maintenance is designed to catch these issues, from improperly inflated tires to out-of-adjustment brakes. Roadcheck also highlights something else of vital importance – the need for technicians to have the latest training.”

Since its inception in 1988, International Roadcheck – the largest targeted commercial motor vehicle program in the world – has conducted more than 1.6 million total roadside inspections in the United States, Canada and Mexico. On average, the 72-hour period will see roughly 17 trucks and buses inspected every minute, with most of them undergoing the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection, a 37-step procedure that reviews both driver operating requirements and a vehicle’s mechanical fitness.

With braking systems, wheel-ends and tires in the spotlight, offers key points on inspecting and maintaining these crucial components.

Brake Check

Brake systems and brake adjustment reflect a range of issues that are easily averted through regular pre-trip inspections and preventive maintenance. Before hitting the road, drivers should always conduct standard walk-arounds with an eye out for visible brake system problems such as loose hoses or damaged brake components – air chambers or pushrods, for example.

In the shop, air brake system inspections should include the following – all of which relate directly to items inspected during Roadcheck:

  • Conducting a 90- to 100-psi brake application and listening for leaks
  • Measuring chamber stroke at each wheel-end to ensure proper brake adjustment
  • Examining friction for good condition and minimum thickness
  • Measuring/inspecting each rotor and drum for wear and heat cracking and/or leopard spotting

Also essential is checking the condition of friction for compliance, whether during maintenance or pre-trip. This means inspecting for issues including lining cracks, missing portions of the lining, oil or grease contamination of the lining, and compliant friction lining thickness.

“Should you need to replace air disc brake pads or drum brake shoes, select components that will ensure the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) requirements are met, so that your vehicle remains compliant with the standards required of reduced stopping distance (RSD) braking systems,“ said Keith McComsey, director of marketing and customer solutions at Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake (BSFB). “For example, not all friction that is marketed as acceptable under today’s RSD regulations will actually perform to that standard, so Bendix recommends replacing like-for-like OEM friction. This is the best way to maintain your vehicle’s braking performance in stopping distance and wear when replacing linings on vehicles equipped with RSD brakes.”

In addition, Bendix recommends remanufactured drum brake shoes that have been coined back to their OEM-engineered shape, as opposed to those that have simply been relined with new friction. Relining a shoe that’s been exposed to the extreme force and temperature changes of normal use without having been coined can lead to reduced stopping power and premature wear.

“Getting the most out of each part is key to achieving the best and safest performance from a braking system. Don’t let inferior friction or a twisted shoe undercut the stopping power of a high-performance brake,” McComsey said. “And you can draw a direct line between a braking system and connected safety systems: A full-stability or collision mitigation system will be negatively affected if brakes aren’t performing at their peak.”

Fleets spec’ing drum brakes and incurring repeated violations because of out-of-adjustment brakes might consider air disc brakes instead, McComsey noted, citing the Bendix ADB22X air disc brake as an example. “The ADB22X includes an internal self-adjustment mechanism that can help lower the risk of brakes being found out of adjustment during inspection, which can affect Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring.”

Tire Time

Roadcheck’s focus on tires serves as a reminder of the importance of proper tire pressure: Industry research shows about 90 percent of tire failures can be attributed to underinflation, and nearly half of all emergency service road calls are tire-related.

“Underinflated tires also experience greater stress and generate a higher internal running temperature, which compounds the risk of a tire blowout,” said Jon Intagliata, Bendix product manager for Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). “In fact, the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council estimates that 20 percent underinflation can shorten a tire life by 30 percent.”

Use of a system such as the SmarTire Tire Pressure Monitoring System by Bendix CVS – or the SmarTire Trailer-Link TPMS by Bendix CVS for trailers – can help reduce that risk by providing real-time pressure alerts to the driver. Bendix SmarTire systems use a wheel-mounted sensor that continuously monitors temperature as well, allowing alerts that compensate for changing operating conditions, and can point to other potential wheel-end issues that lead to high tire temperatures, such as a dragging brake.

Tires also impact the performance of advanced safety components and technologies, such as RSD-compliant brakes, air disc brakes, full stability, and advanced driver assistance systems such as Bendix Wingman Fusion.

Keeping Current

Staying informed on regulations, as well as remaining knowledgeable about today’s ever-advancing commercial vehicle safety components and technologies, is an important part of keeping vehicles on the road and operating safely. Fleets aiming to equip their technicians with the most current and in-depth training and information can turn to a variety of options.

The in-person Bendix Brake Training School – an annual series of multiday courses offered across North America – is among the industry’s longest-running educational programs. At the Bendix On-Line Brake School (brake-school.com), participants can access more than 70 courses for free, including Bendix’s comprehensive and interactive Air Brake Training course. The company also offers a host of 24/7/365 post-sales support options, including webinars, podcasts, blogs, video tech talks, and much more.

At the heart of Bendix’s training education programs are its field-tested sales and service professionals, along with its veteran field technical support team and the Bendix Tech Team at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE – an expert technical support group providing service advice, brake system troubleshooting, and product training. Bendix also provides technical materials – including archives of the Bendix Tech Tips series – through the Bendix Knowledge Dock multimedia center at knowledge-dock.com.

“Roadcheck demonstrates how being prepared and running safe, well-maintained trucks requires year-round attention,” Hansen said. “Bendix is there to support the industry with maintenance know-how and resources. It’s another way we are working together to shape tomorrow’s transportation.”

 

 

 

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Technology

TuSimple’s self-driving trucks go postal, on 2-week trial with USPS

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The United States Postal Service is using Peterbilts fitted with self-driving technology by TuSimple to make five round-trip mail runs between Phoenix and Dallas over the next two weeks. (Courtesy: TuSIMPLE)

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Most people think that is the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service. It isn’t. It was engraved over the entrance of a New York City Post Office branch in 1914, and it just sort of caught on everywhere.

Actually, the phrase was written by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, describing the couriers who served the Persian army in a sixth-century war with the Greeks. So with no ancient Greek copyright laws to worry about, after 1,500 years the motto may soon need a reboot: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor bathroom breaks nor meals nor sleep nor Hours of Service …”

On Tuesday, May 22, USPS began a test run using self-driving trucks to transport mail between distribution hubs in Phoenix and Dallas. It is the first of five round-trip runs over a two-week period in a partnership between USPS and autonomous vehicle startup TuSimple.

Founded in 2015 and based in San Diego, TuSimple has been on the leading edge of development of SAE Class 4 commercial truck technology. Having raised $178 million in funding since its inception, in 2018, the company, expanded its Tuscon, Arizona, testing facilities from 6,800 to 50,000 square feet and began and began making commercial deliveries in August for about a dozen customers along the I-10 corridor within the state of Arizona. The company currently has 12 contracted customers and is making three to five delivery trips per day.

After its last round of funding in February, TuSimple announced plans to have 50 vehicles on the road in Arizona in June. The pilot program with the Post Office will mark the company’s first foray into interstate delivery, as well as its first venture into Texas.

The mail deliveries will be done in Class 8 Peterbilts fitted with TuSimple technology, including its eight-camera array, which uses lidar and radar to “see” 1,000 meters in all directions. The route will run a shade over 1,000 miles each way over I-10, I-20 and I-30.

TuSimple will have a safety driver behind the wheel, as well as an engineer in the passenger seat monitoring the autonomous systems.

“It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” said Dr. Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple’s founder, president and chief technology officer. “Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress.”

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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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