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New Sample Bill will Aid States in Banning Texting While Driving

Posted by autotran on February 22, 2010

Sample Bill Supported by Auto and Wireless Industries and the Safety Community

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today unveiled sample legislation to be used as a starting point for states crafting new laws to prohibit texting while behind-the-wheel, the latest step in the campaign against distracted driving.

The sample state law, prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a cross-section of safety and industry organizations, would authorize law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle and issue a citation to drivers who are texting while driving.

“Texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening practice,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This language, which we created with a variety of safety organizations, is another powerful tool in our arsenal to help the states combat this serious threat.”

There is heightened concern about the risks of texting while driving because texting combines three types of distraction – visual, taking the eyes off the road;  manual, taking the hands off the wheel;  and cognitive, taking the mind off the road.

According to NHTSA research, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. Research also shows that the most frequent offenders are the youngest and least-experienced drivers, men and women under 20 years of age.

“Our top priority is safety and we are determined to help the states eradicate the dangerous practice of texting while driving,” said David Strickland, Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The sample state law is patterned on the Executive Order issued by President Obama on October 1, 2009, directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment.  Federal employees were required to comply with the ban starting on December 30, 2009.

In addition, on January 26, Secretary LaHood announced federal guidance to prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses.  Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

Secretary LaHood announced the department’s plan to pursue this regulatory action at the Distracted Driving Summit he convened in September 2009.  The department recently launched a federal website,, as a forum and information clearinghouse. is a source of comprehensive information on distracted driving.

Currently, nineteen States and the District of Columbia have texting laws covering all drivers.  In 2009, more than 200 distracted driving bills were considered by State legislatures and legislative activity is expected to remain strong in 2010.

Click here to see the sample bill and the groups that participated in drafting it.



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Tata introduces hybrid car ‘Prius’ in India

Posted by autotran on January 7, 2010

Japanese car major Toyota on Thursday launched the availability of its latest generation hybrid car ‘Prius’ in India, besides launching the CNG version of its popular sedan Corolla Altis.

Priced between Rs.26.55 lakh and Rs.27.86 lakh, the third generation Prius, which became the world’s first mass produced hybrid vehicle in 1997, com

Prius Plug-in Hybrid

BEAUTY ON FOUR WHEELS: Toyota Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada demonstrates during a photo session of its "Prius Plug-in Hybrid" on Dec. 14, 2009 in Tokyo: File Photo: AP

es with 1.8 litre petrol engine with a battery of 60 kilowatt.

This will have three driving modes

  1. Power mode,
  2. Eco mode and
  3. Electric vehicle mode (battery).

Prius, which in Latin means ‘to go before,’ is ‘equipped with the latest version of its pioneering technologyToyota Hybrid System II (also called Hybrid Synergy Drive) — that has achieved world-leading fuel efficiency.

“Through the launch of Prius, Toyota is keen to demonstrate its commitment to offer the latest eco-friendly automotive technology to its customers in India. Prius today is the most successful hybrid in the world with cumulative sales of nearly 15-lakh. We will continue to popularise environmental-friendly vehicles in India to further our efforts to help save the environment,” said Toyota Kirloskar Motor Deputy Managing Director Sandeep Singh.

“Prius will be imported as completely built-up unit from Japan. We have ordered 200 units for India that will be sold during March-December 2010, while the bookings have already started. Prius will be available only in 10 cities, including the metros and smaller cities like Chandigarh, Pune and Ahmedabad, while the waiting period for the hybrid will be about two months” Mr. Singh said.


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New DOT Consumer Rule Limits Airline Tarmac Delays, Provides Other Passenger Protections

Posted by autotran on December 21, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a new rule that significantly strengthens protections afforded to consumers by, among other things, establishing a hard time limit after which U.S. airlines must allow passengers to deplane from domestic flights.

“Airline passengers have rights, and these new rules will require airlines to live up to their obligation to treat their customers fairly,” Secretary LaHood said.

The new rule prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. U.S. carriers operating international flights departing from or arriving in the United States must specify, in advance, their own time limits for deplaning passengers, with the same exceptions applicable.

Carriers are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary, provide medical attention.

This rule was adopted in response to a series of incidents in which passengers were stranded on the ground aboard aircraft for lengthy periods and also in response to the high incidence of flight delays and other consumer problems. In one of the most recent tarmac delay incidents, the Department fined Continental Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Mesaba Airlines a total of $175,000 for their roles in a nearly six-hour ground delay at Rochester, MN.

The rule also:

  • Prohibits airlines from scheduling chronically delayed flights, subjecting those who do to DOT enforcement action for unfair and deceptive practices;
  • Requires airlines to designate an airline employee to monitor the effects of flight delays and cancellations, respond in a timely and substantive fashion to consumer complaints and provide information to consumers on where to file complaints;
  • Requires airlines to display on their website flight delay information for each domestic flight they operate;
  • Requires airlines to adopt customer service plans and audit their own compliance with their plans; and
  • Prohibits airlines from retroactively applying material changes to their contracts of carriage that could have a negative impact on consumers who already have purchased tickets.

Today’s final rule was adopted following a review of public comments on a proposal issued in November 2008. The Department also plans to begin another rulemaking designed to further strengthen protections for air travelers. Among the areas under consideration are: a requirement that airlines submit to the Department for review and approval their contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays; reporting of additional tarmac delay data; disclosure of baggage fees; and strengthening requirements that airline ads disclose the full fare consumers must pay for tickets.

The rule goes into effect 120 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. The rule may be obtained on the Internet at, docket DOT-OST-2007-0022.

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FRA Issues NPRM on Technology to Prevent Train Collisions

Posted by autotran on July 21, 2009

New Rules Support Use of Positive Train Control

Today Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced proposed rules designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) prescribes how railroads must use Positive Train Control systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.

PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements should a locomotive engineer fail to take appropriate action. For example, such technology can force a train to stop before it passes a red signal, thereby averting a potential collision. Other benefits of PTC systems include prevention of over-speed derailments and misaligned switches, as well as unauthorized incursions by a train into work zones.

“These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood. “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”

Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April, 16, 2010.  PTC systems must be fully in place by the end of 2015.  The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational. 

“FRA is setting the bar high in terms of design, construction and oversight of PTC technologies among different railroads,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo.  “FRA will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen safety standards in the railroad industry.”

The major freight railroads have reached an agreement for the operation of PTC technology across different rail systems, allowing for industry-wide use.  In addition, FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum available, which is essential for PTC technology to function properly.  This development will allow PTC technology to send and receive a constant stream of wireless signals regarding the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines.


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Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari Breaks Ground on Project Funded by the Recovery Act in Wisconsin

Posted by autotran on June 9, 2009

Washington, DC – U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, along with Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, broke ground today on the County Trunk Highway G Interchange construction project in Racine County, Wisconsin. The project, which received $19.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, is currently the largest ARRA-funded project in the state.

“This project is what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is all about,”said Deputy Secretary Porcari. “It’s about putting Americans back to work as soon as possible, on projects that make a real difference in the quality of life for the folks who live and work in the area. Working together, we’re going to keep the Wisconsin economy moving, bring relief to middle class families, and improve transportation for the nation.”

“One of the best ways we can position Wisconsin for long-term growth is by investing today in the infrastructure that makes our cities and towns prosperous tomorrow,” said Governor Doyle. “A quality transportation system serves as the foundation of our state’s economy. And good roads are an extremely valuable economic asset that can play a vital role in determining where a business will locate or expand.”

Brandon Nesler, site Foreman on the Highway G project, was laid off from his construction job last year after 16 years of service. After several months of unemployment, Mr. Nesler was hired by Relyco, Inc., to oversee grading work on the recovery project.

“Whenever the government spends money to create work for people that are willing to strap on boots, pack a lunch and go to work, it’s a good thing,”said Mr. Nesler. “We need it; the state needs it; and so do all these men and women.”


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Disaster Assistance Grants Awarded to States to Cover Costs of Railroad Emergency Repairs Following Natural Disasters

Posted by autotran on June 1, 2009

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo today announced the award of $15 million to nine states for emergency repairs to damaged railroad infrastructure resulting from natural disasters.

Funding from the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Railroad Rehabilitation and Repair Program (RRRP) will go to state Departments of Transportation to reimburse short line and regional railroads for the cost of repairs.

“Freight railroads are critical to local economies and we are committed to helping them restore rail service after a major disruption,” said Szabo. “This funding will help the carriers defray repair costs and keep the trains running.”

Funds awarded under the RRRP can cover up to 80 percent of the total cost of a selected project, with the remainder to be provided from non-federal sources. Grants may be used to repair bridges, signals and other infrastructure which are part of the general rail transportation system. The grant recipients are as follows:

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

* Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad – $637,440
* Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad – $945,680

Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department

* Emergency repairs to Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad – $737,292
Illinois Department of Transportation

* Flood control on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad – $569,700

Kansas Department of Transportation

* Repair of flood damage to the Gorilla Subdivision on the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad – $405,702

FRA 03-09

Indiana Department of Transportation

* Flood damage repair on the Indiana Southern Railroad – $1,244,217

Iowa Department of Transportation

* Flood damage restoration to rebuild a bridge and repair signals on the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway – $6,965,163

* Flood damage restoration for the Keokuk Junction Railway Yard – $459,200

* Replacement of the Waterloo Bridge over the Cedar River for the Iowa Northern Railway – $2,174,880

Missouri Department of Transportation

* Flood damage repair on Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad – $353,600

North Carolina Department of Transportation

* Repair of washouts and debris removal On the Carolina Coastal Railway – $11,101

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

* Repair of flood damage and washouts on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad – $354,006

Under the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, FRA was authorized to make $20 million available for grants to repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure damaged in areas declared by the President as a major disaster.

The FRA intends to issue another solicitation for the remaining $5 million in funds through a Notice of Funding Availability to be published in the Federal Register that will be available on a competitive basis.

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Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on House Passage of FAA Authorization Bill

Posted by autotran on May 25, 2009

I congratulate the House for its quick action in approving a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, H.R. 915. Moving forward with reauthorization will support our important aviation programs, including aviation safety and NextGen, the FAA’s program to modernize our nation’s airspace. I urge the Senate to act quickly and look forward to working with Congress on legislation that will continue our progress in improving the safety and efficiency of the U.S. aviation system.


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TIGER Discretionary Grants Will Target Major-Impact Transportation Projects, Job Creation

Posted by autotran on May 18, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs and benefit economically distressed areas.

“TIGER discretionary funding will open up the door to many new innovative and cutting-edge transportation projects,” said Secretary LaHood. “This is exciting news and I believe that these projects will promote greater mobility, a cleaner environment and more livable communities.”

The grants can range from $20 million up to $300 million to support high impact transportation projects. Secretary LaHood can waive the minimum grant requirement for beneficial projects in smaller cities, regions or states. The U.S. Department of Transportation will require rigorous economic justifications for projects over $100 million. To ensure responsible spending, the department will require all fund recipients to report on their activities on a routine basis.

The solicitation published in the Federal Register today provides clear criteria for the department to make merit-based decisions on the new discretionary program.

Primary selection criteria include contributing to the medium- to long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving the quality of living and working environments through livable communities, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities.

The Department will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity, especially projects that will benefit economically distressed areas.

Applications for TIGER discretionary grants must be submitted by September 15, 2009, from state and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities and others. Comments on the criteria must be received by June 1, 2009. The Federal Register notice can be accessed by clicking here.

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