US Capital

Biden signs $1 Trillion infrastructure bill

From Transport Topics.

President Joe Biden signed his $1 trillion infrastructure deal into law Nov. 15 on the White House lawn, with a smattering of Republican lawmakers on hand for what could be one of the last shows of bipartisanship ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

The president hopes to use the law to build back his popularity, which has taken a hit amid rising inflation and the inability to fully shake the public health and economic risks from COVID-19.

“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said.
With the bipartisan deal, the president had to choose between his promise of fostering national unity and a commitment to transformative change. The final measure whittled down much of his initial vision to invest in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, ports, electric vehicles and the power grid. Yet the administration hopes to sell the new law as a success that bridged partisan divides and will elevate the country with clean drinking water, high-speed internet and a shift away from fossil fuels.

“Too often in Washington — the reason we don’t get things done is because we insist on getting everything we want,” Biden said in his prepared remarks. “With this law, we focused on getting things done. I ran for president because the only way to move our country forward is through compromise and consensus.”

Biden will get outside Washington to sell the plan more broadly in coming days.

He intends go to New Hampshire on Nov. 16 to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for repair, and he will go to Detroit on Nov. 17 for a stop at General Motors’ electric vehicle assembly plant, while other officials also fan out across the country. The president went to the Port of Baltimore last week to highlight how the supply chain investments from the law could limit inflation and strengthen supply chains, a key concern of voters who are dealing with higher prices.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

ATA logo

ATA-led coalition sues to block federal vaccine mandate

From Transport Topics.

American Trucking Associations, along with three state trucking associations and a number of groups representing various facets of the supply chain, have sued the Biden Administration over its employer-based COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit was filed in response to a Nov. 4 Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule mandating that private companies with 100 or more employees ensure that their workers are COVID-19 vaccinated by Jan. 4, or if not, are tested at least weekly.

Those joining in the lawsuit, filed on Nov. 9 with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, included the Louisiana Motor Truck Association, the Mississippi Trucking Association, Texas Trucking Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the International Warehouse Logistics Association, the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Federation of Independent Business.

“To be very clear, ATA and its member companies support efforts to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — our trucks and drivers have been on the front line in fighting this pandemic since the beginning, moving personal protective equipment, test kits, the vaccine itself and much more as the country locked down, but we believe that the Biden Administration has overstepped its statutory authority in issuing this Emergency Temporary Standard,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “This standard arbitrarily picks winners and losers, and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed.”

The rule has been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by 26 state attorneys general in several federal appellate courts, and the 5th Circuit has issued a temporary stay, but the White House told business to continue with the requirements despite the court stay.

A court lottery is expected as soon as early as next week to determine which federal appellate court will take charge of the cases.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

FMCSA logo

FMCSA announces final rule requiring annual inspections of rear underride guards

From Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a final rule amending safety regulations to specifically add rear underride impact guards as a required item on the list of annual inspections for motor carriers and roadside inspectors.

This final rule, due to be posted in the Federal Register on Nov. 9, responds to rulemaking petitions from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, as well as a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office and comments from members of Congress.

The rule also adds a definition of road construction controlled horizontal discharge trailers and makes it clear that RCC trailers are not required to have a rear impact guard installed.

The final rule requirements largely mirror the proposed rule that was announced Dec. 29, and noted that the rule should have little significant effect on most motor carriers that since 1952 have been required to install rear guards on their trucks.

“The impacts of this final rule are de minimis, and therefore, the final rule does not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities,” FMCSA said.

American Trucking Associations Vice President of Safety Policy Dan Horvath commented, “ATA is pleased that FMCSA has moved forward with improving the inspection standards for rear impact guards. Requiring these guards to be inspected on an annual basis is a step forward for safety.”

Rear impact guards and rear-end protection on most commercial vehicles reduce the incidence of passenger compartment intrusion during crashes in which a passenger vehicle strikes the rear of the CMV, FMCSA said.

Industry trade groups largely have been supportive of the new annual inspection requirement, but have opposed attempts to require side guards.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

MG+M law firm logo

The supply chain crisis, trucking, and America’s response

From MG+M The Law Firm.

Across the country and the globe, producers are struggling to manufacture and deliver the goods demanded by consumers in what has been called a supply chain crisis. In China, outbound travel restrictions, government closures of ports, and recent power shortages have crippled exports.[1] In America, the crisis is a result of three factors. When COVID-19 hit the U.S., many states responded by implementing forced business shutdowns to stop the spread.[2] This greatly diminished business’ ability to supply goods to consumers.[3] In the meantime, consumers’ demand for goods has continued unabated. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, growth of demand in America was the equivalent of 50 million new people joining the economy, according to the vice president of supply chain policy at the National Retail Foundation.[4] On top of that, the U.S. has experienced a labor shortage fueled by a number of factors, including fear of the coronavirus, dissatisfaction with wages, and plans to seize on the time away from work to change career paths.[5] The result is a lack of products to distribute, a scarcity of people to distribute them, and higher demand for those products than ever before.

The trucking industry, responsible for moving 71% of goods in the U.S. economy, is estimated to be 80,000 drivers short of where it needs to be to keep up with demand.[6] The repercussions have been massive. Without truckers to move containers from shipyards to their destinations, the backlog at major ports – like those in southern California – has reached an all-time high.[7] Out of the 5,461 container ships in the world, 66 are anchored off the coast of Southern California, between 20 and 26 off Tybee Island, waiting to access the Port of Savannah, and approximately 24 clogging the coast of Long Island.[8] It can take 8,000 trucks to unload just one of these ships, many of which carry goods which are needed for the upcoming holiday season and will not arrive on time.[9]

President Biden responded by negotiating with the Port of Los Angeles to begin 24/7 operations. The Port of Long Beach is also experimenting with a 24/7 program, and the Union Pacific has expanded to 24/7 rail service at its San Pedro Facility.[10] Likewise, Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, Samsung, UPS, and FedEx have all committed to extending their hours to fight the supply chain crisis.[11] Unfortunately, experts say that these steps will have little impact.[12] The response to the crisis must be more holistic, addressing backlogs at railroads and warehouses and the shortage of laborers, as well as the shipping issue.[13]

On February 24, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14017, which began a comprehensive review of America’s supply chain.[14] The order required risk evaluations and policy recommendations for major areas of the supply chain to be submitted to the President within a set time.[15] Reports on semiconductor manufacturing and advanced supply chains, high capacity batteries, critical minerals and rare earth elements, and pharmaceuticals were required within 100 days of the order.[16] Reports on public health and biological preparedness, information and communications technology, energy, transportation, and agriculture were required within a year.[17] On October 31, 2021, the president followed up with an executive order to allow the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to release materials from the National Defense Stockpile as needed for national defense.[18] This allows the Under Secretary to address supply chain shortfalls in national defense materials.[19]

In Congress, the DRIVE-Safe Act was introduced on February 26, 2019, aimed specifically at addressing trucking problems in the supply chain.[20] Currently, interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers must be at least 21 years old.[21] The DRIVE-Safe Act would create an apprenticeship program which would allow commercial driver’s license holders under 21 to drive interstate, and start to address the massive nationwide shortage of drivers.[22] It is currently in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and has bipartisan support.[23] On April 14, 2021, 117 agricultural, manufacturing, retail, food service, and trucking companies sent a letter to transportation leaders in Congress in support of the bill.[24] Meanwhile, supply chain leaders in states like Nevada have also supported the bill, recognizing that much of their freight comes from out of state, and that the DRIVE-Safe Act will allow those goods to be imported more quickly and efficiently.[25]

While the supply chain crisis is a global issue, and interstate trucking is federal, some state leaders have also taken steps to address the shortage of goods. On October 20, 2021, Governor Newsom in California issued an executive order directing state agencies to identify ways to alleviate congestion at California ports, beyond 24/7 workdays.[26] In South Carolina, Governor McMaster issued an executive order on ­­­­­­­­­­­April 1, 2021 to shore up problems in the medical supply chain in his state.[27] The order directs the S.C. Commerce department to prioritize economic development projects and recruitment efforts for pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers, to develop marketing campaigns to promote the state as a life science leader, and to invest in existing medical industries in South Carolina.[28]

The supply chain crisis may get worse before it gets better. Vaccine mandates threaten to exacerbate driver shortages, China continues to restrict exports for fear of another COVID outbreak, and consumers consume like never before.[29] There is no single, holistic cure for the crisis. However, the loosening of federal restrictions on the trucking industry, the increase in hours of operations at major American ports, and the willingness of private companies to step up their distribution and production efforts are all measures which will stretch America’s current supply chain as manufacturers and distributors recover from the pandemic.

[1] James Palmer, Why China’s Supply Chains are Breaking Down, Foreign Policy, Oct. 27, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/10/27/china-supply-chain-disruption-shipping/.

[2] COVID-19 Restrictions: Map of COVID-19 Case Trends, Restrictions, and Mobility, USA Today, Nov. 2, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/storytelling/coronavirus-reopening-america-map/.

[3] Matthew Vann, What’s Causing America’s Massive Supply-Chain Disruptions, ABC News, Oct. 15, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/whats-causing-americas-massive-supply-chain-disruptions/story?id=80587129.

[4] Grace Kay, Why the Supply Chain is in Crisis, Spurring an ‘Everything Shortage’, Business Insider, Oct. 21, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/why-store-shelves-are-empty-supply-chain-crisis-shortages-2021-10.

[5] Roy Maurer, Labor Shortages: The Disconnect and Possible Solutions, SHRM, Aug. 14, 2021, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/labor-shortages-the-disconnect-solutions-unemployment-benefits-childcare-covid-fear.aspx.

[6] Vanessa Yurkevich, Wanted: 80,000 Truck Drivers to Help Fix the Supply Chain, CNN, Oct. 19, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/19/economy/trucking-short-drivers/index.html.

[7] Dani Anguiano, Backlog of Cargo Ships at California Ports Reaches an All-Time High, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/oct/20/supply-chain-crisis-california-ports-cargo-ships.

[8] Paul Page, Port Logjams Reach Savannah as Container Ships Idle off Georgia Coast, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 29, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/port-logjams-reach-savannah-as-container-ships-idle-off-georgia-coast-11632935229; Ariel Zilber, Snejana Farberov, James Gordon, Dozens of ships are forced to anchor off coast of New York as they wait to dock in the country’s second-largest port – adding to US supply chain crunch which has forced FedEx to reroute 600k packages a day, Daily Mail, Sept. 25, 2021, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10029043/Dozens-ships-coast-New-York-wait-dock-countrys-second-largest-port.html.

[9] Associated Press, Supply bottlenecks leave dozens of container ships anchored off California coast, Mar. 21, 2021, https://ktla.com/news/california/supply-bottlenecks-leave-dozens-of-container-ships-anchored-off-california-coast/; Brett Molina, Supply Chain Issues: What are they and how will shortages impact the holiday shopping season, ­USA Today, Oct. 15, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/10/15/supply-chain-shortages-issues-impact-holiday-shopping/8450237002/.

[10] Anguiano, supra.

[11] Edwin Lopez, Walmart, UPS commit to use night hours at West Coast Ports to ease cargo flows, Supply Chain Dive, Oct. 13, 2021, https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/White-House-supply-chain-commitments-Target-Home-Depot-ILWU-ports/608156/.

[12] Grace Kay, Why Biden’s Plan for 24/7 California Port Operations Won’t Solve the Supply Chain Crisis, Business Insider, Oct. 16, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/why-bidens-plan-us-ports-wont-solve-supply-chain-crisis-2021-10.

[13] Id.

[14] See Exec. Order on America’s Supply Chains.

[15] Id.

[16] Id at Sec. 3.

[17] Id at Sec. 4.

[18] Exec. Order on the Designation to Exercise Authority Over the National Defense Stockpile Sec. 3.

[19] Tony Capaccio, Justin Sink, Biden Announces New Steps to Address Supply-Chain Disruptions, Time, Oct. 31, 2021, https://time.com/6112213/biden-supply-chain-disruptions/.

[20] S.569 DRIVE-Safe Act, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/569.

[21] 49 CFR 391.11(b)(1).

[22] S.569 DRIVE-Safe Act, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/569/all-info.

[23] Id.

[24] DRIVE-Safe Act Coalition Support Letter, https://www.trucking.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/DRIVE%20Safe%20Act%20Coalition%20Support%20Letter%2C%20FINAL%204.14.21.pdf.

[25] Maddie White, Nevada Trucking Leaders Propose Solutions to Supply Chain Crunch, Oct. 19, 2021, https://www.fox5vegas.com/news/nevada-trucking-leaders-propose-solutions-to-supply-chain-crunch/article_9bb25a6c-3144-11ec-9002-7f07b4b2884b.html?block_id=1002214.

[26] Governor Newsom Signs Executive Order to Help Tackle Supply Chain Issues, ca.gov, CA Gov., Oct. 20, 2021, https://www.gov.ca.gov/2021/10/20/governor-newsom-signs-executive-order-to-help-tackle-supply-chain-issues/.

[27] Gov. McMaster Announces Economic Development Initiative to Expand Recruitment of Pharmaceutical Companies, Shore Up Emergency Supply Chains, SC Gov., Apr. 1, 2021, https://governor.sc.gov/news/2021-04/gov-mcmaster-announces-economic-development-initiative-expand-recruitment.

[28] Molly Hulsey, Governor Issues Executive Order to Safeguard Medical Supply Chains, Apr. 1, 2021, https://gsabusiness.com/news/government/80287/.

[29] Eric Miller, ATA Warns Vaccine Mandate Could Worsen Supply Chain Troubles, Transport Topics, Oct. 21, 2021, https://www.ttnews.com/articles/ata-warns-vaccine-mandate-could-worsen-supply-chain-troubles; Palmer, supra.

trucks on highway

MTAC President Joe Sculley discusses how the labor shortage is impacting supply chain issues

From NBC Connecticut.

Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, talks about how a labor shortage in the trucking industry is playing into the supply chain crisis.

Watch the video online.

Logo - Nutmeg State Transportation Report Podcast

Nutmeg State Transportation Report Ep. 6 – Impact of marijuana on the trucking Iindustry

In episode six of the Nutmeg State Transportation Report, we are joined by MTAC Safety & Compliance consultant Mike Glinski to discuss federal regulations that apply to the trucking industry, including those related to marijuana. Mike is a former DMV “truck squad” officer, and in that role was responsible for enforcing regulations that govern the trucking industry.

USDOT, California announce supply chain strategic partnership

From Transport Topics.

With the Biden administration seeking remedies to ameliorate freight connectivity concerns related to the national supply chain, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a partnership with agencies in California.

The Emerging Projects Agreement is meant to assist with the transport of freight at key West Coast hubs where stakeholders have identified supply chain disruptions.

Under the partnership, announced Oct. 28, USDOT’s Build America Bureau will be tasked with aiding the California State Transportation Agency via financing opportunities. Such federal financing options include expediting access to Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF).

California projects under consideration for the federal-state partnership include commercial ports, freight rail corridors, large warehouses, truck electrification programs, highway congestion mitigation plans and land ports of entry.

“Our supply chains are being put to the test, with unprecedented consumer demand and pandemic-driven disruptions combining with the results of decades long underinvestment in our infrastructure,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “That’s why this administration is working around the clock to address both near-term and long-term challenges to our supply chains, including investments such as those in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.”

The secretary has called on Congress to clear for the president’s signature multitrillion-dollar infrastructure policy legislation.

The U.S. DOT’s announcement came soon after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued an executive order meant to alleviate supply chain concerns. According to the governor’s order, “The Department of Finance shall work with state agencies and departments to develop longer-term proposals that support port operations and goods movement for consideration in the Jan. 10 governor’s budget. Proposals may include port and transportation infrastructure improvements, electrification of the goods movement system from port to delivery, workforce development and other actions to support goods movement.”

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

Diesel Fuel Pump

Diesel prices hit seven-year high with latest increase

From Commercial Carrier Journal.

Average diesel fuel prices across the U.S. increased again during the week ending Nov. 1, bringing the national average to its highest point since the week ending Oct. 6, 2014.

The U.S.’ average price for a gallon of on-highway diesel is now $3.727, up 1.4 cents over the previous week, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report.

Prices increased in all regions across the country last week with the most significant increase being seen in California, where prices jumped 5.1 cents to $4.651 per gallon.

California holds the nation’s highest diesel prices, followed by the West Coast less California at $3.932 per gallon.

The cheapest fuel can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $3.486 per gallon, followed by the Lower Atlantic region at $3.631 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to DOE, are:

  • New England – $3.651
  • Central Atlantic – $3.862
  • Midwest – $3.639
  • Rocky Mountain – $3.814

ProMiles’ numbers during the same week saw fuel prices fall significantly by 15.4 cents, bringing its national average to $3.569 per gallon.

See the complete article online at Commercial Carrier Journal.

MG+M law firm logo

Preparing for a truck driver deposition

From MG+M The Law Firm.

When an accident occurs and a lawsuit is filed, each side in the case has the opportunity to collect evidence from the opposing party; this process is known as discovery. During discovery, attorneys often conduct depositions of witnesses in order to gather information that will support their cases. If a trucking company has a truck driver who is involved in an accident, both the driver and a company representative can be deposed, and the deposition can have a dramatic effect on the case.

According to an article from American Trial Lawyer: “The deposition of the professional truck driver in a truck crash is one of the most vitally important phases of the entire litigation. The outcome of this deposition is often the single most important aspect of the plaintiff’s prosecution of any interstate trucking case.” A Texas attorney, Mike Bassett, has described the potential effect of a deposition by plaintiffs’ attorneys by stating, “The deposition is where they can do the most damage.”

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there is a mechanism for plaintiffs to depose trucking companies in cases involving their employees. Under Rule 30(b)(6), plaintiffs are allowed to depose companies, government bodies, and other similar organizations. These bodies are required to designate at least one person to represent them at the deposition and provide testimony. As such, it is important for trucking companies to realize that they may be subject to a deposition. That is, the discovery process is not limited solely to the driver.

During a deposition, questions that may seem innocent and harmless may actually be significant in the dispute. For example, plaintiffs’ attorneys may try to get the driver to indicate that he or she was driving while tired. Drivers will likely not admit this information in a clear way, but a skillful attorney can craft questions that get the same information in a different manner. The attorney could ask about a driver’s schedule, breaks, medications, drinking and eating habits, and consumption of any energy drinks or coffee. If drivers are unprepared and unaware of where this questioning may lead, they may inadvertently provide information that is detrimental to their cases.

In another example, plaintiffs’ attorneys may ask drivers or company representatives about training manuals, federal handbooks, and safety statutes. These questions may seem innocent on the surface, but plaintiffs’ attorney may be trying to attack the company’s safety protocols and training procedures. Companies likely will not admit that their training and safety rules were inadequate, but pieces of information can be used to construct that narrative.

The implications of depositions and the aforementioned examples of potential questions from plaintiffs’ attorneys emphasize the importance of being well-prepared for a deposition. Defense attorneys are aware of the strategies of plaintiffs’ attorneys and can provide advice on handling such questions. If trucking companies and/or truck drivers want to decrease the likelihood of being held liable for an accident, they must be prepared to handle difficult deposition questions.

US Capital

AASHTO pushes US House vote on highway bill

From Transport Topics.

Congressional approval of a multiyear highway policy measure would enhance state transportation agencies’ ability to plan long term for infrastructure projects. That is the message from the organization representing the country’s departments of transportation.

Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, pressed federal lawmakers to clear a $1 trillion Senate-passed infrastructure bill. Included in that measure is a five-year reauthorization of a 2015 highway policy law.

House Democratic leaders have signaled the potential for voting on the infrastructure legislation as early as this week. To prevent funding disruptions, Congress extended the highway law’s authority through Dec. 3.

“It’s hard to go out there and commit to a project that’s going to take two or three years to build. That’s why it’s so important for Congress to get a long-term infrastructure bill done that provides states and localities with five or six years of funding predictability,” Tymon said Nov. 2 on C-SPAN. “This way, they can take on those large projects that the American people want us to be able to take on.”

Reacting to the federal highway law’s short-term extension, the group said: “AASHTO members need certainty to plan transportation projects to meet the needs of their communities and keep our economy moving, and the impact of these short-term extensions is not insignificant. Congress must pass the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] immediately to lessen the harmful impacts that come from the lack of a long-term surface transportation bill.”

Alongside the infrastructure funding measure, House Democratic leaders say they intend to consider a nearly $2 trillion social infrastructure budget package. Both bills reflect significant aspects of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposals on climate change and the social safety net. If passed by the House, the Senate would consider the budget measure via a fast-track reconciliation process.

As the House prepares to vote, intraparty negotiations in the Senate carry on. At a press conference Nov. 1, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) expressed concerns about the budget bill’s source of funding. He pointed to the need for a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.