California’s new fee on hazardous railroad shipments being challenged by railroads

California’s new fee on rail deliveries of certain hazardous chemicals, including crude oil, is being challenged in federal court. The new state regulation, set to take effect this year, requires railroad companies to collect a $45 fee from their customers for each rail car carrying any one of 25 hazardous materials into the state. The funds are to help the state pay for improvements to its emergency response capabilities so it can better respond to spills resulting from train derailments.

Breathe easy: Sleep apnea and transportation safety

In a step towards establishing rules specific to obstructive sleep apnea—a condition that can cause daytime drowsiness and reduced reaction time—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Rail Administration have issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the challenge of finding a balance between government’s interest in protecting public safety on highways and the industry’s workforce concerns about the ability of truckers to earn a living.

Mobile apps gaining ground in trucking

Rapid growth in the use of mobile apps is changing the trucking business and could bring congestion reduction benefits as well as efficiency gains. The way truckers with empty trailers find available loads has come a long way from notes on truck stop bulletin boards. The flexibility brought by these applications also provides a backup when scheduled movements are disrupted.

Megaships may be approaching their maximum size

According to the Journal of Commerce, the size of the world’s largest container vessels has increased more than sixfold since 1975 and is expected to grow an additional 13 percent by 2020. While these larger ships can be operated by small crews and use less fuel per container than smaller ships, there are a number of costs that come with these larger vessels, including increased risk, port infrastructure costs, and congestion.

Majority of commercial truck drivers would use paid parking reservations

A recent survey by the American Transportation Research Institute found that over half of commercial truck drivers are willing to pay to reserve a parking space at a rest stop. Over the past twenty years, numerous studies on commercial truck parking have concluded that parking spaces for drivers to rest are inadequately located and supplied; fatigue-related crashes, difficulty finding safe and legal parking, and overcrowding at existing parking facilities are cited as consequences.

States seek more information and control over oil train shipments

As shipments of crude oil by rail have climbed dramatically in recent years, high profile derailments and explosions have put the issue high on the list of public concerns. As noted in a recent article in Governing, state legislators are looking to increase oversight and be better positioned to handle derailments and resulting fires by asserting their authority over rail carriers moving oil in their states.

Urban truck traffic growing far faster than urban population growth

Urban truck traffic has boomed alongside the rise in e-commerce. As shown in a recent Brookings Institution blog post, while both urban truck and passenger VMT have been growing faster than urban populations since the 1960s, urban truck traffic diverged from urban car travel in the early 1990s and exploded between 2006 and 2008 before a slight dip during the recession. Thanks to this growth, total single unit (box) truck VMT became majority urban in the early 2000s, and combination (tractor-trailer) truck VMT is likely to become majority urban in the coming years.

Nevada green-lights autonomous trucks

Truck platooning, connecting a chain of computer-controlled trucks electronically to follow a human-driven lead vehicle, is still at least 5 years away from being used commercially, but the next step in freight transport automation is already coming over the horizon. Earlier this month Nevada authorized the testing of self-driving trucks on the state’s highways.

CMAP’s new tool elevates the urgency for innovative transportation solutions

While the state of transportation funding remains uncertain both at the national and state levels, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is taking an innovative approach to bring public awareness to the degrading transportation infrastructure within the seven-county Chicago metropolitan region. CMAP spent $82,000 to design a website that uses an immense amount of transportation data collected by the agency to create user-friendly visualizations of the challenges facing regional transportation systems.