By Tanya Snyder and Brianna Gurciullo | 10/10/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Lauren Gardner
ANOTHER DEADLY YEAR ON U.S. ROADS: Traffic deaths rose 5.6 percent last year with 37,461 dying in what NHTSA called the largest two-year, back-to-back jump in fatalities in about 20 years. Fatalities connected to distracted and drowsy driving fell, but those connected to drunk driving, speeding and failure to use seatbelts increased. Pedestrian, motorcyclist and bicyclist fatalities all rose as well. More than 23,700 people died in passenger cars and light-duty trucks, the largest number since 2008. Traffic fatalities surged 8.4 percent in 2015, the biggest percentage increase in decades. In 2016, the rate of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled grew 2.6 percent, outpacing the growth in vehicle miles traveled nationwide, which was 2.2 percent.
A driverless solution? Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), an Energy and Commerce subcommittee chairman, used NHTSA's new data to tout the House's self-driving car bill (H.R. 3388 (115)), which passed the House last month. "While fully self-driving cars have not yet hit our roadways, these vehicles hold the potential to substantially reduce the number of traffic fatalities caused by human error," he said in a statement Friday.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL: Meanwhile, NHTSA, the agency that's the chief safety watchdog over the auto industry, still lacks a CFO, government affairs director, permanent chief counsel and head of enforcement ... and an administrator. With so few top political appointees, it's "nearly frozen key decision-making," Reuters reports.
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"Well the pistons keep on turning / And the wheels go round and round / The steel rails are cold and hard / For the miles that they go down." (h/t Jameson Rice at Holland & Knight)
GET LISTENING: Follow MT's playlist on Spotify. What better way to start your day than with songs (picked by us and readers) that are all about flying, driving, commuting and sailing?
Wednesday - FMCSA holds one of two days of discussions with truck drivers about the ELD mandate. The House Highways and Transit Subcommittee holds a hearing on infrastructure. Those testifying include reps from AASHTO, NAM, the Transportation Construction Coalition, North America's Building Trades Unions and Sound Transit. In Atlanta, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speaks at APTA's yearly meeting and expo.
Thursday - The House Foreign Affairs Committee marks up a bill to "encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan," H.R. 535, and a bill to "expand sanctions against Iran with respect to the ballistic missile program," H.R. 1698. The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association holds an event on "the challenges a world without NAFTA would bring to American businesses."
NO MORE WAIVING JONES ACT: The administration's 10-day Jones Act waiver ran out on Sunday, with foreign ships once again barred from transporting goods to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico from other U.S. ports. As Ben Lefebvre reports, DHS spokesman David Lapan had announced the decision Friday, telling POLITICO the agency believes that "extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts on the island." Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to President Donald Trump Friday asking that the waiver be extended for at least a year.
MT MAILBAG: Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote to Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas Calio on Friday asking that passenger airlines offer "greater flexibility and added discounts" to residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which are still reeling from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Durbin also asked that cargo airlines "make shipping easier and more affordable, and ensure discounted rates remain in place for the length of the recovery effort."
SEE YOU IN COACH: Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) introduced a bill (H.R. 3974 (115)) last week, to prohibit most Cabinet officials from using taxpayer funds to fly on private planes "until a system is developed to provide the necessary oversight and accountability for private air travel."
ICYMI: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao went with Vice President Mike Pence to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico last week. Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's representative in Congress who was also on the trip, tweeted Friday: "In route to St. Croix with @VP & discussing with Secretary @ElaineChao the highways and roads challenges in Puerto Rico after #María." (Note that @ElaineChao is an old account. Her Transportation secretary account is @SecElaineChao.) Gonzalez, Chao and Pence met with John Rabin from FEMA, Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) and Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Don Wright during the trip.
SEE FOR YOURSELF: Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) checked out the Port of Charleston last week with Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and House appropriator Dave Joyce (R-Ohio). McClatchy reports that Sanford was looking to draw attention to his district's infrastructure shortcomings.
LOOK, MA, NO HANDS! On Oct. 4, General Motors CEO Mary Barra "spent 30 mins in a self-driving Bolt EV cruising through SF." Here's Barra's tweet about it.
HEAR ME OUT: Former DOT chief Ray LaHood last week tried to convince the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission that a smaller, short-term reform board - of which no elected officials would allowed to be members - should take the place of Metro's current board of directors. Lahood "said radical action is necessary to end disputes among jurisdictions that have blocked progress, and to restore confidence in Metro to win political support for urgently needed additional funding," the Washington Post reports.
WHEELS UP: Air travel increased by 7 percent last year, with 242 million more air trips taken worldwide than in 2015. The International Air Transport Association's 2017 World Air Transport Statistics show that Asia-Pacific airlines dominated the passenger air service industry with a 35 percent market share compared to 24 percent for North American airlines. However, Southwest Airlines was in the lead with 152 million scheduled passengers. FedEx led cargo service with 7 million metric tons.
POINT: The Commerce Department revealed Friday a new, nearly 80 percent preliminary anti-dumping tariff on imports of planes from Bombardier (in addition to an almost 220 percent preliminary countervailing duty it announced last month) to protest the company allegedly pricing its C-Series aircraft far below the cost of production. Boeing initially brought the complaint. "The case has had major implications for U.S. trade relations with not only Canada but also the United Kingdom , where Bombardier has major production facilities," Pro Trade's Adam Behsudi reports.
Counterpoint: Bombardier described the new tariff as "appalling" hypocrisy, charging that Boeing, too, sells planes below production costs "for years after launching a program." The Canadian company said the decision "should be deeply troubling to any importer of large, complex and highly engineered products," and that it thinks the U.S. International Trade Commission will overturn the new duties. The commission has until Feb. 1 to decide.
LET'S TALK: Waymo, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council and other groups have banded together to launch what's they're calling "the world's first public education campaign for fully self-driving cars," called, "Let's Talk Self-Driving." They're trying to combat stubbornly skeptical public opinion on the new technology to spread the gospel about how it can make road travel safer. Related: LeBron James is starring in a new Intel ad on self-driving cars called "Fearless."
THEY'RE COMING: The Regional Plan Association warns in a new report that 70 to 90 percent of automobiles could be self-driving by 2045, and cities should prepare for them. To "creatively manage congestion," cities should prioritize street space for public transit, pedestrians, bicyclists and freight; start charging by the mile or increase tolling; turning curbside parking into spaces for pick-ups and drop-offs; and prioritize "affordable, high-quality transit" utilizing driverless vehicles. They have a separate, but substantially similar, set of recommendations for suburbs.
COURT WATCH: A veterans group filed a reply brief Friday in its bid to get a district court to hear its case for throwing out DOT's delay of an Obama-era rule instituting reporting requirements on airlines that mishandle luggage and wheelchairs. DOT postponed the compliance date by a year, to Jan. 1, 2019, a move Paralyzed Veterans of America says should have been subject to public comment. It'll likely be weeks before DOT responds and the U.S. District Court for D.C. decides how to proceed.
- GM buys lidar company with an eye toward a new electric fleet by 2023. The Washington Post.
- Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince reportedly considering a primary challenge against Republican Sen. John Barrasso. The New York Times.
- "China hastens the world toward an electric-car future." The New York Times.
- "Airbus CEO warns of turbulence as fraud probe fallout widens." Reuters.
- "In shooting chaos, Las Vegas airport became a safe haven." The Associated Press.
- "Feds can't say why they claim Tesla's Autosteer cuts crashes by 40 percent." Jalopnik.
- Amtrak deferred essential repairs to New York's Penn Station despite warnings. The New York Times.
- Horizon Air pilots sound the alarm about pilot shortage. Teamsters.
- "Ryanair operations boss quits in flight cancellations fallout." POLITICO Europe.
- "SpaceX has successful launch as it ramps up operational tempo." The Wall Street Journal.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 64 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 177 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,091 days.
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