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On the penultimate day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which coincides with his scheduled State of the Union address to Congress, transportation policymakers will look to reassure constituents walking and chewing gum simultaneously is a thing they can do.
On Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. Eastern time, senators on the Commerce Committee have scheduled a hearing with leading trucking industry voices as a way of improving their perspective about the concerns stakeholders have raised over the years. (Watch a replay here)
The electronic logging device mandate, especially as it relates to livestock haulers, has been among the issues front and center. Federal regulators responded by easing requirements. Congress has advanced exemptions. But flexibility on hours-of-service rules remains an issue. Several senators have elevated the matter at previous hearings. On the House side, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the transportation panel’s ranking member, told Transport Topics he is focused on it. The House panel is expected to produce highway policy legislation in the coming weeks.
Graves said last month that a more common-sense approach is needed.
“Everybody agrees that we need some hours of service,” he said, “but I think we can go too far.”
Improving connectivity along freight corridors also will be among the themes at the Senate hearing.
American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear consistently has called on members of Congress to do more to repair and upgrade roadways. Poor conditions and intermittent construction is credited for congestion capable of seriously disrupting lines of distribution. For years, the trucking industry has sounded the alarm by citing reports. For instance, the American Transportation Research Institute concluded congestion resulted in an annual cost to the industry of $74.5 billion in 2016. Congressional transportation leaders blame the lack of a long-term source of funding for such woes.
To that point, ATA proposed the Build America Fund, which would generate $340 billion in about 10 years through the adoption of a 20-cents-per-gallon fee on motor fuels collected at the wholesale rack. Revenue would be phased in over four years at 5 cents annually, ATA explained.
While policymakers ponder infrastructure solutions, congestion continues to impede trucks.
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Feb. 4, 9 p.m.: President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union. The let-Trump-be-Trump camp is encouraging the Commander-in-Chief to use the annual platform to attack opponents. Party centrists say the speech should emphasize positives. Thus far this year, infrastructure policy has not been a major talking point for the president. Although Trump touted the passage of a new NAFTA as a landmark victory for his administration, last month during his impeachment trial top House Democrats made a case for his removal from office. Trump’s allies in the Senate appear ready to see that he remains in the Oval and allow voters in November to determine his political fortunes.
Feb. 4, 10 a.m.: The Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee hosts a hearing titled “Keep on Truckin’: Stakeholder Perspectives on Trucking in America.” Witnesses include American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear; Jake Parnell, manager of the Cattlemen’s Livestock Market and director of the Livestock Marketing Association; Dawn King, president of the Truck Safety Coalition; Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; and Sgt. John Samis of the Delaware State Police, president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Association.
Feb. 4, 10 a.m.: The Brookings Institution hosts a panel discussion titled, “What to Expect from the 2020 State of the Union.”
Feb. 6, 10 a.m.: The House Financial Services Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Protecting Consumers or Allowing Consumer Abuse? A Semi-Annual Review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
Feb. 6, 10 a.m.: The House Ways and Means Committee discusses trade with a panel of experts. They include Roxanne Brown, international vice president at large, United Steelworkers; Greg Regan, secretary-treasurer, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; and Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations.
Feb. 7, 8:30 a.m.: Politico hosts its 10th annual State Solutions Conference. Colorado gov. Gov. Jared Polis (D) will be among the participants.
Feb. 7, 8 p.m.: The Democratic National Committee hosts a presidential primary debate.
The Democrats in the House outlined a vision to modernize the country’s infrastructure. Now what? Is the Trump White House ready to meet with Pelosi’s team to advance an infrastructure policy agenda?
CQ Roll Call’s Jessica Wehrman captured the essence of a recent Ways and Means Committee hearing:
“Witnesses also brought up public-private partnerships, new market tax credits and opportunity zones. ‘There are virtually infinite sources of potential revenue,’ said DJ Gribbin, founder of Madrus LLC, a consulting firm focused on infrastructure.”
The American Transportation Research Institute’s list of the country’s top truck bottlenecks is expected to be released this month, sources tell Transport Topics.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the highway committee’s ranking member, makes time to share with reporters his caucus’ mood in a rendition of “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” (Original lyrics by Paul Simon)
Fun fact: The concepts of what would become the telephone gained prominence in the mid-1800s.
Mostly they would be shocked to learn there was an invention called the telephone. https://t.co/i9RmnZD6gj— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) January 31, 2020
The Last Word
What the president should have done was, if he was upset about Joe Biden and his son and what they were doing in Ukraine, he should have called the Attorney General and told him that and let the Attorney General handle it the way they always handle cases that involve public figures.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Meet The Press, Feb. 2
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