FMCSA: Cross-border program will continue

As a Christmas-week gift to its critics on Capitol Hill, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that the Bush administration’s cross-border trucking project with Mexico would continue. The agency argued the spending bill signed Dec. 26 by President Bush withholds only federal funds used “to establish” such a program.

“In accordance with the 2008 omnibus appropriations act, the U.S. Department of Transportation will not establish any new demonstration programs with Mexico,” FMCSA said in its prepared statement. “The current cross-border trucking demonstration project – established in September – will continue to operate.”

U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who sponsored the provision designed to shut down the program, called the FMCSA announcement both arrogant and wrong in a Jan. 3 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

Dorgan presented a letter from the Senate Legislative Counsel, which drafted the amendment, reaffirming its intent to prevent the cross-border program from continuing. The record of the Senate debate, Dorgan argued, clearly shows that senators – both those in favor and those opposed – agreed the amendment would put an end to the cross-border program.

The Teamsters union expressed outrage and vowed to press ahead with its lawsuit against the cross-border program. That case is pending in a federal appeals court in San Francisco.
– Staff reports

Panel recommends vast transport spending program
A divided blue-ribbon commission on U.S. surface transportation policy released its final report Jan. 15 in Washington, D.C., without the signature, or presence, of the commission’s chairwoman, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

The absence could signify the Bush administration’s unhappiness with the panel’s recommendations to keep the federal government in charge of road-building and increase the per-gallon fuel tax to finance it.

Nine members of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission signed the final report. The three other members, including Peters, contributed their own minority report.

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The report’s recommendations include:

  • An immediate increase in the federal fuel tax of 5 cents to 8 cents per year over five years, for a total of 25 cents to 40 cents.
  • The full partnership of the federal government in a job too big for state and local governments and private enterprise.
  • An overhauled federal spending program with specific national policy goals and a far more efficient approval process.
  • Increased use of tolls on existing lanes as well as new lanes and a greater reliance on congestion pricing, freight fees and other user fees.
  • The encouragement of public-private partnerships when feasible.
  • An eventual transition from a per-gallon federal fuel tax to a federal tax on vehicle miles traveled.

The complete report is at:
– Andy Duncan

Recorders are the future, says FMCSA head
At a Dec. 19 U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing attended by only two senators, John Hill, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, defended his agency’s interim final rule on hours of service. He also said the eventual final rule, expected this year, would require electronic on-board recorders for more drivers than previously announced.

“The future of hours-of-service compliance is EOBRs,” Hill said – apparently conceding a point argued for years by private safety groups and the National Transportation Safety Board.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the surface transportation subcommittee, accused the FMCSA of ignoring the recent appeals court ruling vacating the 11th hour of driving and the 34-hour restart provisions. The interim final rule, announced in December, preserves both provisions.

The agency’s action was a “temporary measure to prevent disruption of hours-of-service enforcement and compliance as we make a final rule,” Hill said. “Only 27 percent of drivers that we surveyed are using the 11th hour of driving.”

FMCSA will solicit public comment on the rule through Feb. 15 at Comments must include the rule’s docket number, FMCSA-2004-19608.
– Todd Dills and Jill Dunn

Tolls will save New Jersey, governor says
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine proposes to dig the state out of a financial hole via tolls, beginning with a 50 percent toll increase in 2010.

“Toll increases will be imposed equally on all users, a majority of whom are commercial and out-of-state drivers,” the Democrat governor said in his Jan. 8 State of the State address.

After the first increase, Corzine envisions three additional increases of up to 50 percent that will come in successive four-year intervals ending in 2022. Additional annual cost-of-living adjustments are expected as well.

“The toll increases will reflect a maximum schedule

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