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Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system

Senate begins debate on highway bill, setting up weekend session

The Senate on Friday formally started debate on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s six-year highway bill, setting up a weekend session and putting the chamber on a collision course with the House.

Senators voted to proceed to the bill negotiated by McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a 51-26 vote that split both parties. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/249065-senate-begins-debate-on-highway-bill-setting-up-weekend-session

USA Today:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/23/highway-funding-oil-gasoline-tax-fix-congress-editorials-debates/30579385/

Without congressional action, highway funding will come to a halt at the end of July.

America has a transportation problem. Its highways and bridges are in desperate need of repairs. Its major population centers are in desperate need of road and rail capacity to get people and products out of traffic jams. And the Highway Trust Fund — used to build and maintain those roads, bridges and transit systems — is running short of cash. Without congressional action, federally financed projects will come to a halt at the end of this month.

Is there a solution to the problem? A fix? One that would/could work without increasing the taxes? In USA Today’s opposing view a reader responds with a solution that is an obvious solution, one that keeps staring us in the face; one that since the late 70s I have not heard expressed; one that Congress needs to look at and consider as a serious solution.

USA Today Opposing View:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/23/gas-tax-highway-trust-fund-club–growth-editorials-debates/30587867/

By David Mcintoish

Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system.

Raising the gas tax to prop up the Highway Trust Fund is like pumping gas into a junkyard car. For every $1 of gas tax, Washington wastes 20% to 30% in needless federal regulations that jack up highway construction costs.

Here’s a better idea: Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system. And step one is to push politicians in Washington, D.C., to the side of the highway funding road.

The current federal funding scheme for highways takes your gas tax money to Washington, lops off a big chunk to pay for federal bureaucracy, and then inefficiently redistributes some of those dollars back to the states for roads. The problem is the federal middleman.

Projects handled at the federal level are rife with costly regulations, such as the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 that drives up labor costs. The price tag for highway work is also increased by federal environmental rules and duplicative planning studies.

Every state has its own Department of Transportation that studies, plans and executes the road projects that matter most to that state. Why do they need the waste, inefficiency and redundancy that arise from the federal layer of bureaucracy?

This year, the Highway Trust Fund will spend more than $50 billion, including billions for non-highway projects, and will run at a deficit of more than $10 billion. The primary focus in Congress — as it has been for years — is on finding new ways to fund that deficit, instead of looking for ways to stop the spending that causes the deficit.

Let’s drop this nonsense of raising the gas tax. Congress should leave the money and responsibility for road construction and repairs where they belong — back at the state and local levels. One good proposal to do that already exists; it’s the Transportation Empowerment Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.

Their legislation would gradually eliminate the federal gas tax, while giving states the accountability and responsibility to identify and undertake highway projects, using infrastructure funds that would be kept at home instead of wasted in Washington.

David McIntosh is president of the Club for Growth.

This approach probably makes more sense than other solutions if Congress would:

  1. Leave the federal gas tax as it is
  2. Feep the money in the state fund
  3. Legislatively tag the money so that it cannot be used for anything but road work
  4. Phase out the administration of the tax at the federal level
  5. Re-define the role of FHWA as an administrative overseer of highway design, safety regulations etc.
  6. Eliminate all the Federal “hoops” required to do Interstate road work

 

TRIP: New Report Identifies U.S. Urban Areas With Roughest Roads And Highest Costs To Drivers – As Much As $1,044 Annually. As Travel Growth Returns To Pre-Recession Rates, Road Conditions Expected To Decline Further Without Additional Funding At Local, State & Federal Levels.

TRIPDriving on deteriorated urban roads costs motorists as much as $1,044 annually, according to a new report that evaluates pavement conditions in the nation’s large (500,000+ population) and mid-sized urban areas (250,000-500,000 population) and calculates the additional costs passed on to motorists as a result of driving on rough roads. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, and increasing needed maintenance, fuel consumption and tire wear.

 

Driving on deteriorated urban roads costs motorists as much as $1,044 annually, according to a new report that evaluates pavement conditions in the nation’s large (500,000+ population) and mid-sized urban areas (250,000-500,000 population) and calculates the additional costs passed on to motorists as a result of driving on rough roads. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, and increasing needed maintenance, fuel consumption and tire wear.

These findings were released today by TRIP, a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The report, Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother,” examines urban pavement conditions, transportation funding, travel trends and economic development. Pavement condition and vehicle operating costs for urban areas with populations of 250,000 or greater can be found in the report and appendices. The charts below detail large and mid-sized urban areas with the highest vehicle operating costs (VOC) and highest share of pavements in poor conditions.

Rank  

Large Urban Area (500,000+ population)

Percent Poor Rank Large Urban Area (500,000+ population) VOC Per Driver
1 San Francisco–Oakland, CA 74% 1 San Francisco-Oakland, CA $ 1,044
2 Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, CA 73% 2 Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, CA $ 1,031
3 Concord, CA 62%   3 Concord, CA $     954
4 Detroit, MI 56% 4 Tulsa, OK $     928
5 San Jose, CA 53% 5 Oklahoma City, OK $     917
6 Cleveland, OH 52% 6 Detroit, MI $     866
7 New York–Newark, NY 51% 7 Cleveland, OH $     845
8 San Diego, CA 51% 8 San Jose, CA $     844
9 Grand Rapids, MI 51% 9 San Diego, CA $     843
10 Honolulu, HI 51% 10 San Antonio, TX $     838
11 Akron, OH 50% 11 El Paso, TX $     815
12 San Antonio, TX 49% 12 Riverside–San Bernardino, CA $     812
13 Milwaukee, WI 46% 13 Grand Rapids, MI $     803
14 Riverside–San Bernardino, CA 46% 14 Akron, OH $     797
15 El Paso, TX 46% 15 New York–Newark, NY $     791
16 Oklahoma City, OK 45% 16 Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington, TX $     791
17 Tulsa, OK 45% 17 Birmingham, AL $     784
18 New Haven, CT 45% 18 Honolulu, HI $     777
19 Bridgeport-Stamford, CT 44% 19 Houston, TX $     772
20 Birmingham, AL 43% 20 Sacramento, CA $     767
21 Denver–Aurora, CO 43% 21 Milwaukee, WI $     753
22 Seattle, WA 42% 22 Denver–Aurora, CO $     737
23 Omaha, NE 42% 23 Omaha, NE $     729
24 Sacramento, CA 42% 24 Colorado Springs, CO $     723
25 New Orleans, LA 42% 25 New Orleans, LA $     713

 

Rank Mid-sized Urban Area

(250,000-500,000 population)

Percent Poor Rank Mid-sized Urban Area

(250,000-500,000 population)

VOC Per Driver
1 Flint, MI 54% 1 Temecula–Murrieta, CA $ 857
2 Antioch, CA 52% 2 Flint, MI $ 839
3 Santa Rosa, CA 49% 3 Antioch, CA $ 831
4 Trenton, NJ 48% 4 Jackson, MS $ 818
5 Temecula–Murrieta, CA 47% 5 Santa Rosa, CA $ 811
6 Scranton, PA 46% 6 Trenton, NJ $ 764
7 Reno, NV 46% 7 Hemet, CA $ 758
8 Spokane, WA 44% 8 Reno, NV $ 748
9 Jackson, MS 44% 9 Lansing, MI $ 733
10 Lansing, MI 39% 10 Scranton, PA $ 717
11 Baton Rouge, LA 38% 11 McAllen, TX $ 716
12 Shreveport, LA 36% 12 Baton Rouge, LA $ 705
13 Madison, WI 36% 13 Spokane, WA $ 685
14 Hemet, CA 36% 14 Madison, WI $ 685
15 Stockton, CA 34% 15 Oxnard, CA $ 669
16 McAllen, TX 33% 16 Victorville–Hesperia–Apple Valley, CA $ 664
17 Victorville-Hesperia-Apple Valley, CA 32% 17 Shreveport, LA $ 663
18 Davenport, IA 31% 18 Stockton, CA $ 657
19 Syracuse, NY 30% 19 Modesto, CA $ 636
20 Modesto, CA 30% 20 Davenport, IA $ 591
21 Oxnard, CA 30% 21 Wichita, KS $ 591
22 Provo–Orem, UT 30% 22 Provo–Orem, UT $ 583
23 Lancaster, PA 27% 23 Ann Arbor, MI $ 571
24 Fort Wayne, IN 27% 24 Reading, PA $ 555
25 Ann Arbor, MI 26% 25 Corpus Christi, TX $ 549

In 2013 more than one quarter (28 percent) of the nation’s major urban roads– Interstates, freeways and other arterial routes – had pavements that were in substandard condition and provided an unacceptably rough ride to motorists, costing the average urban driver $516 annually. The nationwide annual cost of driving on deteriorated roads totals $109.3 billion.

In 2013 more than one quarter (28 percent) of the nation’s major urban roads– Interstates, freeways and other arterial routes – had pavements that were in substandard condition and provided an unacceptably rough ride to motorists, costing the average urban driver $516 annually. The nationwide annual cost of driving on deteriorated roads totals $109.3 billion.

“The nation’s rough roads stress nerves and cost billions in unnecessary vehicle replacement, repair and fuel costs,” said Jill Ingrassia, AAA managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “Full investment in our nation’s transportation system will reduce the financial burden on drivers and provide them with a smoother, safer and more efficient ride.”

The federal government is a critical source of funding for road and highway repairs. But the lack of adequate funding beyond the expiration of the current federal surface transportation program, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), which expires on July 31, 2015, threatens the future condition of the nation’s roads and highways.

“The long-term preservation and maintenance of our national transportation system depends on federal investment,” said Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). “We can do better than the uncertainty of short-term extensions. America needs Congress to fully fund a multi-year surface transportation bill.”

With vehicle travel growth rates returning to pre-recession levels and large truck travel anticipated to grow significantly, mounting wear and tear on the nation’s urban roads and highways is expected to increase the cost of needed highway repairs. Vehicle travel, which remained largely unchanged from 2008 to 2013, increased by 1.7 percent from 2013 to 2014 and increased 3.9 percent during the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. And, the amount of large commercial truck travel in the U.S. is expected to increase by 72 percent from 2015 to 2030.

“The deteriorating condition of our nation’s urban roads threatens the health of the nation’s economy, reducing the efficiency of a region’s businesses and employers,” said Janet Kavinoky, Executive Director, Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition. “Attracting jobs and expanding a region’s economy requires a well-maintained, efficient and safe transportation system. Funding needed transportation improvements must be a top priority at the federal, state and local levels and Congress must do its part by authorizing an adequately funded, long-term federal transportation bill.”

“With state and local governments struggling to fund needed road repairs and with federal surface transportation funding set to expire this month, road conditions are projected to get even worse,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Congress could reduce the extra costs borne by motorists driving on rough roads by authorizing a long-term, adequately funded federal transportation program that improves road conditions on the nation’s major roads and highways.”

Bumpy Roads Ahead:

America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother

Executive Summary

Keeping the wheel steady on America’s roads and highways has become increasingly challenging as drivers encounter potholes and pavement deterioration. More than a quarter of the nation’s major urban roadways – highways and major streets that are the main routes for commuters and commerce – are in poor condition. These critical links in the nation’s transportation system carry 53 percent of the approximately 3 trillion miles driven annually in America.

With the rate of vehicle travel returning to pre-recession levels and local and state governments unable to adequately fund road repairs while the current federal surface transportation program is set to expire on July 31, 2015, road conditions could get even worse in the future.

In this report, TRIP examines the condition of the nation’s major urban roads, including pavement condition data for America’s most populous urban areas, recent trends in travel, the latest developments in repairing roads and building them to last longer, and the funding levels needed to adequately address America’s deteriorated roadways.

For the purposes of this report, an urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas. Pavement condition data are the latest available and are derived from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 2013 annual survey of state transportation officials on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways, based on a uniform pavement rating index. The pavement rating index measures the level of smoothness of pavement surfaces, supplying information on the ride quality provided by road and highway surfaces. The major findings of the TRIP report are:

More than a quarter of the nation’s major urban roads are rated in substandard or poor condition, providing motorists and truckers with a rough ride and increasing the cost of operating a vehicle.

  • More than one-quarter (28 percent) of the nation’s major urban roads – Interstates, freeways and other arterial routes – have pavements that are in substandard condition and provide an unacceptably rough ride to motorists.
  • An additional 41 percent of the nation’s major urban roads and highways have pavements that are in mediocre or fair condition, and 31 percent are in good condition.
  • Including major rural roads, 18 percent of the nation’s major roads are in poor condition, 40 percent are in mediocre or fair condition, and 42 percent are in good condition.
  • The 25 urban regions with a population of 500,000 or greater with the highest share of major roads and highways with pavements that are in poor condition and provide a rough ride are:

TRIP 1* An urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas.

  • The 25 urban regions with a population between 250,000 and 500,000 with the greatest share of major roads and highways with pavements that are in poor condition and provide a rough ride are:

TRIP 2* An urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas.

  • A listing of road conditions for each urban area with a population of 500,000 or more can be found in Appendix A. Pavement condition data for urban areas with a population between 250,000 and 500,000 can be found in Appendix B.
  • The average motorist in the U.S. is losing $516 annually — $109.3 billion nationally — in additional vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in need of repair. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, increasing the frequency of needed maintenance and requiring additional fuel consumption.
  • The 25 urban regions with at least 500,000 people, where motorists pay the most annually in additional vehicle maintenance because of roads in poor condition are:

TRIP3* An urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas.

  • The 25 urban regions with a population between 250,000 and 500,000 where motorists pay the most annually in additional vehicle maintenance because of roads in poor condition are:

TRIP4* An urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas.

 

  • A listing of additional vehicle operating costs due to driving on roads in substandard condition for urban areas with populations over 500,000 can be found in Appendix C. Additional vehicle operating costs for urban areas with a population between 250,000 and 500,000 can be found in Appendix D.

With vehicle travel growth returning to pre-recession rates and large truck travel anticipated to grow significantly, resulting in increased traffic and wear and tear on the nation’s urban roads and highways, the additional travel will increase the amount of road, highway and bridge investment which will be needed to improve conditions and to meet the nation’s transportation needs.    

  • Vehicle travel increased by 39 percent from 1990 to 2008. From 2008 to 2013, the amount of vehicle travel on the nation’s roadways remained largely unchanged, increasing by one half percent during the five year period.
  • Vehicle travel in the U.S. increased by 1.7 percent from 2013 to 2014. U.S. vehicle travel during the first four months of 2015 increased 3.9 percent from the same period in 2014.
  • Travel by large commercial trucks in the U.S. increased by 79 percent from 1990 to 2013. Large trucks place significant stress on roads and highways.
  • The level of heavy truck travel nationally is anticipated to increase by approximately 72 percent from 2015 to 2030, putting greater stress on the nation’s roadways.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that the U.S. currently has a $740 billion backlog in improvements needed to restore the nation’s roads, highways and bridges to the level of condition and performance needed to meet the nation’s transportation demands.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that the nation’s road, highway and bridge backlog included $392 billion in needed road and highway repairs to return them to a state of good repair; $112 billion needed in bridge rehabilitation and $237 billion in needed highway capacity expansions to relieve traffic congestion and support economic development.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report also found that the annual needed investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs is $120 billion, assuming that vehicle travel increases at a rate of one percent per year. This level of investment is 36 percent higher than the current annual spending of $88 billion.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that if the rate of vehicle travel increased by 1.4 percent per year that the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would increase to $144 billion and if vehicle travel grows by 1.6 percent annually the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would be $156 billion.

The federal government is a critical source of funding for road and highway repairs. But the lack of adequate funding beyond the expiration of the current federal surface transportation program, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), which expires on July 31, 2015, threatens the future condition of the nation’s roads and highways.      

Projects to improve the condition of the nation’s roads and bridges could boost the nation’s economic growth by providing significant short- and long-term economic benefits. 

  • Highway rehabilitation and preservation projects provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity and safety, and by reducing operating costs for people and businesses.   Roadway repairs also extend the service life of a road, highway or bridge, which saves money by postponing the need for more expensive future repairs.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Transportation agencies can reduce pavement life cycle costs by using higher-quality paving materials that keep roads structurally sound and smooth for longer periods, and by employing a pavement preservation approach that optimizes the timing of repairs to pavement surfaces.

  • There are five life-cycle stages of a roadway pavement: design, construction, initial deterioration, visible deterioration and pavement disintegration and failure.
  • A 2010 Federal Highway Administration report found that an over-reliance on short-term pavement repairs will fail to provide the long-term structural integrity needed in a roadway surface to guarantee the future performance of a paved road or highway.
  • The 2010 Federal Highway Administration report warned that transportation agencies that focus only on current pavement surface conditions will eventually face a highway network with an overwhelming backlog of pavement rehabilitation and replacement needs.
  • A properly implemented pavement preservation approach to keeping pavements in good condition has been found to reduce overall pavement life cycle costs by approximately one-third over a 25-year period.
  • Initial pavement preservation can only be done on road surfaces that are structurally sound. Roads that have significant deterioration must be maintained with surface repairs until sufficient funds are available to reconstruct the road, at which time a pavement preservation strategy can be adopted.
  • The use of thicker pavements and more durable designs and materials for a particular roadway are being used to increase the life span of road and highway surfaces and delay the need for significant repairs. These new pavements include high performance concrete pavements and asphalt pavements which have a perpetual pavement design.

Adequate funding allows transportation agencies to reconstruct roadways that are structurally worn out and adopt the following recommendations for insuring a smooth ride.

  • Implement and adequately fund a pavement preservation program that performs initial maintenance on road surfaces while they are still in good condition, postponing the need for significant rehabilitation.
  • Use pavement materials and designs that will provide a longer-lasting surface when critical routes are constructed or reconstructed.
  • Resurface roads in a timely fashion using pavement materials that are designed to be the most durable, given local climate and the level and mix of traffic on the road.
  • Invest adequately to ensure that 75 percent of local road surfaces are in good condition.

All data used in the report are the latest available. Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), the AAA, the Texas Transportation Institute, the Transportation Research Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Six Tips on Spec’ing Dump Trucks for the Driver

Spec'ing Trucks 1 Spec'ing Trucks 2 Spec'ing Trucks 3 Spec'ing Trucks 4

Worksite Truck Safety

SMG

From THE HILL: House approves $8 billion highway funding extension

 

By Keith Laing07/15/15 04:25 PM EDT

The House voted Wednesday to approve an $8 billion bill to extend federal transportation funding until December.

The funding extension was approved in a 312-119 vote.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is considering a funding bill that could also include an extension of the Export-Import Bank.

That would introduce a new complication to the fight over highway funding; conservatives in the House want to prevent Ex-Im from moving forward.

Republican leaders said the stopgap measure will buy time to negotiate a long-term highway bill.

“We don’t like patches more than anybody else does,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “But this patch is necessary to make sure that [construction] projects don’t stop.”

Democrats complained bitterly about the temporary extension, which is the 34th highway funding patch that has been approved by Congress since 2005.

“If kicking the can down the road was an Olympic sport, what we would win here in the United States Congress, we would win gold, we would win bronze, we’d win silver, and we’d win aluminum,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).

Lawmakers face a July 31 deadline to extend highway funding.

Congress has been grappling with a transportation funding shortfall estimated at about $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasts longer than two years.

In the Senate, it is expected that lawmakers will add an Ex-Im extension to the highway funding measure, and then send that package back to the House.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other opponents of the bank have warned GOP leaders against that strategy.

“I’m willing to use any and all procedural tools to stop this corporate welfare and this corruption from being propagated,” Cruz, who is running for his party’s presidential nomination, said at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to allow opponents of Ex-Im a chance to strip that language from a funding bill if the Senate approves the package. But it is not clear whether opponents would have the votes to win.

Lawmakers are not expected to leave for their August recess without taking action on highway spending.

The main source of transportation funding has been the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, but the tax has not been increased since 1993 and more fuel-efficient cars have sapped its buying power.

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will take about $100 billion, in addition to the gas tax revenue, to pay for a six-year transportation funding bill.

Transportation supporters have pushed for a gas tax increase to pay for a long-term infrastructure funding bill, but Republicans have ruled out a tax hike.

The GOP measure approved on Wednesday relies on $3 billion worth of savings from Transportation Security Administration fees and $5 billion in tax compliance measures. It would fund road projects through Dec. 18.

Democrats introduced the $478 billion highway bill proposed by President Obama, which also does not contain a gas tax hike, ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

That measure calls for spending $478 billion over the next six years on the nation’s roads and bridges. It would fund some of the spending by revamping the U.S.’s international tax structure, instituting a one-time tax of 14 percent on offshore profits held by American multinational companies.

Republicans and business groups insist that the 14 percent rate is too high, but Ryan, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have said they’re interested in an international tax reform deal that would also tap the offshore profits to pay for a long-term highway bill.

Top GOP senators have made it clear that they won’t just accept the House’s bill, and are still interested in a multi-year bill that would at least get the Highway Trust Fund past the 2016 election.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that Republicans had carved out enough money to pay for about five years’ worth of highway funding.

“We’re both going at it as best we can, and then ultimately we’ve got to resolve it, between the House and Senate,” Hatch said. “And I think we will.”

—Bernie Becker and Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.