July 26, 2011 | Issue #102
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee released a proposal for a two-year highway reauthorization bill last week.
The proposal, titled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), was authored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the committee, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the committee's ranking member.
MAP-21 would maintain current funding levels for highway programs, includes reforms to streamline the nation's transportation programs, and provides assistance to highway programs through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), according to documents released by committee staff.
"We have worked together to develop MAP-21, which is a bipartisan proposal that modernizes and reforms our current transportation systems to help create jobs, jumpstart our economy, and build the foundation for long-term prosperity. This bill is an investment in America's future, because the nation's aging infrastructure has not kept up with needed improvements, and now our transportation systems are falling behind other countries," Chairman Boxer said in a statement.
"Today I am pleased to join Senator Boxer to announce that we have completed bipartisan negotiations on the highway policies that will be included in the next transportation bill," said Senator Inhofe. "This is a tremendous step forward. Chairman Boxer has shown her willingness to work with us to produce a bill that should enjoy strong bipartisan support."
Although the bipartisan nature of the Boxer/Inhofe plan is an encouraging sign, their proposal faces two major hurtles to becoming law: a lack of money to fund the projects in the bill and a Republican majority in the House of Representative determined to cut spending.
Several news outlets have reported that Boxer and Inhofe have not found enough money to pay for the projects in the bill. To make the bill a reality, they need to find another $12 billion to pay for all expenditures. This may be an exceptionally difficult task given the current budget climate in Washington.
And MAC-21 will certainly face resistance from House Republicans, who think the proposal is too expensive and have issued their own plan that cuts spending on highway programs by 34%.
"We are pleased that committees in both houses of Congress have developed plans for a highway reauthorization," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso. "Clearly there is a big gap between the House and Senate proposals, but we hope that they are able to work together to give the nation a bill it desperately needs."
The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced last week that in the past two years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has placed as many unsafe truck and bus companies out-or-service as it had in the previous decade. This surge in FMCSA enforcement activities is part of the Obama Administration's effort to increase bus safety.
According to a statement released by DOT: between 2000 and 2009, FMCSA issued a total of 14 imminent hazard orders placing unsafe carriers out of service. Since 2009 FMCSA has already issued another 14 imminent hazard orders to take carriers that pose an immediate risk to passengers off the road.
The Obama Administration has also doubled the number of bus inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of passenger bus companies. Roadside inspections of buses have increased by nearly 100 percent, from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,703 in 2010, while compliance reviews are up 128 percent, from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. In addition, FMCSA has initiated a greater number of enforcement cases against unsafe passenger carriers under the current administration: these cases have risen from 36 in 2008 to 44 in 2010.
"I'm proud of FMCSA's efforts to crack down and take action on unsafe interstate bus and trucking companies," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Our safety investigators, inspectors and state partners will continue demanding that motor carriers and their drivers adhere to safety requirements. While most of the industry operates safely, I also look forward to working with Congress to add new tools to prevent unsafe companies and drivers from operating."
In recent months, DOT has asked Congress to give FMCSA a wide array of new powers to increase bus safety, including a new procedure to conduct roadside inspections of buses; requiring new companies to undergo a full safety audit before receiving operating authority; and raising the penalty for operating illegally from $2,000 a day to $25,000 per violation.
"We applaud the efforts of the Obama Administration, the Department of Transportation and FMCSA to increase the safety of the bus industry," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso. "Their commitment to increasing the number of bus inspections in this country and issuing out-of-service orders to illegal operators has certainly made our nation's roads safer for the traveling public."
Pantuso continued, "While we cannot support roadside inspections, because we feel they pose an unnecessary safety risk to passengers, drivers and law enforcement, we do support giving FMCSA increased authority to make our industry safer. We look forward to continuing to work with FMCSA and Congress on this issue in the future."
Twenty One Congressmen Sign Letter Urging Prevention Of Government Competition With Private Business
A contingent of 21 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY), sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) recommending that the remaining 2012 appropriation bills be free of provisions that inhibit the ability of federal agencies to contract with the private sector, including small business.
In the July 14 letter, the 21 House members stated, "We believe Congress should continue to encourage small business and private sector job creation, not protect inefficient monopolies within the bureaucracy. We respectfully urge you to keep similar anti-competition, anti-free enterprise provisions from the remaining appropriations bills."
"On behalf of the American Bus Association, I want to thank Representative Hayworth and her colleagues for spearheading this effort," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso. "Far too often, private bus operators face unfair competition from less-efficient transit agencies that are subsidized by the government. I hope every ABA member will contact their member of Congress to ask that they support Representative Hayworth's work."
Click here to view the letter.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recently announced the availability of $8.8 million in
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wheelchair lift grants as part of its Over-the-Road Bus (OTRB) Accessibility Program. The current grant application deadline is September 12, 2011.
The ADA grant program makes available monies for intercity fixed route operators and other bus operations such as local fixed route, charter, tour, commuter, shuttles, special operations, etc. Bus operators are provided federal grant assistance under this program in order to improve mobility options for persons with disabilities. In past years, more than 90 percent of those operators who have received federal grant funds under the Over-the-Road Bus Accessibility grant program have been ABA members.
ABA has created a special webpage to answer questions and assist operators interested in applying for such grants at www.buses.org/Government-Affairs/Federal-Funding/ADA-Wheelchair-Grants.
For ABA deskside assistance, please contact Brandon Buchanan via e-mail at email@example.com or call (202) 218-7227 with any questions regarding the ADA grant instructions, the application process, or your project's eligibility.
ABA has also partnered with Terrapin Blue to provide ABA members access to new tools to help them put together wheelchair grant application packages and serve as a one-stop shop for each operator's grant application and management needs. Terrapin Blue will offer ABA members an exclusive 15% discount on their nationally recognized grant writing services. Contact Terrapin Blue's Anthony Vaccarello to start the ADA grant application process today. He can be reached at (706) 534-3518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Completed applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov no later than September 12, 2011. All applications must be submitted online.
Commercial motorcoach companies continue "to improve the maintenance and safety of their operations" according to the results of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's (CVSA) Roadcheck 2011.
Roadcheck is a yearly three-day enforcement blitz that brings together over 8,000 CVSA and FMCSA certified inspectors to perform thousands of bus inspections across North America. This year 70,712 truck and bus inspections were conducted over 72 a 72 hour. That means nearly 16 inspections were conducted every minute.
During this year's Roadcheck, investigators found that the motorcoach vehicle compliance rate was 91.3% and that the motorcoach driver compliance rate was 97.4%. That is an improvement from Roadcheck 2010, when motoroach vehicle and driver compliance rates were 91.0% and 96.4% respectively.
Motorcoach companies also fared much better than other types of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The overall compliance rate for all CMVs was only 80.8% and the overall driver compliance rate was 95.8%.
"The results of Roadcheck 2011 show that the private motorcoach industry not only remains the safest form of ground transportation, but we're also becoming safer as an industry," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso.
The Open Road Foundation announced that it has provided victim assistance grants worth a total of $74,000 to 19 employees of Coach America to help defray those families' expenses related to severe flooding along the Souris River in the Minot, ND area.
The homes of all 19 employees were significantly damaged or destroyed by the historic floods caused by heavy rains upstream in Canada, together with snow melt and heavy local rains. Meteorologists called the event a "1-in-100 year flood." More than 11,000 people total were evacuated during the flooding episode.
"The support from the Open Road Foundation was incredibly generous and came at a very crucial time for our employees," said George Maney, President and CEO of Coach America. "The speed of the response to the crisis helped our employees in the Minot area deal with what was and continues to be a truly life-altering experience. The Open Road Foundation has been there in the past for our people and was again this time."
Bill Webb, President of The Open Road Foundation, commented, "We were very pleased to be able to respond in a timely manner to this crisis. We felt this was such a significant event that we needed to respond to the limits of our ability as a Board of Trustees and provide economic relief for these employees and their families. Because of the support of our many sponsors and contributors, we were in a financial position to provide these grants."
The Open Road Foundation was established in 2008 by Fenway Partners to maintain a victim assistance fund to support eligible employees and professional independent contractor drivers in the transportation and logistics industries and impacted by disaster and/or unfortunate personal circumstances. Click here for more information www.openroadfoundation.com
On June 30th, ABA staff teamed up with representatives from Destination DC and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to participate in Washington D.C.'s "Motorcoach Appreciation Day."
During the day-long outreach event, ABA staff and their colleagues fanned out across the nation's capital to personally thank the motorcoach drivers who bring tour groups to the city every day and to educate them about D.C.'s idling laws and new bus parking regulations.
ABA staff also nominated dozens of the drivers they spoke with for the "Bus Driver Recognition Program," which rewards bus drivers who obey D.C. idling laws. The winning driver will receive a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant.
Although most of the drivers were enthusiastic to speak with the representatives from "Motorcoach Appreciation Day," many expressed their concern about the restrictions on bus parking in D.C.
"We understand our members' frustration over the lack of bus parking in the District," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso. "Increased parking restrictions are making it harder for them to bring tour groups to the city. I want to assure them that we are working hard every day to make it easier for them to operate in our nation's capital."
Delegates preparing form Marketplace 2012 can now view the full educational schedule for this year's show on the ABA website (link).
Each year at Marketplace, ABA offers more than 40 quality seminars conducted by top-rated national speakers and industry experts. The 2011 Marketplace education program will continue to offer timely topics on three tracks: Professional and Personal Development, Industry Tools and Business Management.
Delegates can also fulfill some requirements towards completing the Certified Travel Industry Specialist (CTIS) program by attending these seminars.
Click here to find out more.
Hard Rock International announced that veteran hospitality executive Greg Naylor has been appointed to the newly created position of director of sales for Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos.
"We continue to demonstrate Hard Rock International's ongoing commitment to our existing Hotels & Casinos brand with the addition of key staff members like Greg, whose deep experience and talent will be invaluable to us and will also serve us as we continue to expand worldwide," stated Michael Shindler, executive vice president, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos.
Naylor will report to Andrea Melotti, head of global operations for Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, and will focus on sales initiatives for the portfolio. He segues to Hard Rock from a six-year post with West Paces Hotel Group in Atlanta, finishing his tenure as corporate director, electronic distribution & sales systems, where he managed efforts across ten countries for 17 hotels, including the Capella and Solis brands. He transitioned to this position following a four-year post as director of sales & marketing for West Paces' Hotel 71 in Chicago.
The Fire In Vehicles Conference (FIVE 2012) has issued its third call for papers.
Authors are invited to submit an extended abstract of not more than 2 pages for review. Acceptance for presentation and publication will be based on scientific quality and significance. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit a full manuscript for presentation at FIVE 2012. The manuscripts accepted for presentation at the Conference will be published as Proceedings of the Conference.
The FIVE Conference will be held in Chicago at the Renaissance Hotel, 27-28 September 2012.
This event will bring together expertise in the field of Fires in vehicles for 2 days of presentations and exhibits. The previous conference in Gothenburg in September 2010 was a great success with more than 230 delegates from 20 countries.
Click here for more information.
Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that will prevent airports and other transportation terminals from charging bus operators unreasonable fees for parking.
HR 1691, the Prevention of Unreasonable Fees Act, will prohibit transportation terminal operators from charging providers of prearranged ground transportation services (e.g. bus operators) larger fees for parking than they charge the general public unless they can prove that the fees are reasonable in relation to the cost of operating the parking facility.
"I want to thank Representative Richardson, and I encourage all ABA members to contact their Representatives and ask that they support HR 1691," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso.
Click here to read the bill.
Donations to the ABA Foundation auction are divided among four tiers - which are based on the value of the donation - and donors will receive different levels of exposure at Marketplace and during the auction depending on the value of their gift.
Tier 1 donations, those woth $10,000 and above, will entitle the donating company or individual to all the benefits at Tier Two plus they will have exhibit space on the show floor in the ABA Foundation booth area from January 6 – 10.
Tier 2 donations, those worth $3,000 - $9,999, will be featured in either the ABA Foundation Live Auction or Silent Auction and companies will get up to a 300-word description with their logo and picture in the ABA Foundation Auction Catalogue, internet exposure with description, logo and company link in our online catalogue. The donation will also be featured in an article in the ABA Foundation Focus, including your company/destination link.
Donations in tier three, those worth $1,000-$2,999, will be featured in the ABA Foundation Silent Auction which will run January 6 – 9. All donations in tier two will include up to a 120-word description with logo and picture in our print and online auction catalogue.
Donations worth $250 - $999 are considered tier four, and will be featured in the ABA Foundation Silent Auction which will run January 6 - 9. All donations in tier three will include up to a 60-word description with logo in our print and online auction catalogue.
"Supporting the ABA Foundation is one of the most important components to ensure the motorcoach, tour and travel industry nurtures the next generation of leaders," said ABA President and CEO Peter Pantuso. "And by donating to the Live Auction, companies can help raise money for the ABA Foundation and maximize their visibility before, during and after Marketplace 2012."
Click here to download the donation form.
The following Motorcoach & Tour Operators have submitted application(s) for membership between July 5, 2011 through July 18, 2011 and have met all membership requirements. They are currently in the mandatory 30 Day period for member comments. Should members have comments regarding these applications, please contact email@example.com.
American Transportation Systems
Blue Ridge Charters
Catawese Coach Lines Inc.
Celestial Travel & Tours
Miami & New York Jet Tours Corp.