BAF IN THE NEWS
The Atlantic: Trump Tries to Bend Republicans on Infrastructure (Marcia is quoted)
During his victory speech last week, President-elect Donald Trump devoted more than a single sentence to just one piece of policy. It wasn’t a border wall or immigration, nor trade, nor even Obamacare. Instead, the very first specific promise Trump made upon claiming the presidency was to follow through on the one issue that united him and Hillary Clinton—and divided Republicans in Washington: infrastructure.
New York Times: Tech Distractions Blamed for Rise in Traffic Fatalities
The messaging app Snapchat allows motorists to post photos that record the speed of the vehicle. The navigation app Waze rewards drivers with points when they report traffic jams and accidents. Even the game Pokémon Go has drivers searching for virtual creatures on the nation’s highways.
Forbes: NTSB Says Tens Of Thousands Of Transportation Deaths Are Preventable. Here's How.
Tens of thousands of our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers die every year in transportation-related accidents. According to the NTSB, most of those accidents are preventable. Today the safety agency announced its top ten list of Most Wanted safety improvements for the next two years at a press conference with its chairman, Christopher Hart. The announcement of the list is a way for the NTSB to spotlight critical transportation safety issues and raise public awareness.
Reuters: U.S. transport safety board calls for tougher rail oversight
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board on Monday urged federal regulators to improve oversight of rail transit systems following a series of accidents and urged logistical improvements to prevent train passenger deaths and injuries in crashes.
Washington Post: Nearly 49 million Americans planning Thanksgiving travel
A record number of Americans will kick-start the busy holiday travel season by hitting the road for Thanksgiving this year, the result of low gas prices and an improvedU.S. economy, according to forecasts.
Fast CoExist: Cities Are On Three Paths To Electric, Autonomous Transportation Networks
Electric vehicles. Autonomous vehicles. New mobility businesses like Uber. Any one of these could be disruptive enough. Together, the impact could be seismic: potentially a fundamental shift in the way we get around and in how cities are organized.
The Hill: House, Senate appear split on infrastructure as top priority
Republican leaders in the House and Senate appear to disagree on whether an infrastructure package will be an immediate priority for the next Congress.
CNBC: Trump's plan to rebuild America will be a lot harder to pay for than it sounds
America is falling apart. But President-elect Donald Trump's plan to fix it may hit a few potholes.
Bloomberg: The Trouble With Trump's Infrastructure Plan
During the Obama years, most conservatives were against fiscal stimulus and most liberals were for it. Now that President-elect Donald Trump has proposed a major boost in government spending, many commentators will feel urges to migrate to the opposite positions. In light of this ideological turmoil, we should keep a clear head on when government spending truly stimulates the economy.
Business Insider: How Trump could pay for his infrastructure plans without increasing taxes
A rare point of agreement between President-Elect Trump and Congressional Democrats is that America has an infrastructure deficit:
Associated Press: MTA reconsidering the addition of subway platform barriers
Transit officials in New York City are reconsidering adding barriers on subway platforms following a string of recent tragedies involving subway trains.
Washington Post: Election is reminder why federal takeover of Metro might not be what backers hope
Just a couple weeks ago, Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans was endorsing the idea of a federal takeover of Metro.
Tampa Bay Times: Backers of Hillsborough’s failed transportation referendum see missed opportunity on Election Day
The turnout for Tuesday’s election was exactly what many Hillsborough County officials hoped for when they proposed a referendum to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for transportation needs.
Orlando Sentinel: John Mica's got the horsepower to propel Trump transportation plans
Donald Trump could make no better choice for secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation than John Mica. The former House Transportation Committee chairman is one of the most thoughtful and formidable leaders on transportation policy in Congress.
New Haven Register: Murphy optimistic Trump will support funding transportation projects
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Monday he is optimistic that President-elect Donald Trump will continue to support funding transportation projects such as the Hartford Line commuter rail project between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts, that will begin service in January 2018.
Dallas Morning News: Texas lawmakers want to settle the fight over regulating Uber, Lyft
Lawmakers filed two bills Monday that could determine who will -- or will not -- regulate ride-for-hire companies such as Uber and Lyft.
POLITICO © Morning Transportation - By Lauren Gardner | 11/15/2016 05:55 AM EDT
With help from Jennifer Scholtes and Tanya Snyder
A TALE OF TWO CHAIRMEN: The House was back in session last night, and two titans of transportation on the Hill weighed in on the idea of taking the helm at DOT under a Trump administration.
No thanks, I'm good: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster exclusively told our Jennifer Scholtes he's content to continue working on his priorities from within the legislative branch, no doubt seeing an avenue toward getting an air traffic control overhaul through Congress and the White House that may not have existed had Democrats kept the presidency and taken back the Senate.
"I've got a lot of things I've got to do here in Congress," he said. "And quite frankly — and I think this across the board with most Cabinet members — I think you've got to have somebody with the experience of running something big," suggesting perhaps a governor or a corporate CEO.
Yes, please, here's my résumé: Meanwhile, chairman emeritus John Mica gave reporters the hard sell on why he should get the gig. Our Tanya Snyder reports: "Mica has a nationwide roster of mega-projects to point to when stumping for the job, including improvements to Sea-Tac airport and New York's East Side Access projects, as well as policy achievements like introducing competition in Amtrak and expanding the TIFIA loan program."
Mica's top priority as secretary would be getting high-speed trains on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. But don't think he'll settle for FRA administrator or any other modal agency. "I will take nothing but a Cabinet-level position," he declared.
TRANSPO TRANSITION TRINKETS: Shirley Ybarra, who's leading President-elect Donald Trump's transition effort on transportation, told Tanya on Monday that her team is in place and firing off ideas to his aides. Hold the phone, interested Republicans — her crew isn't proposing personnel to fill political appointments in DOT. Instead, she said, they're focused on compiling briefings "looking at the department, what it is, and where it's going."
Is past not prologue?: Ybarra said people shouldn't make assumptions about the policy ideas she's discussing with Trump's team based on her background. The former Virginia DOT secretary has worked as an analyst for the Reason Foundation and played a key role in overseeing the privatization of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport.
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SO YOU WANNA BE STARTIN' SOMETHIN': After a whirlwind week for the GOP, the feeling among many Republicans on Trump's 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan seems to be cautious optimism (in case you haven't heard enough of that turn of phrase in the past week). Conservative Republicans surveyed by Pro Transpo generally seemed interested in Trump's plan but warned that the details of how exactly the funding scheme would work would be integral to locking down their support.
Too high to get over?: Rep. Mark Meadows, a Freedom Caucus and T&I Committee member, said there's an openness among like-minded conservatives that greater infrastructure spending is needed — so long as it doesn't involve deficit spending.
"There's a whole lot of talking points right now, and I think to get into a big debate over $1 trillion in infrastructure spending and the mechanism therewith, I think there's going to be a whole lot of reliance on states. Which is something that he supports, is more of a state role in some of these things," he said. But that still doesn't solve how to pay for all that, Meadows said. "We can't just raise taxes to do that."
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, chairman of the House Appropriations panel charged with setting DOT spending, said he's happy that Trump's made infrastructure a top priority and signaled interest in examining what role public-private partnerships could play in that. Ultimately, though, lawmakers must still wrestle with sustainably funding the Highway Trust Fund, he said. "We're going to have to deal with that long-term."
Check's gotta clear: For his part, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Monday morning that he imagines infrastructure will be a priority for the next Congress — and a bipartisan one at that, your host reports for Pros. Just don't expect the Republican Congress to embrace any plan that runs afoul of budget rules. "I've always expected bills to be paid for," he said.
"We're working very closely with [Trump's] transition team, and hopefully with the new department head, to figure out how we're going to pay for it," Shuster told Jen. "It's got to be fiscally responsible. So all those things are out there, and time will help us start going forward."
SUNNY SIDE UP: Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who's advising Trump's transition team on personnel issues, sounded a much more chipper tone on the possibility of realizing the New York developer's plan. While some conservative groups are on high alert for any proposal that reeks of adding to the deficit, Barletta said the feds will reap beaucoup benefits.
"The federal government will get money back, because as I said, these are good-paying jobs," he said. "You're going to be putting people to work. They're going to be paying taxes. That money is going to come back to Washington."
Definitely maybe: Barletta demurred when asked if he'd take a job in the Trump administration, saying he hasn't thought about it. "I just won reelection here," he said. "I'm going to hopefully help him with some of his policies here in Congress." But then he added: "I'll help him in any way he wants."
DEM STORM CLOUDS ROLL IN: Well, one cloud, and thy name is Peter DeFazio. While he told Tanya he "loves the number" — that cool $1 trillion — the T&I Committee's top Democrat was frosty to the private financing concept because it could only benefit projects that pay for themselves over time, like toll roads.
"You can't do it with private money," DeFazio said. "So there still has to be a substantial [federal] investment. And thus far [Speaker] Paul Ryan has shut down every idea I've given to him."
MAKE SOME NOISE: Hybrid and electric cars have gotten quite quiet over the years. Actually, too quiet, if you ask safety experts. And so DOT has put the auto industry on notice that half of their new hybrid and electric cars will have to be louder, at least at low speeds, come September 2018. Then by 2019, all of their new hybrid and electric rigs will have to meet the sound requirement when traveling up to about 19 miles per hour. The new mandates were laid out in a safety standard DOT released Monday, as we reported for Pros.
Big win: The American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind both heralded the new standard as a big win. And DOT predicts the mandate will prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year.
** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers: It's time for America to come together. The National Association of Manufacturers believes moving forward means #BeTheSolution. Investment in infrastructure, including ways to advance energy infrastructure, is a promising place to start. Learn more about the NAM's infrastructure initiative, "Building to Win," and how, together, we can build economic growth. http://www.nam.org/buildingtowin **
WANTED — SAFE AND ALIVE: The NTSB dropped the latest edition of its "Most Wanted" list of safety improvements Monday, with just one new addition: safer transport of hazardous materials, with a special focus on lithium-ion batteries and crude oil by rail. As Tanya Snyder reported for Pros, NTSB is calling for a cohesive policy to ensure safe transport of an item that's essential to ubiquitous cellphones and tablets, and often brought onto planes — though the chief concern lies in how they're moved as bulk cargo. The agency also highlighted oil train safety, calling for tank car owners to upgrade to puncture-resistant cars ahead of a congressionally mandated deadline.
Programming schedule change: Starting this year, NTSB is on a two-year cycle for issuing the wishlist, saying the change "allows more time for the transportation industry, safety advocates, regulatory agencies and individuals to effect the changes" recommended in the list. Other issues included this time around: operator distraction, intoxication and fatigue; recorder use; and collision-avoidance technologies.
Just a few more things: Former NHTSA Administrator and consumer safety advocate Joan Claybrook told POLITICO that if she had it her way, she would add safety regulation for automatic emergency brakes and safety standards for crashworthy motor coaches to NTSB's list.
FLYING (A LITTLE LESS) HIGH: Though by no means a return to the days of austerity, Moody's has downgraded its financial outlook for airlines. The industry loses its "positive" outlook but has picked up a "stable" forecast, since operating margins are expected to fall below 10 percent over the next year to year and a half. The main factor: capacity continues to grow faster than demand. In its new industry outlook , Moody's forecasts that the aggregate operating margin of rated airlines will fall from a projected 10.8 percent this year to 9.4 percent next year and 8 percent in 2018. "Capacity growth, driven by low fuel prices and an increase in low-cost carriers, will slow improvement in unit revenues and weigh on profit margins," Moody's surmises.
Staycation: Growth in passenger demand will sag next year, Moody's reports, "due to lackluster global economic growth, geopolitical uncertainties and fears of terrorism in some regional markets."
Winner-winner: While profits are expected to decrease by 20 percent over the next year to year and a half for U.S. airlines, Moody's says Latin American carriers will see a spike.
MT MAILBAG: The Small UAV Coalition wrote Monday to DOT's acting general counsel and the FAA's chief counsel to express concern that the department could "unreasonably limit safe and responsible UAS operations" by broadly designating airspace as no-fly zones for drones in the interest of protecting critical infrastructure. The group is recommending that DOT use the official federal definition of "critical infrastructure" only as a "general guide, and specifically identify which types of facilities are eligible for designation."
Walley World: Eligible infrastructure includes energy facilities, oil refineries and the like. But amusement parks? That's a stretch, the Small UAV Coalition argues.
"Amusement parks do not appear to raise special concerns form an aviation safety, national security, or homeland security perspective," the group writes. "Nor do they appear to need special protection from the risk to persons and property on the ground. ... We expect the FAA's forthcoming rule to authorize operations over people will contain sufficient protections for amusement park facilities and persons on the ground of such facilities."
'Enlist industry': The coalition also wrote Monday to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta asking that the agency take a look at the formal feedback it has gotten on drone regulations and bring those respondents together "in a partnership to address important and urgent UAS integration issues."
ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF: Your host hopped on the phone with WAMU's Martin Di Caro last week to chat about what a Trump presidency means for transportation and infrastructure legislation in the coming months and years. While Pro readers are already way ahead of the game on this topic, maybe you want to hear the cadence of my voice in podcast format. You know you want to download.
— "Trump drops lawsuit against PBIA about air traffic over Mar-A-Lago." The Palm Beach Post.
— "United Airlines pilot forced to intervene when political dispute disrupts flight." The Washington Post.
— "Dodge truck owners accuse Chrysler of VW-like cheating." Bloomberg.
— "Climate protection advocates fear a rollback of emissions standards." The New York Times.
— "Obama promises to veto bill that would block aircraft exports to Iran." Reuters.
— "Canada airliner swerves to avoid object near Toronto; two hurt." Reuters.
THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 24 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 318 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,418 days.
THE DAY AHEAD:
9 a.m. — The American Highway Users Alliance hosts its post-election 2016 Annual Meeting and Policy Seminar. Speakers include Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.), plus staff members of the House and Senate tax-writing committees. The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, 1250 South Hayes St., Arlington, Va.
9 a.m. — Automakers Tesla, BMW and Audi will demonstrate automated vehicle technologies ahead of a House hearing on the topic. South Capitol Street SE, between C and D streets.
9 a.m. — The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration holds a meeting to prepare for the 50th session of the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6 in Geneva, Switzerland. DOT headquarters, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building, Oklahoma City Conference Room.
9 a.m. — The State Department holds a meeting of the Shipping Coordinating Committee to prepare for the 97th session of the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee at IMO headquarters in the United Kingdom later this month. Coast Guard Headquarters at St. Elizabeth's, 2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Room 6i10-01-a, Washington.
9 a.m. — FAA holds the 5th meeting of the RTCA SC-235 Non Rechargeable Lithium Batteries Plenary Session. RTCA Headquarters, 1150 18th St. NW, Suite 910, Washington.
9:30 a.m. — NTSB holds a meeting on two mid-air collisions that occurred in 2015. NTSB Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington.
10:30 a.m. — The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade holds a hearing on driverless cars. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind testifies. Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2322.
11:30 a.m. — Bloomberg Government hosts a luncheon focused on how technological innovations interplay with federal regulation on driverless cars. 1101 K Street NW, Suite 500.
1:30 p.m. — NTSB holds a meeting on the probable cause of a 2015 amphibious vehicle crash in Seattle. 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington.
Did we miss an event? Let MT know at email@example.com.
** A message from the National Association of Manufacturers: Great nations build and invest in great infrastructure. When communities have greater access to economic opportunities and when manufacturers have efficient ways to move goods to market, the quality of life rises, productivity soars and societies thrive. Current U.S. infrastructure, however, is in an alarming state of disrepair and in urgent need of strong investments. Manufacturers want to #BeTheSolution. So as we call for healing and moving our country forward, we are calling for a major investment in renewing our transportation systems and advancing energy infrastructure. Americans are demanding a stronger, more inclusive economy. And that's why infrastructure can be part of the answer. Historical data indicates that previous significant investments in infrastructure have aligned with high levels of growth and more aggressive economic activity. That starts with sending WRDA to the President's desk this year. In 2017,the President-elect and Congress must act boldly. Learn more from the NAM's "Building to Win" infrastructure initiative. http://www.nam.org/buildingtowin **
Stories from POLITICO Pro
Shuster: No DOT secretary post for me Back
By Jennifer Scholtes | 11/14/2016 08:29 PM EDT
Rep. Bill Shuster says the Trump transition team hasn't reached out to him about a job in the president-elect's Cabinet and that he is staying put in Congress.
"No," Shuster told POLITICO this evening, when asked if he's interested in running DOT in a Donald Trump administration. "I've got a lot of things I've got to do here in Congress. And quite frankly — and I think this across the board with most Cabinet members — I think you've got to have somebody with the experience of running something big."
Although Shuster's name has been floated for the post among insiders, he says the speculation isn't based on any behind-the-scenes action.
"I'm flattered people have asked me, but nobody from the president's staff has asked me," he said.
Shuster says he has "a couple people" in mind that he would like for the job. But he's keeping quiet so as to not interfere with the selection process.
"It's got to be someone with the skill set of running something big but also the skill set to understand how this place works," he said. "You know, a governor or somebody who has run a big company."
Mica wants to be Trump's DOT secretary Back
By Tanya Snyder | 11/14/2016 08:15 PM EDT
Rep. John Mica just lost reelection but has his sights set on bigger things — secretary of transportation.
Mica has approached Trump deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others close to the president-elect about his interest. He says he has gotten "encouraging" signs about his candidacy. Mica also has a voicemail from Vice President-elect Mike Pence on his phone, but the two haven't yet been able to connect.
Since he wasn't expecting to lose his race, Mica said he didn't start thinking about the DOT job until after Tuesday.
Mica has a nationwide roster of mega-projects to point to when stumping for the job, including improvements to Sea-Tac airport and New York's East Side Access projects, as well as policy achievements like introducing competition in Amtrak and expanding the TIFIA loan program. He says he helped current leaders like House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham on their journeys to leadership.
If named secretary, which he repeatedly said would be "a great honor," Mica said a top priority would be implementing higher-speed trains on the Northeast Corridor, a goal he's had for years.
Asked if he would consider a modal administrator position, Mica insisted he would not: "I will take nothing but a Cabinet-level position."
Trump's DOT transition chief 'has her team in place' Back
By Tanya Snyder | 11/14/2016 04:53 PM EDT
Shirley Ybarra, the former Virginia Secretary of Transportation and Reason Foundation analyst who is now heading up President-elect Donald Trump's transition team on transportation, says she "already has a team is in place" and they're presenting ideas to Trump's team.
Ybarra says she's been in the role for several months, but it just recently became public.
Her team is not tasked with proposing personnel for key DOT positions, she said, but is writing briefings "looking at the department, what it is, and where it's going."
In the past, Ybarra has advocated for public-private partnerships, for privatizing airports and airport security, for separating transit from the Highway Trust Fund, and for implementing high-occupancy toll lanes — but she warns not to infer anything from her previous positions about what policy issues she might be discussing with Trump's team.
McCarthy: Infrastructure may be bipartisan priority next year Back
By Lauren Gardner | 11/14/2016 11:49 AM EDT
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested today that infrastructure legislation could be a priority for GOP congressional leadership next year given President-elect Donald Trump's enthusiasm for the issue.
"I think the infrastructure of America is lagging far behind. I think this is one that can be a priority," the California Republican told reporters today at his first post-election press conference. "I also believe it can be a bipartisan issue."
Trump has proposed a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure spending package that appears to rely mostly on private financing, raising questions about the federal role the president-elect envisions in transportation and how lawmakers could ensure legislation doesn't run afoul of congressional budgetary rules.
McCarthy said any bill would have to include spending offsets. "I've always expected bills to be paid for," he said.
Republicans historically have had concerns about how quickly infrastructure projects can be realized, McCarthy said, indicating at a minimum that members may seek to build on changes made to the federal permitting process in the two most recent surface transportation bills.
"Growth will solve so many of our problems, and I think there's a combination to be had to do it," he said.
DeFazio: Trump won't be able to fund transportation plan with private money Back
By Tanya Snyder | 11/14/2016 08:34 PM EDT
Rep. Peter DeFazio says he "loves the number" on President-elect Donald Trump's trillion-dollar infrastructure plan but is skeptical about the financing.
"The plan needs shaping," DeFazio told POLITICO. "The only detail I've seen talks about doing this either by borrowing — which I'm not opposed to — or private capital."
Even Republicans who believe private financing is the answer to infrastructure funding quickly learn that "it has very limited application," DeFazio said.
"It only works for revenue-generating projects, and it is ultimately more expensive, and it is all leveraged by federal money like TIFIA loans and other things," DeFazio said. "It's not going to do anything for transit, because there's no transit system anywhere in the world that makes money; it's not going to do hardly anything for the 160,000 bridges on the National Highway System that need repair and replacement because you can't toll all those bridges; it isn't going to do anything for the western United States and vast areas where tolling isn't going to work and isn't practical."
"You can't do it with private money," DeFazio concluded. "So there still has to be a substantial [federal] investment. And thus far [Speaker] Paul Ryan has shut down every idea I've given to him."
DeFazio said he planned to talk to the Trump administration about a wholesale barrel tax to fund transportation. "There has to be a big federal portion or you're not going to have a big infrastructure investment that addresses the country's needs."
DOT to alt-vehicle manufacturers: Make noise Back
By Jennifer Scholtes | 11/14/2016 01:29 PM EDT
New hybrid and electric vehicles will have to meet minimum noise requirements come September 2019, the DOT mandated in a safety standard released today.
This new standard follows on a directive Congress handed down in 2011 and is aimed at protecting pedestrians — particularly those who are blind or are otherwise visually impaired.
The department estimates the mandate will prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year by requiring hybrid and electric light vehicles to make audible noise when traveling up to about 19 miles per hour. At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because factors like tire and wind noise make the vehicles loud enough for pedestrians to hear, DOT explained.
"With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind said in a written statement.
While manufacturers have until September 2019 to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles to meet the new safety standard, half of new hybrid and electric vehicles will have to be in compliance by September 2018.
Both the American council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind commended the department on the new standards.
Pedestrian deaths rose 9.5 percent in 2015, marking a 20-year high.
NTSB highlights hazmat transport as one of its 'Most Wanted' safety improvements Back
By Tanya Snyder | 11/14/2016 02:00 PM EDT
The NTSB is adding safer transport of hazardous materials — with a special focus on lithium-ion batteries and crude oil by rail — to its "Most Wanted" list this year.
The agency has previously recommended safer transport of both batteries and oil, but neither were on last year's list. Otherwise, many items from the agency's previous Most Wanted list have returned in Monday's update, though several have been reworded.
Practically every passenger and crew member aboard a commercial flight has a gadget with a lithium-ion battery. Some are even used to power aircraft systems. But concern about transporting lithium-ion batteries mostly centers on when they are moved in bulk as cargo.
Air transport of lithium batteries was on NTSB's 2011 Most Wanted list, but later fell off. Now, with the increased ubiquity of the batteries and an uptick in transportation incidents involving them, it's back on the list, sharing a hazmat safety category with oil.
On oil trains, NTSB notes that the number of crude oil-filled tank cars carried by major freights soared from 9,500 in 2009 to nearly 500,000 in 2014, before declining as production has dropped off.
The increase in North American energy production "increased the risk that if such a train derails, one or more tank cars might be punctured, release cargo, and, in some cases, result in a fireball," the agency wrote in a fact sheet. Indeed, as oil transportation peaked, so did spills, adding up to 1.5 million gallons spilled by rail transportation in 2013 — more than in the previous 37 years combined.
Though crude oil by rail shipping has declined, safety advocates worry that congressionally mandated safety changes to tank cars may be lagging behind as tank car owners wait until the last moment to update their fleet.
Demands to improve rail transit safety oversight, strengthen rail and aviation occupant protection, prevent loss of control in flight, require medical fitness among operators, expand recorder use, and reduce fatigue-related crashes are unchanged from last year.
Others have changed only slightly, with updated wording that reflects changes already underway. For example, while last year the agency included an item to "promote availability of collision avoidance technologies in highway vehicles," this year they're pushing to "increase implementation" of those technologies — in passenger vehicles, commercial trucks, and trains in the form of Positive Train Control (which merited its own item on last year's Most Wanted list).
Notably, while the agency touts collision avoidance technologies, its list makes no mention of driverless cars or vehicle-to-vehicle communications — technologies the auto industry and DOT are betting on heavily to reduce fatalities.
"Eliminate Distractions" and "End Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment in Transportation" are also substantially similar to last year's list.
The Trucking Alliance, a safety-focused industry group, includes many of the same demands in its own agenda, but would add speed limiters on trucks as one of its own "most wanted" safety improvements.
NTSB has issued recommendations — in most cases repeatedly — on all of the issues in their Most Wanted List.
"We know the problems, we have the solutions, but we lack political leadership," said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, noting that preliminary figures suggest that highway fatalities will spike again this year. "The NTSB's Most Wanted List is a critical reminder of what actions are needed if we are serious about reversing the skyrocketing death and injury toll on our streets and roads."