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Ohio state transportation director warns of road funding crisis

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ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks says Onio's road funding situation is grim and dangerous. (Courtesy: OHIO DOT)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s road maintenance and infrastructure are facing an “impending crisis” unless more funding is provided for those types of projects, according to the state’s Department of Transportation director.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks issued his warning recently before an advisory panel that will make funding recommendations to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Marchbanks said contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget. He said there will be no new roads or other projects in the foreseeable future, and 90 percent of the department’s money must go toward road maintenance.

“It is a grim financial situation,” Marchbanks said. “It is also a dangerous one.”

The director said without more funding to fix the state’s roads, more crashes will happen.

Col. Paul Pride, superintendent of the State Highway Patrol, has said road conditions — including maintenance issues and inclement weather — contribute to about a third of highway fatalities.

Years of flat revenue from the gas tax, debt payments and increased highway construction costs have all contributed to the financial situation, Marchbanks said.

Former Republican Gov. John Kasich and lawmakers approved $1.5 billion in short-term transportation funding in 2013. However, that money was either spent or committed.

“There is a level of borrowing that’s responsible, and we’re not saying ODOT won’t borrow funds in the future,” Marchbanks said. “But we’ve loaded on too much debt.”

He said ODOT already is spending $390 million each year to pay for prior borrowing against future gas-tax revenue.

Jim Aslanides, a member of the advisory panel, described that debt number as “very startling.”

Aslanides, president of the Ohio Oil & Gas Association, said the “public, for the most part, needs to be educated about this.”

The governor and lawmakers are considering an increase in the gas tax. The state’s 28-cent-per-gallon gas tax has not been increased since 2005, and it is lower than all neighboring states except for Kentucky.

Marchbanks said he will not make any recommendations, but the department estimates that increasing fees on electric and hybrid vehicles would raise about $2.5 million each year.

Increasing the gas tax by 1 cent would bring in about $67 million per year, Marchbanks said.

DeWine is expected to present his two-year transportation budget proposal to the state General Assembly this month.

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The Nation

Diesel heads up 4 cents a gallon to $3.006

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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

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

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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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