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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, some of this stuff is getting redundant

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Oh, man, it’s column time again.

You know what? I’m going to have to be straight with you. There isn’t a darned thing I feel like talking about this time around. This is one of those “slow news” periods you hear about, and there really isn’t a whole lot going on in the trucking universe these days, at least nothing to write a column about. Things almost always slow down around the holidays. And now the midterm election is over and done with. In the weeks leading up to it everyone was playing the “What could it mean? What could it mean?” game. Then for a few weeks everyone played the “What will it mean? What will it mean?” game, which all adds up to a whole lot of nothing.

Speaking of which, the other day we had a meeting – boy, I’ll tell you what, that is one thing I envy you drivers for, you don’t have to sit in on staff meetings. Especially teleconferences, those are the worst. Half the time what they are talking about has nothing to do with you, and so you just have to sit there – it’s excruciating. The only good thing with teleconferences is, unlike traditional conferences around a table, you don’t have to even look like you’re paying attention.

I swear, there are times you can get up after an hour thinking, “Wait, did we decide on anything, about anything, aside from when the next meeting will be?”

But this wasn’t a teleconference. This meeting had a purpose. We were trying to figure out our editorial game plan for the near future. For inspiration, we looked at the just-released annual ATRI report on top industry concerns to see what we could tackle that we hadn’t covered lately.

We went down the list of carrier concerns, then the list of driver concerns.

Whaddaya know? We’ve done them all. Some of them repeatedly,

If anything, going over the list only emphasized how many issues there are in trucking that never seem to go away. Week after week, month after month, year after year, sometimes for decades, they are talked about and talked about. Studies are done. Programs and legislation are proposed. Then someone objects to the proposal and alternate programs and legislation are proposed. Then it stalls out, so someone decides to do another study.

These issues may evolve, but they’re never resolved, and we get stuck covering them, every misstep and false step and backtracking step of the way.

For instance, with the election over, everyone’s back to talking about infrastructure. I was hearing about “our crumbling infrastructure” long before I ever thought about writing about trucking, for at least 30 years. Elected officials come and go, and everyone everywhere agrees something needs to be done about it. They’re saying this might finally be the time we get something done.

Uh, huh, I’ve been hearing that for 30 years, too. Tell you what, when you figure something out and the steam shovels start rolling, give me a call.

And I’ve had enough of the autonomous vehicle stories, too. Talking about self-driving vehicles at this point is like talking about a manned mission to Mars. Folks are working on it, great. And they want to make a lot of noise about how they’re working on it. Of course, they do, and that’s largely because they know it will take a long time to convince the public it’s a good idea.

But I don’t think they’re nearly as close as some of the hype would lead us to believe. I’ll go on record saying it’s about 50-50 humans will at least orbit Mars before fully automated vehicles go mainstream.

The lack of truck parking is another issue that makes the ATRI list every year, at least among drivers. For some reason trucking executives never rate it as high, go figure. We keep hearing it’s bad, we keep hearing it’s getting worse. We keep hearing something must be done about it.

So, what’s keeping something from being done about it? The solution is simple. If you need more parking, build more parking. The question is, who’s going to foot the bill?

At the risk of rendering much of trucking journalism moot, that’s why many of these issues have the lifespan of a giant tortoise and move about as quickly – money, plain and simple.

Which brings us to the perpetual driver shortage. Carriers have gotten scared enough that they’ve dynamited their wallets open and started giving raises, to which drivers have responded by saying there’s more to life than money, to which has followed a wave of public soul-searching about trucking culture.

And now it’s popular to beat the drum about opening interstate trucking to 18-year-olds and rolling out the red carpet for veterans. There are some proposals out there, some pilot programs, but of course, it’s going to take a couple years of studies and data crunching to determine how much good these moves will do to relieve trucking’s labor shortage.

More talk, still not much in the way of results, and it gets boring to write about.

Another bold prediction: It’ll help a little, but not that much and not nearly enough.

What would be interesting would be to get a cross-section of industry analysts and try to break down exactly why trucking seems to be perpetually stuck with some of these problems.

Wait a minute – that’s it! That’s what we decided to do at the last meeting! OK, now that could be a cool topic for conversation. Now we’re getting somewhere.

 

 

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The Nation

Minnesota legislative panel debates Walz 70 percent gas tax hike plan

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislature began work in earnest Thursday on Gov. Tim Walz’s transportation plan, including his hotly disputed proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 70 percent.

A House transportation committee gave the Democratic governor’s plan its first hearing. Supporters then rallied in the Capitol rotunda, where they heard key lawmakers and Walz urge the Legislature to approve the package. Altogether it calls for $77 million in new spending on roads, bridges and public transit for the two-year budget that takes effect July 1.

“There is no reason that Minnesota can’t have nice things,” Walz said. “And those nice things improve lives.”

Walz said the only obstacle “is the political will inside this building,” a reference to the strong Republican opposition to raising the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon from its current 28.6 cents per gallon. GOP leaders say there’s no need given the state’s $1 billion budget surplus.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, of St. James, the lead Republican on the transportation committee, said during the hearing that they all understand the need for increased investments in transportation — their differences are on what resources to tap for those investments.

But Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects.

“This is not a choice between raising the gas tax or not raising the gas tax,” the governor told the rally, which was heavy on public transit supporters. “This is a choice about having a robust, multi-modal, safe transportation system or having potholes that your children can drown in.”

Walz has been targeting Senate Republicans who represent districts he carried in the November elections. He touted his plan at a railroad crossing in Anoka on Tuesday that’s been dubbed the most dangerous in the state but made a political misstep in the process.

The senator who represents the area, Jim Abeler, didn’t get an invitation until shortly before the event. Abeler has sent mixed signals since then about whether he would support even a smaller gas tax increase. Given that Abeler broke ranks with fellow Republicans to override GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the state’s last gas tax increase in 2008, he’s the kind of Republican that Walz needs to cultivate.

The governor told reporters he’s going to keep reaching out to Republicans.

“I’m going out to try to make the case to them, come to the table and talk to me about this,” he said. Let’s start to have the conversation.”

 

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The Nation

Ohio Senate proposes 6-cent increase to state gas tax

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Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio's current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — The Ohio Senate on Thursday voted in favor of a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon, down from the House’s planned increase of 10.7 cents a gallon and well below the governor’s proposed 18-cents a gallon to maintain roads and bridges.

The Senate’s transportation committee unveiled its tax plan Thursday for an increase of 6 cents a gallon for gas and for diesel fuel in a substitute version of Ohio’s transportation budget that passed the committee 6-5. The full Senate voted 24-to-6 later in the day to approve the bill. It now heads back to the House for almost certain rejection, which would call for a House-Senate conference committee to convene for an attempt at a compromise.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio’s current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents.

The House proposes an increase of 10.7 cents a gallon over three years beginning Oct. 1. The House proposal would increase the current 28-cents-per-gallon diesel-fuel tax by 20 cents a gallon, with that increase also phased in over a three-year period.

The House plan, which would not index the increase to inflation, would raise about $872 million per year, compared with about $1.2 billion from DeWine’s plan. The Senate proposal, which also does not set the tax to automatically rise with inflation, would raise about $400 million per year.

DeWine, who has already said that the increase proposed by the House wasn’t enough, said again Wednesday that his proposal was the “bare minimum” to keep up with needed repairs of poorly rated bridges, dangerous intersections and some new construction. A message seeking comment on Thursday’s vote was left with a spokesman for DeWine.

House GOP members had indicated their plan would lessen the impact of a tax increase on consumers while still meeting road-maintenance needs. Republican Rep. Scott Oelslager, chairman of the House Finance Committee, has described the House plan as a “more equitable” distribution of the tax burden.

Senate Transportation Chairman Rob McColley voted against the Senate version Thursday because it doesn’t contain a corresponding tax cut to off-set the 6-cent increase. McColley said, however, that he was comfortable after an “extensive analysis” that the 6-cent proposal is enough to fund existing road maintenance with some extra construction on top.

“Our policy, number one, should be taking care of existing roads and bridges, and this budget definitely does that,” said McColley, a Republican from Napoleon in northwestern Ohio.

The Senate committee’s proposed transportation budget also would reinstate the requirement for Ohioans to have both front and back license plates on their vehicles. The House has proposed eliminating the front license.

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The Nation

L.A. tops list of metro areas with most aggressive drivers

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Cars and trucks choke the San Diego Freeway in both directions during the afternoon rush hour in Los Angeles near an interchange. Los Angeles has the most aggressive drivers in the United States, according to a study published by GasBuddy. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

BOSTON — Honking, squeaking brakes and bumper-to-bumper traffic are common problems in many of America’s congested cities.

Frustrated drivers can get agitated quickly, and their aggressive driving habits like speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by as much as 40 percent, costing them as much as $477 per year in additional fuel consumption.

GasBuddy has revealed the major metropolitan areas in the United States with the most aggressive drivers, causing them to pay more for gasoline by making more frequent trips to the pump.

GasBuddy compiled data from its Drives feature in the GasBuddy app, examining the top 30        metropolitan areas by population as defined by the United States Census Bureau from November 2018-February 2019, noting the frequency of an aggressive event while driving, whether it be speeding, hard braking or accelerating.

The top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers included:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Sacramento, California
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Francisco
  6. San Diego
  7. Orlando, Florida.
  8. Detroit
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Las Vegas

Los Angeles consistently tops the list of having some of the most expensive gas prices in the nation, currently averaging $3.35 per gallon. Combined with traffic and congestion, the GasBuddy Aggressive Driving study revealed that the way Los Angeles motorists are driving is also contributing to a larger gasoline budget. And it doesn’t stop with Los Angeles: four of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers are in California, including Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego.

“Frustration while driving in densely populated cities with high levels of congestion leads motorists to drive more aggressively and with more urgency. Interestingly, these are areas that typically see some of the highest gas prices in their respective states,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With drivers in Los Angeles, Philadelphia,

Sacramento and Atlanta being 20 percent more aggressive than the average driver in America, it’s particularly important for commuters and rideshare drivers in these areas to work on shedding their lead foot and relax more to keep money from flying out the window each time they hit the road.”

Last year GasBuddy’s Aggressive Driving Study examined the states with the most aggressive drivers. Seven of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers from this year’s study are within the top 10 states with the most aggressive drivers, including California, Georgia, Texas and Florida.

Additional findings include:

  • Frustrating Fridays. Motorists are 1.2 times more likely to encounter aggressive driving on Friday than on Wednesday. The most aggressive day on the road is Friday, with 14 percent more aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States. The least aggressive day on the road is Wednesday, with 6 percent fewer aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States.
  • Wearing Out the Brakes (All Week). The most frequent aggressive driving habit on weekdays is hard braking, followed by rapid acceleration and speeding. On weekends, the most frequent aggressive driving habit continues to be hard braking, followed by speeding and rapid acceleration.

San Diego’s Need for Speed. While cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia take the top spots in regards to hard braking and rapid acceleration, San Diego, Orlando and Detroit take the top three spots for cities with the most speeding incidents.

GasBuddy is a company that connects drivers with the company’s Perfect Pit Stop. As a source for crowdsourced, real-time fuel prices at more than 150,000 gas station convenience stores in the U.S., Canada and Australia, millions of drivers use the GasBuddy app and website every day to find gas station convenience stores based on fuel prices, location and ratings/reviews.

For more information, visit www.gasbuddy.com.

 

 

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