Taxpayers: Ray LaHood Stop Wasting Our Money

I know I should quit “beating a dead-horse” but I can’t let some of these ridiculous “ideas” the US Secretary of Transportation comes up with – so he can give your money away – slide.

Back in August 2010 Senators Tom Coburn, and John McCain released a report entitled “Summer-time Blues” documenting the most “questionable” projects that were funded by the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

You may remember reading my post about it as well which I showed the waste of money the Department of Transportation gave away. Well, Senator Coburn has released yet another report for December 2010 showing the “100 most wasteful Government spending for 2010.” In it are some of the most harebrained ideas I have ever seen. And again, this post will focus on the wasteful spending that the DOT Secretary boast is helping to put Americans back to work.

But these projects that Senator Coburn pointed out are just simply a waste of taxpayers money. Something this country – with the shape the economy is in – doesn’t need. This country needs to really tighten its belt when it comes to spending. This country – as I have said before – needs two lists, a “wants list” and a “needs list” and put away the “wants list” and focus entirely on its “needs list.”

This first example of the kind of waste the USDOT is involved with doesn’t directly come from the USDOT. But since the announcement by the USDOT that they had joined up with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support more “livable and sustainable” communities across the country – then it ties into this post.

The number at the beginning of each waste statements will coincide with the number in Senator Coburns report – so you can go and look it up for yourself. Trusty me I am good but I’m not that good – you just can’t make this stuff up.

2.) Sprucing Up Apartments Before They Are Torn Down -(Shreveport, LA) cost $1.5 Million to taxpayers.
The city of Shreveport, Louisiana misspent $1.5 million in stimulus funds on mold remediation for a housing complex it was considering for demolition according to a federal audit. To obtain the stimulus money, the city‘s housing authority promised the federal government it would spend the money on improving a number of low-income homes it managed. Those projects included a mere $100,000 for combating mold and mildew at an apartment complex named Wilkinson Terrace.

More than ten months after awarding the grant to Shreveport, officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development noticed the city had failed to spend most of the money. Under the rules of the stimulus, the money was to have been spent within one year. The agency reminded Shreveport that the funds needed to be put to work, or they would be rescinded.

In the span of a few weeks, Shreveport officials cut contracts worth over $1.5 million for mold remediation at Wilkinson Terrace – fifteen times what they told the feds they would spend, and much more than a site facing possible demolition likely deserved. As the HUD Inspector General noted in an audit of the troubled grant, ―”if the Authority‘s ultimate plan was to demolish the Wilkinson Terrace site in the next few years, the prudence of its decision. . . should be further questioned.” The audit concluded that Shreveport should return over $1.1 million in misspent federal funds.

13.) Big Subsidies, Little Airports – Atlanta, GA cost taxpayers $2.4 Million.
The cities of Macon and Athens, Georgia are both less than a 90-minute drive from Atlanta‘s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport. Despite this, the U.S. Department of Transportation subsidized 26 flights per week to and from each city at a clip of $464 per passenger for Macon and $135 for Athens. Passengers pay $39 each for a seat on the 50 minute flight. The payment are permitted under the federal government‘s Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which allows the Department of Transportation to subsidize otherwise unprofitable flights by carriers to and from rural communities far removed from
any – hub airports.

The local newspaper reports that the Macon averaged 10 passengers a day, while Athens averaged 12 EAS subsidized flights. By law, the Department of Transportation subsidies are capped at $200 for flights to airports less than 210 miles from a large or medium hub, which Atlanta is. The two routes also appear headed in different directions – while ridership to Athens route saw an increase in passengers in the past year, Macon experienced an 85 percent decline in ridership.

Robert Reichert, Mayor of Macon, in arguing for continued service, said simply that ―people like to be able to fly into their hometown. Aviation consultant Mike Boyd sees it very differently, – from Macon, you have service. It‘s called Hartsfield-Jackson. Georgia Skies, the carrier that has held the contract for the past two years, had a contract that expired on September 30, 2010. The Department of Transportation rejected all four bids for a new two-year contract as too costly, and there will be a second round of bidding in November.

15.) “Critter Crossing” – (Monkton, VT) $150,000
The Monkton, Vermont Conservation Commission received $150,000 in federal grant money to build a – critter crossing, to save the lives of thousands of migrating salamanders and other amphibians that would otherwise be slaughtered by vehicle traffic on a major roadway.

The crossings will be low culverts running beneath Monkton-Vergennes Road. Low retaining walls alongside the highway would corral migrating amphibians to the passages, which will have dirt floors and rocks large enough to hide them from predators. (We don‘t want to build a buffet for raccoons, noted a herpetologist involved in the project.)

Some have celebrated the project. The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recognized the town‘s efforts with a – Compassionate Action Award. Others remain skeptical. “I certainly respect all species. However, I don‘t see the need to pay $150,000 for a salamander crossing,” read one email reportedly sent to the Burlington Vermont Free Press newspaper. “I realize there are a lot of other
stupid things my tax dollars go toward, but this one is near the top of the list.”

17.) City Builds Streetcar System on Same Route as Subway System -Atlanta, GA cost taxpayers $47.6 Million.
The City of Atlanta recently received $47.6 million in stimulus funding to construct a $72 million, 2.62-mile streetcar project in downtown Atlanta. The new street car will take passengers from Centennial Olympic Park to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center. Luckily, if passengers do not want to ride on the streetcar, they can also take the existing Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which covers the same area as the streetcar.

Similar projects haven‘t fared that well. A tourist trolley and MARTA bus-line covering the same route as the planned streetcars previously failed due to lack of use. Of course, all of these public transportation options ignore the fact the route is completely walkable. According to the City of Atlanta‘s Infrastructure
Report, however, Atlanta currently has a backlog of $79.4 million in needed sidewalk repairs.

MARTA announced this past summer that it will be cutting bus routes and train frequency, increasing train wait times up to five minutes. Even with proposed fixes, MARTA will still be operating at a deficit of $69 million for the year, just $3 million shy of the total cost of the streetcar project. MARTA will help run the streetcars.

Support for the streetcar system is mixed, with many Atlantans complaining that the addition of the streetcars will be costly, yet do nothing to ease Atlanta‘s growing traffic problem. In fact, of 40 mass transit projects rated by regional planners, the streetcar system ranked last in half the categories used to measure impact.

One Atlantan, who works by a designated stop for the streetcar, stated the project was “foolishness” because – it‘s not going to spur development, it‘s not going to spur anything…when there‘s this many people out of work, and that‘s how they‘re going to use our dollars “by funding the streetcars?” Another Atlantan believed the streetcar was too small of a solution stating – in terms of shuttling people from one neighborhood to another, in terms of where the jobs are in the big picture, I don‘t think that‘ll get us where we need to get to while MARTA‘s going broke. Experts acknowledge that the streetcar is a gamble and there is no way of knowing what ridership will be.

24.) Demolishing Abandoned Facilities at Non-Existent Lake – Lake Optima, Hooker, OK cost taxpayers $172, 110
When it was built by the Corps of Engineers, Optima Lake was heralded as a future oasis for residents of the Oklahoma Panhandle. Despite the construction of a large dam and related facilities, “no lake ever formed.” That has not stopped the Army Corps of Engineers, however, from announcing over $172,000 worth of property improvements for the “lake.”

In the 1960s, Optima Lake was built to improve the water supply of the Panhandle in Oklahoma and to provide flood protection. Despite the effort, it was never filled with water, making it all but useless to potential visitors and leading the federal government to abandon the project years ago. It remains today as a remote site visited by “few” and strewn with abandoned structures.

In early 2009, the Corps of Engineers set aside over a million dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to replace an existing guardrail at Optima Lake, arguing the funds were needed to bring its “lightly used road” up to full federal highway standards. The Corps of Engineers later halted the guardrail project – after taxpayers pointed out that stimulus money could be better spent somewhere other than at an “abandoned, non-existent lake.”

This past September, the Corps announced renewed plans for the lake, designating over $152,000 in stimulus funds to demolish – 148 campsites, 11 restrooms, 2 trailer dump stations, 1 chimney and the Overlook Building at Lake Optima. The Corps also spent another $19,500 on speed humps, signage, and
locked gates to close the road to the lake.

26.) Another Bridge to Nowhere – Hillsborough, NH cost taxpayers $150,045
Federal stimulus funds totaling $150,045 were paid to preserve and resurface an 1860 New Hampshire bridge that does not connect to any roads and ends in an eight-foot drop. The purpose of the project, which only generated 1.90 jobs, is to – better accommodate pedestrians and bicycles. However, some have questioned whether bicyclists will even use the bridge because it fails to connect to a street. “That bridge is not stimulating anybody. Is anybody on it? Is anybody fishing? Is anybody photographing it? No,” said a frustrated resident of a nearby town.

Some local residents wanted the money to go to more important transportation priorities. “I think that money could have been used to fix roads that people actually drive on instead of using our tax dollars to fix something no one actually uses,” stated another local resident.

29.) Bus Statue in America‟s Biggest Little City – Reno, NV cost taxpayers $224,000
A 40-foot long, 6.5 ton statue of a bus titled, “Jackson” on a pole, designed by Philadelphia artist Donald Lipski, will now greet passengers entering Reno‘s new Regional Transit Center. According to the Washoe
County Regional Transit Commission, public artwork like the bus that hangs 28 feet in the air and costs $224,000 is important because “integrating art helps build a sense of pride, ownership, and identity with the surrounding community.”

32.) Walk in the Stimulus Dog Park – Washington, D.C. cost taxpayers $90,825
The National Park Service (NPS) spent $90,825 in stimulus funds to upgrade Marion Park, a popular dog destination on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The money went to repainting the existing fence, sidewalk repair, and purchasing new benches and trash cans for the park. According to NPS, this canine-friendly park is – the perfect place to take the kids for a stroll to the playground, or enjoy a snack in the grass under any of many ornamental trees. Doggeek.com considers Marion Park a dog park and notes that it also offers “poop bags and water for canines.”

33.) “Excess” Stimulus Funds Buy Steel Tube Sculpture – Eugene, OR cost taxpayers $78,979
When a bridge project proved to be cheaper than expected, the city of Eugene, Oregon was faced with a question: would it have to give back nearly $100,000 in “excess” federal stimulus funds it received to build the span?

Instead, the city opted to tack on a last-minute public art installation to the bridge project. Roughly $80,000 in “excess” taxpayer funds later, the stimulus-funded bridge now boasts a series of long tubes that hold netting and jut from the ground. If you‘re wondering what it is, you‘re not alone. That‘s part of the attraction “what the hell is that thing?” remarked a member of Eugene‘s public art committee.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the agency responsible for the “excess” funds, interprets the project and believes in its merit. “Specifically, the sculpture represents the tradition of Native American net and weir fishing in the northwest region,” states the FHWA.

39.) Duplicate Shuttle Services For Federal Employees – Washington, D.C. Area cost taxpayers $4.2 Million
Government agencies spend millions of dollars every year shuttling Washington area federal employees on near-empty buses running along overlapping routes. A study by the General Services Administration (GSA) determined 85 different shuttle bus routes operate in the Washington, D.C. area, with a cost exceeding $18.5 million.

According to the Federal Times, – many of the bus routes overlap, yet buses will run mostly empty rather than pick up employees from neighboring agencies because there is little if any coordination between agencies. Specifically, the report identified 45 of 85 shuttle routes that could be either eliminated or consolidated into existing routes, which would save taxpayers at least $4.24 million

Agencies seem to be divided, with – some opposed to giving up their shuttle services and others open to the idea as a way to save resources. Some agencies have expressed – security concerns about having employees from multiple agencies riding on the same bus and making stops at multiple locations. A former federal employee commented that the system lacked oversight, and as a result, largely empty shuttles were allowed to continue running.

40.) Transportation Dollars Excavate Ship from War of 1812 – Upper Marlboro, MD cost taxpayers $385,000
As the nation approaches the 200 year commemoration of the War of 1812, archaeologists in Maryland are working to excavate a sunken ship that may date back to the war. Using nearly $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the researchers believe the ship may be the remains of the U.S.S.
Scorpion, which was tasked with defending Washington, D.C., but was sunk by the British.

According to the Washington Post, – the excavation is part of Maryland’s effort to create a tourism cash cow from the bicentennial of a war whose biggest claim to fame is inspiring “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The entire project may consume as much as $4 million total, but all of the funding has not yet been arranged. Questions have been raised, however, about why the state‘s transportation funding was used for this purpose even as Maryland has over 250 deficient bridges.

44.) Bus Company Gets Competitive Edge with New “Rocket Riders” – Minneapolis, MN cost taxpayers $2.85 Million
In the case of two bus companies providing shuttle service between Duluth and Minneapolis, one received nearly three million dollars to purchase new buses, the other did not. Jefferson Lines, a nationwide carrier, received a $2.85 million stimulus sub-award from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which it used to purchase several new “Rocket Rider” luxury buses equipped with ―Free Wi-Fi, satellite radio, movies, luxury seating and extra legroom. Other businesses have suffered as a result of the government grant enabling Jefferson to purchase the brand new, state-of-the-art buses.

In response, those businesses are starting to raise their voices. “When there‘s a market and they are competitors, it should be left to the market without government interference,” said Dave Clark, owner of Skyline Shuttle, which runs several buses on the same routes as Jefferson Lines. “They could have taken the risk themselves, but they relied on the taxpayer to take the risk.”

51.) “Free” Harvard Courses for Federal Workers – cost taxpayers $5 Million
All parents would love to be able to send their kids to a high-priced and prestigious university. Some may be shocked to learn roughly $5 million in federal funds goes to sending government employees to Harvard. Sending federal employees to a month-long Ivy League university leadership course costs
taxpayers more than $18,000, which is two times what the – average public university charges for tuition and fees. One federal employee that attended the leadership course said “that the – days were packed with sessions. And though they weren’t particularly difficult academically, the benefit was not in its academic rigor.”

55.) The Little Engine that Almost Didn’t: The Shay Engine No. 4 Goes from Scrap Metal to Museum Piece with Taxpayer Funds – White Pines, CA cost taxpayers $102,694
Over $100,000 in federal funds will pay to restore a locomotive, which operated during the 1920s and sat rusting in a scrap yard for decades under a mountain of old tires. The Sierra Nevada Logging Museum will use a Department of Transportation historical preservation grant to return the locomotive, Yosemite Lumber Co. Shay No. 4, to working condition so visitors can watch it hit top speeds of six or seven miles per hour.

The story of the Shay No. 4 begins in the 1920s. From roughly 1920 to 1943 the locomotive served
the essential purpose of hauling logs in the Stanislaus National Forest. When its original owner went bankrupt in 1943, the engine was sold for scrap to be melted down, potentially to aid in the war effort. The engine, however, became buried by a mountain of tires and forgotten. In fact, the engine was not discovered until the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the tire pile removed and the engine was found beneath it.

The engine was almost saved when the Nevada State Railroad Museum bought the engine, but the museum decided it was not needed and abandoned the engine in the desert. In 2004, the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum was looking for a working logging engine and bought the engine, which had been preserved by the dry desert air. Currently, the museum anticipates the restoration will be completed in 2011. Therefore, after 90 years of rusting under tires, escaping becoming scrap, and sitting in the desert
heat, the engine is finally being restored by over $100,000 in taxpayer funds.

59.) Pedestrian Bridge Built “Steps” from “Another” Pedestrian Bridge – Bothell, WA cost taxpayers $260,000
The Puget Sound Regional Council spent $260,000 building a pedestrian bridge across the North Creek, just 20 paces from an existing sidewalk crossing the river. Part of a larger $1.1 million stimulus grant to improve Bothell Trail, this project has been described by locals as -embarrassing, not needed, and not the best place. A city spokesperson emphasized that – we are a city of “rivers” and argued that the 12-foot wide bridge would be safer than that 5-foot sidewalk.

The money from this duplicate project should be put toward higher priority projects in the region. One example is the South Park Bridge that recently closed down in Bothell‘s low income neighborhood, which forces 20,000 vehicles a day to take the detour route. That project has been requesting aid from the Regional Council unsuccessfully for some time.

73.) Expensive Electric Buses Purchased for Third Richest County – Howard County, Maryland cost taxpayers $3.7 Million
Howard County, Maryland was recently named by Forbes as the third richest county in the nation, with a median household income over $101,000. Maybe that is why one local county official sees the $4.7 million price tag for three new electric buses as a bargain. The money will be used to purchase three ―first of its kind electric buses that can charge without being plugged in – the primary destination for the buses will be the local Columbia Mall.

The Federal Transit Administration is chipping in $3.7 million toward the total cost through its Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program. At nearly $1.56 million per bus, County Executive Ken Ulman counted the purchases as – another example of our commitment to saving the environment and saving money.

74.) Beachfront Promenade for Tourists – Pascagoula, MS cost taxpayers $500,000
Tourists visiting the beach in Pascagoula will soon have a ten-foot wide lit walking path, benches, and landscaping to enjoy, courtesy of the American taxpayer. The $4 million promenade project, which received $500,000 from the 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, will be
adjacent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers‘ ongoing $12 million beach expansion project. The effort is part of the city‘s plans to implement the – Complete Streets – initiative, aimed at – creating a more pedestrian and bike friendly – community.

76.) A Tree Grows In…Cracked Pavement: Transportation Enhancement Grants Used to Plant Flowers Instead of Repairing Highways – Department of Transportation cost taxpayers $571 Million
Funds originally intended to repair and maintain highways are being allocated to plant flowers and trees on the side of the road. Congress established the Highway Transportation Fund (HTF) – funded by the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax – to finance the maintenance and construction of the Interstate Highway System, but a portion of those funds are now being used for aesthetic purposes only.

While highways and bridges across the country are crumbling, the Government Accountability Office found that from 2004 to 2008, the Department of Transportation spent $850 million in Highway Transportation Funds on 2,772 landscaping and other scenic beautification projects. According to
the Department of Transportation, $571 million was obligated for these types of projects just last year. Presumably, the flowers growing on the side of the road will divert the drivers‘ attention from cracks and potholes in the pavement. Other projects intended to enhance the transportation experience and funded as – transportation enhancements – include museums, bike trails, and road-kill reduction projects.

Funded projects, however, do not always occur in the proximity of a highway. Some examples include excavating a ship in Maryland and $270,000 to renovate and operate a historical trolley as part of a museum‘s effort in Pennsylvania. These expenditures are made at the same time that the Highway Trust Fund is being drained and critical infrastructure continues to be in disrepair. In fact, the Obama administration said that as much as $17 billion in additional federal money is needed to maintain roads and bridges. Indeed, as a result of the recession, Americans are driving less or trading in gas guzzlers for fuel efficient cars, resulting in lower gasoline consumption and lower gasoline tax revenues.

As a result, the transportation infrastructure of many states is suffering. For example, in Texas highways are deteriorating as transportation funds are drying up. The Texas Department of Transportation forecast it would need $370 billion from 2011 to 2035 just to fund transportation projects designed to ease congestion and maintain commuter roads across the state.

The Texas gas tax stands at 20 cents per gallon, however, one local researcher does not believe that raising the tax is the answer since – “anytime anyone buys a new car, chances are it is more fuel
efficient. If you drive the same amount of miles and your fuel efficiency goes up, you are consuming less gasoline, and you are paying less gas tax. But the state still has to maintain the roads that you drive on. At a time when funds are scarce and states are desperate to repair highways, the federal government should place less emphasis on the view from the driver‘s seat and more attention on ensuring drivers arrive at destinations safely on well maintained highways.

84.) Public Housing Units Bleeding Energy and Cash – Housing and Urban Development cost taxpayers $1 Billion
The federal government could save as much as $1 billion per year if the Department of Housing and Urban
Development were to reform its low-income housing policies, according to an analysis by the National Consumer Law Center. In 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spent more than $5 billion for assisted housing, but the analysis found a significant portion of those funds were
put to use paying utility costs for poorly insulated, energy guzzling public housing and subsidized rental units.

Unfortunately, HUD does not appear to be anywhere close to fully addressing the problem. The NCLC report noted, – HUD reported shaving off only $33 million of that multi-billion dollar bill, or 2/3 of 1 percent. Clearly, HUD can do better for the taxpayers.

89.) Stimulus Puts Goats to Work – Benewah County, ID cost taxpayers jobs and $4,950
Naaaaaa a good use of taxpayer dollars: part of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project was
used to put goats to work. Unfortunately, human beings did not fare so well.

The Heyburn State Park rented 540 goats, at a price tag of $4,950, for – invasive weed management. The National Park Service (NPS) allocated over a million dollars to Benewah County to help control the weeds. Overall, the project employed roughly 527 more goats than human beings.

92.) Your Money Biking, Walking, and Talking Away – Chattanooga, TN cost taxpayers $36,000
The Federal Highway Administration spent $36,000 co-sponsoring the 2010 International Symposium on Bicycling and Walking, which occurred from September 13th through 17th. The conference featured a Pro Walk/Pro Bike® Networking Party and numerous bicycle and pedestrian related workshops, such
as – Tips and Strategies for Using Social Media. Another session taught attendees that – bicycle and pedestrian planning in Mexican cities such as Guadalajara, Leon, and Aguascalientes offer many lessons that are appropriate in cities around the US. Participants were also coached on strategies on getting more federal funding: – Attendees will learn how to apply for “federal” funds: what works, what doesn’t.

98.) 1920s Gas Station Transformed into Museum – Wytheville, VA cost taxpayers $77,000
The town of Wytheville, Virginia received $215,000 in federal transportation dollars to restore an 84-year-old service station and transform it into the – Great Lakes to Florida Transportation Museum. Officials plan on returning the station to its 1920s look, making part of the building a – hands-on discovery museum, – and providing other displays for adults. The authenticity of the museum will only go so far; the gas tanks at the service station were removed in 1955.

100.) City Gets Funding for “Slightly Different” Bike Signage – Portland, OR cost taxpayers $900,000
Why have one bike sign when you can have two? Portland, Oregon spent $900,000 in federal stimulus funds on a new bike signage project even though the city already has similar bike signs, which it plans to leave up. The new signs—which include arrows, distance, and travel times to key destinations – have a slightly different design than existing ones – according to a local biking website.

I apologize for the LONG post I could have just posted the link – but I wanted to draw attention to what the DOT specifically wasted money on – in projects they were directly involved with. I want to thank Senator Coburn for allowing me to post this waste by the USDOT.

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Truckers: DOT we are not little kids – STOP treating us this way

Where are all these supposed “trucking advocates” at?

Why are they not jumping up and down over these cell phone and texting laws?

Professional truck drivers are not little kids – like the United States Department Of Transportation treats them.

The USDOT needs to get a clue as to what the problems truck drivers face are.

Professional truck drivers know that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous for ALL DRIVERS – we don’t need to be told this by @RayLaHood. He keeps spouting off about how 5,500 people were killed or hurt last year because of distracted driving. But you never hear the DOT Secretary mention car and pick-up drivers are the cause of this.

You do know why you never hear him say this about non-CDL drivers don’t you? It’s because truckers for years just sit and take whatever is thrown on them – no matter how idiotic the laws are. The “regular drivers” of cars and pick-ups would burn the phone lines up if such ludicrous laws were forced upon them. When are truck drivers going to stop just taking it?

Truck drivers are the back-bone of the the transportation industry. Without truck drivers there would be nothing, I mean literally nothing! No food, gas, medicines, electric, computers, other vehicles, cell phones, movies, etc. NOTHING. Get a CLUE why don’t you Mr. DOT man. I have never before ever been ashamed of the United States of America as I am now. I am ashamed to be apart of such a country that is now being run by fools!

As I have stated many times before – 4 million truck drivers are on the road at any given day or night. Safe parking is a very real problem or the lack thereof I should say is the problem. The USDOT has the power and the means to fix this problem – but they pass asinine laws about cell-phones instead. Why is this? Why are these morons not seeing the problems?

Why are these people so blind to the fact of the very serious problems with the lack of safe parking? 4 million trucks on the highways – and every year that number grows. Serious problems with US interstates and this administration wastes billions on high-speed rail. We need problems fixed in ALL OUR INFRASTRUCTURES NOW! We don’t need to waste billions of dollars on something that – we as a country with the economy we have – don’t need.

Accidents involving tractor trailers are at their ALL-TIME LOW since records were started being kept – years ago. But we have a US cell phone czar who can’t see this – or refuses to see this. Over 80% of the accidents were NOT the truck drivers fault – it was the other vehicles fault involved in the accident. To hear Mr. DOT spout off about it that all 5,500 killed or injured last year by distracted driving was because of a truck driver.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and USDOT think they can make every problem there is go away by adding another new regulation. Truck drivers are screaming at them the NEED for more safe parking – but they add a new regulation about cell phones – or the hours-of-service. Truck drivers told the FMCSA and USDOT how to fix the fatigue related problems in the industry – but they added a new texting decree. Truck drivers have been screaming for years about companies running drivers over hours because of messed up scheduling by dispatchers – but FMCSA and USDOT add a new regulation that all trucks should have Electronic On-board Recorders.

Drivers have been screaming for years about the 80,000 pound weight limit being too much. FMCSA and USDOT are reviewing and allowing some states to INCREASE the weights allowed to be hauled to 97,000 lbs. FMCSA and USDOT sit behind desk in offices tucked away in Washington DC making up ignorant laws for the trucking industry like they would even have a clue as to what any of the problems are. They asked for truckers opinions on HOS. Truck drivers told them their ideas that would work BTW, but they didn’t listen.

We don’t need more regulations – the government and all the people in the different departments need to start listening to us – the American people!

“The less government we have the better-the fewer laws and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is the influence of private character, the growth of the individual”.~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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DOT Proposes Rule to Ban Hand-Held Cell Phone for Truck Drivers

As part of its campaign to put an end to the practice of distracted driving:

The U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed a new safety regulation that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary @RayLaHood. “This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road.”

Well now, let’s talk a little bit about truck drivers taking their eyes off the road Ray. This statement right here by the Secretary tells me he has NEVER been in a tractor trailer while out on the road. This statement is ludicrous at best for him to say “every time” truck drivers take their eyes off the road they put everybody around them in danger. This proposed rule will NOT make any difference’s as to whether a trucker keeps his or her eyes on the road.

If @RayLahood had ever been in a tractor trailer while out on the road – then he would know it is impossible for a truck driver to keep their eyes on the road 100% of the time behind the wheel. There are many things a truck driver has to keep an eye on while driving a truck. Gauges, speed, mirrors, other drivers, traffic, weather conditions, etc. just to name a few.

All this new rule does is give authorities the right to check cell phone records at anytime they want – accident or no accident. It is a complete disregard for a truck drivers privacy. We as truck drivers realize that driving and talking or sending text messages from a hand held device is dangerous – but we also realize that sometimes it is necessary to do so.

In all my life I have never seen such an unorganized group such as the US DOT on what their priorities SHOULD be. 4 million truck drivers are on the road everyday in the US and safe parking is not sufficient – and the USDOT has the authority to DO SOMETHING about it but won’t. What do they do you ask? The USDOT comes up with another lame excuse just as they always have and then proposes another asinine idea or law. It is no-wonder this administration is the laughing stock of the US.

I guess I shouldn’t say laughing stock because really it is truly sad. With all the things that are wrong in the US today that we have people in power that could get things done to fix it or make it better but don’t have a clue as to what they are doing. I just hope that come January that things change for the better. If not then hopefully we can survive until 2012 and bring about some real changes – instead of the fantasies that the people in power have today.

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FMCSA Launches CSA2010 for Commercial Trucks and Buses

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today took a major step toward improving commercial truck and bus safety with the launch of the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program.

The centerpiece of CSA is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which will analyze all safety-based violations from inspections and crash data to determine a commercial motor carrier’s on-road performance. The new safety program will allow FMCSA to reach more carriers earlier and deploy a range of corrective interventions to address a carrier’s specific safety problems.

“The CSA program will help us more easily identify unsafe commercial truck and bus companies,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Better data and targeted enforcement will raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and empower them to take action before safety problems occur.”

The program also advances the Obama Administration’s open government initiative by providing the public with safety data in a more user-friendly format. This will give consumers a better picture of those carriers that pose a safety risk. CSA was also tested in nine pilot states before the program was launched.

“We worked closely with our partners in the motor vehicle community to develop this powerful new program,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “CSA is an important new tool that will help reduce commercial vehicle-related crashes and save lives.”

The SMS uses seven safety improvement categories called BASICs to examine a carrier’s on-road performance and potential crash risk. The BASICs are Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service), Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator. Under FMCSA’s old measurement system, carrier performance was assessed in only four broad categories.

By looking at a carrier’s safety violations in each SMS category, FMCSA and state law enforcement will be better equipped to identify carriers with patterns of high-risk behaviors and apply interventions that provide carriers the information necessary to change unsafe practices early on.

Safety interventions include early warning letters, targeted roadside inspections and focused compliance reviews that concentrate enforcement resources on specific issues identified by the SMS.

FMCSA will continue to conduct onsite comprehensive compliance reviews for carriers with safety issues across multiple BASICs. And, where a carrier has not taken the appropriate corrective action, FMCSA will invoke strong civil penalties.

To learn more about the new CSA program, visit http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/. To see the new SMS, visit http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms.

© 2010, Truck Drivers News Blog. All rights reserved.

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Crackdown On Speeding Tractor Trailers Opinionator Wants Split Speed Limit

I read today at the chattanoogan.com news opinion section about how the Tennessee Highway Patrol was cracking-down on tractor-trailers all across Tennessee.

The reason was that many accidents have occurred involving tractor-trailers.

Their comments were that they were checking for the brakes, the weight of the vehicles, and drug use. Since their enforcement there have been several more tractor-trailer accidents in this vicinity.

A City Judge thought he should weigh in on the subject and gave his opinion in the matter. The Judge said that he thought the reason there were continuing accidents was that the THP was so focused on brakes, weight, and drug use. He believes they should be mainly focused on speed.

From the Judge: Most of the highways now allow cars to go 10 miles faster than trucks. Example: Cars 65/Trucks 55. This is a good law. If enforced, it separates the cars from the trucks. If enforced, it prevents trucks from following too close behind cars or from flying past them.

In Ohio and some other states they have the law that tractor-trailers must not ride within 100 feet of one another plus they enforce this lower speed limit than automobiles. This 100-feet limit is a good preventive law. Tennessee used to have this law, but that and the no piggy-back truck laws went away years ago. It needs to be re-implemented to save lives. Also, widen the highways and require trucks to drive only in the right two lanes.

Let’s just hope officials realize the good Judge must have had a few drinks before he wrote this. Split speed limits are not safe. I am not even going to search out these “accidents” that are the trucker’s fault as the Judge implies – but I will bet that most if not all of them were the fault of the car driver – if any were involved.

Split speed limits allow for cars to travel faster than tractor-trailers and in doing so the cars come upon slower trucks while driving sometimes a lot faster than the truck. What happens now? Either the car slams into the rear of the truck – or swerves at the last minute and either clips a car in another lane or over corrects and slides into the medium.

The good Judge should do a little more research as Ohio has done away with the split speed limit and allowed trucks to go faster. The speed limit was 55 mph now it is 65 mph. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation allowing tractor-trailers to drive at the same speeds as cars in most areas of the state as well.

Truckers backed the changes in both states, saying higher speed limits would reduce accidents by reducing the difference between their speeds and the speed of passenger car traffic around them. They believe a lower speed limit for the truck encourages other drivers to pass them, leading to unsafe traffic moves that cause accidents – such as cutting off a truck that can’t stop quickly.

Of course though highway safety advocates contest the higher speed limits for the tractor trailers citing that it takes trucks longer to stop. Yes, it does take trucks longer to stop. A loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph with dry conditions and cool brakes takes about 300 feet to stop safely. A loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph with wet conditions and warmer brakes takes around 430 feet to stop safely. A car traveling at 55 mph with dry conditions almost 200 feet to stop safely – these times also include reaction times. I’m guessing at these distances that this is not emergency braking by either of the vehicles – which more than likely would cut some distance off.

The good Judge does offer one good point that I believe needs to be addressed. Driver pay – laugh if you must, but this will cause a truck driver to speed or drive fatigued. Most truck drivers are paid by the mile, so obviously the quicker they can get the load delivered the quicker they can work towards getting another load if the hours are available.

Most usually what happens is a truck driver gets stuck sitting at a loading or unloading dock for a few hours – which he or she does not get paid to do – but still has to allow their hours-of-service clock to continue to run – truckers only get 14 hours per day to work of which 11 can be driving. After that, they must find a place to park for 10 hours of off duty.

The good Judge says to change the way drivers are paid from mileage to hourly and this takes care of the speeding and fatigued driving by truck drivers. The good Judge ends his rant on a bad note. He contradicts himself by saying that he knows the cars need to slow down. But truck drivers are professional drivers and their trucks sometimes weigh over 90,000 pounds – for the record if it is not a permitted load a tractor-trailer can legally only carry 80,000 pounds.

I’m not sure what to tell you to do Judge except maybe layoff the booze as it seems you may have been drinking and writing.

Source chattanoogan.com

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Recovery Act – ‘If It Was Good’ – Why Keep Accentuating It

If the Recovery Act – that the Secretary of Transportation keeps proclaiming about was a good idea for the economy – why must he keep reminding everyone?

Is it because those that were in favor of it are not sure about it? Or is it the apprehension that not very many would back it? I always thought that if it was a good idea then there would be no need for the reminders.

It is uncanny that those that favored the recovery act – keep ‘reminding’ us about it – telling us all these things that could not have been possible without spending billions of dollars. But then the Bureau of Labor Statistic reports unemployment has not changed much like we have all been told it would – if this money was spent. It is disheartening to keep reminding us of the foolhardiness of the Obama administration.

‘If it were a good concept, then I don’t believe it would need to be emphasized so much. It’s almost as if the Secretary is uncertain of the recovery act himself and keeps highlighting it, trying to force an artificial effectiveness on those who are not convinced, that it is working. When there are those of us that are living in the reality that it didn’t or has not worked.

I guess that they think if they keep reminding us that by ‘saying’ it is working then eventually we will begin to ‘think’ it is working. It is daunting to read the Secretary’s blog advertising that the recovery act has saved small businesses from becoming extinct and is helping the small businesses to even expand – when the tax breaks have not been extended yet. These same small businesses he commends will undoubtedly be forced to close – if their taxes are raised. Not to mention the fact that the new health care laws seem geared to causing small businesses to fail.

I just wonder when these foolish people in power will awaken from their fairy tale trip to dreamland and realize they have screwed up this country to the point of no return – in 2012? The ‘summer of recovery’ as the Secretary keeps exclaiming won’t go down in history as a medal winner. It will however go down in history as the biggest downfall – ’2010 summer of decay’. With the Senate making their dismal decisions as of late, e.g., not passing the earmark ban, and the passing of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act – we are setting ourselves up for yet again – another failure.

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Women In Trucking Salutes The Women Behind The Wheel On ESPN

Viewers of the 2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl might be surprised to only see women in a thirty second commercial promoting the trucking industry.

The Women In Trucking Association, through the support of Frito-Lay North America, Freightliner LLC, Walmart, and Internet Truckstop filmed the ad to honor the “women behind the wheel.”

The commercial features a white Freightliner tractor-trailer (driven by Walmart driver, Allyson Hay). It continues as photos of women posed by their trucks appear with the words, “professional,” experienced,” “dedicated,” and “pioneers.” A photo of the 2010 Salute to Women (www.salute2women.com) appears before President/CEO Ellen Voie acknowledges the “women behind the wheel.”

S & E Productions, (www.sandeproductions.com); a Franklin, TN based video and audio production company produced the commercial. Dave Edwards, co-owner and producer, worked with Women In Trucking and the ad’s sponsors to create the spot. WIT member companies, Frito-Lay, Con-Way, Schneider National and US Xpress, supplied photos of female drivers.

Walmart provided the Freightliner truck and driver for the filming in Nashville, Tennessee, which occurred in November. “Despite the overcast skies and light rain, we were able to get the shots we needed,” Edwards commented. “Allyson, a/k/a Cadillac, was patient and a real professional to work with, and Ellen even remembered her lines,” he remarked.

“As a nonprofit association, the ability to obtain exposure on ESPN during a nationally televised football game is truly amazing,” said Voie. “Without the generous support of Frito-Lay, Freightliner, Walmart and Internet Truckstop, this commercial would not have become a reality,” Voie added. “Working with Allyson and the S & E production team was a lot of fun, even in a cold November drizzle!” she added.

The Women In Trucking commercial will be shown during the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl (www.humanitarianbowl.org) on December 18th. The Mid-American conference winner will play the Western Athletic Conference champion during the college play off in Bronco Stadium at Boise State University. The kick off is 3:30 pm MST and will be televised on ESPN.

Women In Trucking (www.womenintrucking.org) was established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Women In Trucking is supported by its members and the generous support of Gold Level Partners, Frito-Lay North America and Walmart.

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Study About Drowsy Driving – Proves Nothing

A study on drowsy driving was released by AAA on Monday.

I have read the report and find it to be ridiculous, to say the least. Although there is nothing funny about drowsy driving, this report was based upon too few drivers and phone surveys.

Now, an article written up in the Washington Post online, points towards truck drivers mainly, and the ludicrous comments left at the end of it.

The abstract of the study tells me that little time was actually spent on this. An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper’s purpose.

Here is part of the abstract:

In a nationally representative telephone survey of U.S. drivers conducted in the spring of 2010, 41.0% of drivers admit to having “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving at some point intheir lives, including 11.0% within the past year and 3.9% in the past month. More than one in four drivers admit to having driven when they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard timekeeping [their] eyes open” within the past month.

Telephone survey? Really? I don’t know about you, but I rarely answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number, and if I do and it is a “telemarketer” I slam the phone in his or her ear. So this bit of their “information from their study” is ridiculous at best – as is most studies that are conducted.

I don’t need a “study” to tell me that there are people out driving drowsy – I was a truck driver for 15 years – I know firsthand. The article written on the Washington Post site also refers to the NTSB’s report they gave on the accident near Miami, Oklahoma June 26th, 2009. They concluded that the “76 year old” truck driver had the accident because of fatigue. Which I am not debating at all, he was 76 years old and a truck driver that started work very early in the morning’s, so I’m sure he was tired.

But, I guess I should not mention this truck drivers age as a factor in this accident. An accident that had happened prior to this one and actually caused the stoppage of the vehicles that were involved in the accident with the tractor trailer – was caused by an 18 year old driver that had fallen asleep and hit another tractor trailer.

After NTSB’s investigation it sent recommendations to FMCSA and NHTSA for the trucking industry. They sent this to FMCSA. Educate truckers with updated fatigue material, require that all motor carriers adopt a fatigue management program, require all heavy commercial vehicles to be equipped with video event recorders, require motor carriers to review and use video event recorder, to ensure that the driver is in accordance with company and regulatory rules and procedures.

This was the recommendation sent to the NHTSA: improve highway vehicle crash compatibility, develop performance standards for-front under-ride protection systems for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds. After establishing performance standards, for-front under-ride protection systems for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds, require that all such newly manufactured trucks be equipped with front under-ride protection systems meeting the performance standards.

Develop and implement minimum performance standards for event data recorders for trucks that address, at a minimum, data parameters to be recorded; data sampling rates; duration of recorded event; standardized or universal data imaging interface; data storage format; and device and data survivability for crush, impact, fluid exposure and immersion, and thermal exposure. After establishing performance standards for event data recorders for trucks, require that all such vehicles be equipped with event data recorders meeting the standards.

These recommendations don’t include any mention of what really is causing fatigue driving. I didn’t see any mention of the need for flexibility in the current hours-of-service that would allow truck drivers to take a needed break when they need it. Plus, I didn’t see any mention of the lack of parking places that cause these truck drivers not to get the rest needed. These reports again just prove my point about the “blind mice theory.”

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Transportation Leaders – Three Blind Mice

Why is it that the so-called transportation leaders are just like the three blind mice?

Of course we know there are more than just three transportation leaders, but I couldn’t find more than three blind mice.

So we will try to focus on the three that I and many others think are the most important parts of the transportation “leaders.”

Why did I pick the NTSB, FMCSA, and the USDOT? Well, it is because these three are in the most power when it comes to dealing with the trucking industry.

NTSB investigates most of the really bad accidents that happen within the trucking industry, they are usually completely thorough with their investigations to determine what has happened. This usually takes them several months to complete a full investigation. If to many of the same kinds of accidents occur, then they will make recommendations to the USDOT and FMCSA.

Then why do I consider them to be part of the blind mice trio? Well, the NTSB has a blind eye towards the people that are actually out here working every day – the truck drivers. Drivers are over here jumping up and down waiving their arms wildly to try to get these leaders attention, but they never see the drivers. Drivers have been complaining about the hours they work, appointment times, sleeping arrangements, lack of healthy places to eat, and the lack of good places to park – for years, but nobody will listen.

FMCSA’s primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. With that being said, why do they also have a blind eye towards the industry? I know the administrations leader Anne S. Ferro has to have some idea about how bad the parking situations are. And she must know what the drivers are going through on a daily basis, as far as sitting so much at the docks. Prior to her being the leader at FMCSA she led the Maryland Motor Truck Association as its president and chief executive officer from 2003 to 2009. Previously, Ms. Ferro served as the State of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle administrator from 1997 to 2003.

Why is she and the FMCSA so blind to the real problems that truck drivers face. She has been involved in transportation for some time now so, it surely is not lack of experience. Instead of her taking the reigns and driving to better this industry – she is allowing herself to be driven and enjoying the pay.

The USDOT is completely blind to anything to do within the trucking industry. It is led by someone who has not been in the “real industry” but has been a part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and we all know they have blind eyes towards the real problems. The only thing this administration’s choice for leader of the USDOT is doing what he is told to do, by a so-called leader who knows nothing, and spending tax money on ludicrous livable projects, i.e., millions of dollars for bike paths and fighting distracted driving.

I don’t have a problem with him focusing so much on distracted driving, I do however have a problem as to how he handles the so-called problem – in trucking. States already have fines and punishments for text messaging and driving and are no way near as bad in a car as they are for commercial drivers. But he insisted on quadrupling the consequences for the safest drivers on the highway – truckers.

Trucks were first used extensively by the military during World War I. Trucking began to achieve significant foothold in the 1930s, and soon became the target of various governmental regulations (such as the hours of service). During the 40s and 50s, trucking was accelerated by the construction of the Interstate Highway System, a network of freeways linking major cities across the continent. So see, when have these so-called leaders ever been “concerned” for the drivers?

Here is the latest boat load of crap from the secretary of transportation’s blog. I left a comment that I would be surprised if it is approved, voicing my opinion about the whole “fake” concern that they think they have.

Just in case they “forget” to approve the comment, here it is.

What a boat load of crap…If you all in the DOT and the rest of your gutless entourage had a whimper of a concern for a driver’s health, then you would be fighting the ANTI-IDLING laws, and not allowing these rest areas to be closed.

Why not quit wasting all that tax money on bike paths, and get us some parking places built!

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A Simple Fix For a Couple Of Trucking Problems

I saw a post earlier today on LandLine Now’s blog. It was titled “a solution to idling laws” and it was from a driver that said a simple solution was to make the truck makers add apu’s when they build the truck – simple solution – right?

Well, there could be a couple of simple fix’s to a couple of problems in the trucking industry. The problem is that if these simple fix’s were implemented then there would be no money for these states – for fines for these nonsensical laws that have been imposed upon truck drivers i.e., no texting, no idling.

Why do I call these two laws absurd? If a truck driver is “caught” texting while driving the commercial vehicle the fine can be up to $2,750 for the driver and up to $11,000 for the carrier. A little steep don’t you think? If the fine was not severe enough, under the rule, texting while driving for commercial driver does become part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s list of serious violations that count against a driver’s CDL. In addition, texting while driving carries a 10-point severity weight rating and is a driver responsible offense in CSA 2010.

Now, text messaging is banned for ALL DRIVERS in 30 states and the District of Columbia, but the fines and penalties imposed by states are NO WHERE near what it is for a commercial vehicle driver. Here you can see updated laws about cell phones and text messaging.

Simple fix for this? Go after the cell phone people and make them fix the phones so they will not operate while a vehicle is moving. Simple yes, but not practical to the money hungry thieves that think these ludicrous laws up.

Next up is the one that I find to be a inhumane law. No idling for commercial vehicles. It would be inhumane, if the place where you lived, enacted laws that read, you must turn your electric off in your home for 10 hours after 14 hours per day – wouldn’t it?

Same difference to a truck driver, the truck is their “home,” but these drivers are forced to try and sleep on their federally mandated 10 hour break in their “homes” with no heat and or any air conditioning – simply inhumane. Fines are somewhere around $300.00 for over FIVE minutes of idling while trying to sleep – simply inhumane. A simple fix would be for the truck makers to include apu’s on all trucks made. Problem with that is if the apu is diesel then there is restrictions placed on that as well.

There are a few other ridiculous laws that these money hungry thieves have, and I am sure there will be more in the future. I would just like to see everyone have to go by the same rules that are forced upon truck drivers and see how long the rules last. For the most up-to-date idling laws go here.

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