Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Michael Green(Washington, December 1, 2013) Taxing the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of motorists as the primary mechanism for funding transportation is an idea that has garnered increased attention as a potential replacement for state and federal motor fuel taxes. While motor fuel taxes have long generated the majority of revenues for the Highway Trust Fund, increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and the emergence of alternative fuels threaten the long-term viability of this critical funding source.

Under a VMT tax system, vehicles would be equipped with technology capable of logging the number of miles traveled.  Various levels of sophistication are being tested.  The technology could allow for multiple levels of taxation (federal, state, local) and enhanced pricing systems (drivers could be charged by time of day, level of congestion, type of road, etc.).  The variable pricing ability enabled by a VMT system is considered a key benefit by some and a source for concern by others.  Pricing could be established to help combat congestion, pollution, or excessive road wear.  Total charges could be calculated and paid either at the gas pump or via a monthly bill.

The two national transportation commissions authorized by SAFETEA-LU recommended transitioning to a VMT system for the long-term, beginning the transition to such a system in the next ten to fifteen years. A VMT fee pilot project was completed last year in Oregon and the University of Iowa is currently field testing a system in six states: California, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas.  The Oregon pilot demonstrated that the use of technology to charge drivers by the mile is viable, but underscored that a variety of technical, administrative and public concerns would need to be overcome before it could be implemented statewide, or at the national level, including consumer privacy concerns, communications standards between the vehicle and service infrastructure, auto manufacturer supported specifications and testing, tax collection and revenue distribution.  Also, an upcoming study by the National Academy of Sciences is expected to conclude there are limited deployment options in the next few years.

AAA Recommendations

  • A number of credible sources have come to similar conclusions about the need to shift to a vehicle miles traveled charging system.  However, a nationwide VMT system, or even a state-level system, can’t be implemented next week, next month, or even next year.  In the short term we must rely on existing funding mechanisms (gas tax, tolling, truck engine taxes, etc.) to adequately fund the transportation system.
  • Pilot tests in Oregon and other areas have demonstrated some of the technical challenges that would need to be overcome with a VMT system, in addition to addressing the public’s significant concerns about privacy.  Any future alternative to the gas tax must be carefully evaluated as to its ability to be efficiently implemented; accepted by the public; allocated fairly and equitably; fully dedicated to transportation needs; and resistant to fraud and diversion.

While additional testing of the VMT concept is conducted, policymakers will need to be upfront with Americans about the various transportation funding options – what they’ll be asked to pay, and what they can expect in return.

Michael Green

(WASHINGTON, November 15, 2013) “The EPA’s proposal to decrease ethanol requirements will help drivers by preventing a surge in gas prices or the premature expansion of E15 gasoline sales. While we would like to increase the use of alternative fuels, it is a plain fact that the Renewable Fuels Standard’s original targets are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk.

“The EPA has finally put consumers first. Their proposal will support the continued development of alternative fuels, while also recognizing the needs of the millions of people that drive every day. Today’s proposal is an important step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. Suggesting a range for 2014 targets does not guarantee that motorists will be protected from the risk of higher ethanol blends. We encourage the EPA to act quickly to finalize specific targets that help protect drivers nationwide.

“The vast majority of cars on the roads today are not designed to run on gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. While ethanol has the potential to support the economy and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, it is irresponsible to mandate more ethanol than cars can safely use.”

More than 90 percent of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including most 2001-2013 models. E15 is only approved for use by automakers in flex-fuel engines, 2001 and newer Porsches, and selected 2012 and newer vehicles where it is clearly specified in the owner’s manual. While new models increasingly can use E15 gasoline, previous makes and models were never designed to use the fuel. It will still take at least another decade before the bulk of the fleet will be E15 compatible given that the average vehicle remains in use for more than 11 years.

 

Michael Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

AAA issued the following letter to the Congressional panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation urging that its members reject any proposal to increase truck size and weight standards due to significant safety concerns:

 

The Honorable John J. Duncan
Chair
Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
Ranking Member
Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Duncan and Ranking Member Nadler:

AAA appreciates the commitment of the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation to look for solutions to help facilitate efficient freight movement on the nation’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure network.   As you prepare to finalize the panel’s recommendations, I would like to share AAA’s concern with one of the recommendations discussed at the October 1 hearing on the subject.

During the hearing, one of the industry groups recommended endorsement of the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), H.R. 612, which would allow states to permit 97,000 pound trucks on its roadways including the Interstates.  AAA strongly urges the panel to forego any action  to raise the federal truck size and weight limits until federal research authorized in “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) is completed.

As you know, MAP-21 included a focus on establishing a stronger national freight program.  It included a two-year research project to assess the implications  of allowing longer, heavier trucks on the nation’s roads and bridges and a safety analysis of different configurations, including the 97,000 lb. GVWR, six-axle truck configuration.  This USDOT research must be completed before any recommendations are considered relative to changing current federal regulations.

A look at the most recent NHTSA data shows fatalities in crashes involving large trucks increased nine percent, from 3,380 in 2009 to 3,675 in 2010.  Of the fatalities in crashes involving large trucks during 2010, 76 percent were occupants of other vehicles.  Based on these data alone, we believe that any proposals to increase truck size and weight are premature and misguided until the research is concluded and reviewed.

Until key questions about the impact of bigger and heavier trucks on infrastructure and on highway safety are addressed, AAA will continue to oppose any change in current truck size or weight limits.

CC:  Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation members

The Honorable Gary Miller The Honorable Corrine Brown
The Honorable Rick Crawford The Honorable Daniel Lipinski
The Honorable Richard Hanna The Honorable Albio Sires
The Honorable Daniel Webster The Honorable Janice Hahn
The Honorable Markwayne Mullin

Michael GreenCongress and Administration Responsible for Letting the Highway System Deteriorate

Orlando, FL, (Oct. 22, 2013) AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet today addressed the nation’s transportation funding crisis during a board meeting of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The following are selected remarks from his speech:

“By this time next year, the Highway Trust Fund will have insufficient funds to meet its obligations, which will cause further deterioration of nation’s roads and bridges. Regrettably, this looming crisis has not translated into Congressional action, nor a public outcry.

“There are a few leaders in Washington who stress the importance of infrastructure to our economy.  While we might give them high marks for effort, they are not getting a passing grade for results.

“Both Congress and the Administration are culpable of gross negligence by letting one of our nation’s greatest assets deteriorate. It is a shameful demonstration of bad government.

“Politicians have a choice – they can govern through leadership or they can govern through crisis. Our lawmakers seem content to wait for a crisis to take the action that we all know will eventually be unavoidable. Leadership involves taking risk, and the courage to do so seems in short supply.

“No one questions the need to invest far more in transportation, but there is no political will to provide the required funding.  The reality is that a dime increase in the gas tax, properly spent where actually needed, is unlikely to derail the re-election of an otherwise meritorious politician.

“But the fault isn’t just with lawmakers – there is plenty of blame to go around. The truth is we have done a poor job of mobilizing support for what we know needs to happen. I believe we need to do five things to address this issue:

  1. Establish a concerted coalition effort to construct a plan of action that focuses on not just what is needed, but what is possible.
  2. Agree on acceptable transportation funding mechanisms and articulate clear guidelines to ensure proper use of the funds.
  3. Educate voters on why the increase in funding is required. Public support is likely the most important ingredient for building stronger backbones in Congress.
  4. Broaden our focus to include both federal and state opportunities to fund transportation.
  5. Make sure we properly resource the effort. We need to ensure that we don’t set forth on this endeavor without fully understanding – and committing – the resources that are required.

“Without a safe and efficient transportation network, goods can’t be delivered cost effectively, family trips will take longer, and gridlock will continue to stifle the nation’s long-term economic recovery. Thank you for having me here today and I look forward to continuing to work together on these important issues.”

Nancy White(WASHINGTON, September 16, 2013)

“The GAO report confirms AAA’s position that tolling authorities should provide greater transparency in their decision making processes and establish clearer lines of external oversight. Toll rate setting needs to be conducted fairly, with clear justifications for increases and with the public’s knowledge.

During the last Congress, AAA supported the introduction of the Commuter Protection Act which would have restored the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ability to determine whether toll hikes are reasonable.  We look forward to working with Congress to re-introduce this important legislation to ensure that motorists are more properly protected against unfair toll increases.”

Nancy WhiteSurvey Results Come as Road Deaths Increase for First Time in Seven Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 22, 2013) – Americans are less likely to perceive a serious threat from dangerous driving behaviors such as drunk, aggressive or drowsy driving, according to an analysis of four years of public surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The decreased concern is accompanied by an estimated 5.3 percent increase in annual traffic fatalities, totaling more than 34,000 in 2012. This is the first annual increase in seven years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Additional Resources

“Motorists may be growing more complacent about potential safety risks behind the wheel,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “A ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude remains common with many motorists consistently admitting to engaging in the same dangerous behaviors for which they would condemn other drivers.”

Survey results during the previous four years show decreasing concern for dangerous driving behaviors:

  • The number of people who believe driving after drinking is a serious threat declined from a near universal 90 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2012.
  • The number of people who consider drowsy driving a very serious threat declined from 71 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2012.
  • The number of people who believe that texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat declined from 87 percent in 2009 to 81 percent in 2012. The number of people who admit to texting while driving increased from 21 percent to 26 percent during the same period.
  • The number of people who consider red-light running to be completely unacceptable declined from 77 percent in 2009 to 70 percent in 2012. More than one-third (38 percent) admitted to running a red light within the previous month.

“We have made great strides in recent years to reduce road deaths, but there are still too many needless fatalities caused by dangerous driving,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “It is clear that more must be done to address the dangers of drunk, aggressive and drowsy driving to stem this concerning trend.”

Someone dies on America’s roadways every 15 minutes.  Fatalities include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and every other kind of road user. Car crashes affect young people disproportionately by killing more people aged 5-34 than any other cause of death.  More than 2.3 million people annually also suffer serious injuries from crashes.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed four years (2009-2012) of survey data collected for the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which tracks how the public’s views and perceptions of traffic safety issues change over time. More than 11,000 surveys were administered to Americans aged 16 and up from 2009-2012 to determine the results.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact TileCongress Must Provide Agency with Authority and Direction to Protect Motorists in Future

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 6, 2013) – The EPA’s decision today to address concerns with the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) may provide a temporary solution to prevent increased use of potentially damaging E15 gasoline or a possible surge in gas prices, but  a sustained plan for future action is still needed. AAA is urging Congress to provide the Environmental Protection Agency with the authority and direction to reduce RFS requirements for conventional biofuels.

Additional Resources

The EPA’s Final 2013 Renewable Fuels Standard maintains target volumes for ethanol and extends blender compliance for 2013 by four months. “AAA praises today’s decision by the EPA and it’s acknowledgement that there are constraints to the market’s ability to consume renewable fuels as directed by the RFS,” said Bob Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA. “However, it is clear that Congressional action is still needed to provide the EPA with the authority and direction needed to adjust unachievable fuel targets in the future.”

“Congress and the EPA must work together to protect consumers from unachievable fuel mandates and potentially volatile gas prices,” continued Darbelnet. “While ethanol can support jobs and promote energy independence, the RFS requirements must be implemented in a responsible manner without harming consumers.” Darbelnet today provided letters to the EPA administrator and key members of Congress expressing his concerns.

The RFS requires renewable fuels such as ethanol to be blended into gasoline in increasing amounts each year. When Congress implemented the requirements, policymakers predicted that U.S. gasoline consumption would continue to rise, which would support correspondingly higher ethanol use.  In recent years though, gasoline consumptions has remained relatively flat due to more fuel efficient vehicles, a weaker economy and changes in driving habits.

Prior to today’s EPA action, the volume of ethanol required to be blended in 2013 was likely to have exceeded the amount possible through the use of E10 gasoline. E10 contains up to 10 percent ethanol and represents more than 95 percent of the nation’s fuel supply. Without a reduction in the RFS requirements, fuel blenders may have hit a “blend wall” and been unable to achieve federal requirements without increasing the usage of potentially-damaging E15 gasoline, which contains up to 15 percent ethanol.

“E15 gasoline is simply not compatible with existing infrastructure or for use in the vast majority of vehicles on the roads today,” continued Darbelnet. “E15 can put motorists at risk of vehicle damage and voided warranties, which means it is not a viable option for meeting current RFS requirements.”

Blenders unable to meet RFS requirements would be subject to significant fines. This could affect gas prices by burdening blenders with unsustainable costs and by incentivizing expanded gasoline exports given that RFS requirements only apply to domestic fuel sales. These consequences could restrict gasoline supplies and result in significant increases in gas prices paid by motorists if the EPA does not have a sustainable plan in place to adjust the RFS as required.

“It is time for Washington to send a clear signal that action will be taken to prevent serious problems for motorists,” continued Darbelnet. “While the many benefits of the RFS should not be dismissed, policymakers must ensure adequate and safe fuel supplies for American consumers.”

A AAA survey last year found that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads were approved by manufacturers to use E15. Thirteen manufacturers stated that the use of E15 may void warranty coverage. AAA’s automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 could result in costly problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights in some cars. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by AAA were not familiar with E15, indicating a strong likelihood of consumer confusion leading to misfueling.

AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to provide motorists a clear choice at the pump that supports jobs, promotes energy independence and reduces fuel costs.  Both E10 and E85 provide options for consumers at this point, and AAA would support a motorists’ right to choose E15 once basic thresholds have been met regarding consumer protections. E85, which contains up to 85 percent ethanol, is designed for use by flex-fuel vehicles.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact TileBob Darbelnet Will Testify Regarding E15 Gasoline to Congressional Subcommittee

Additional Resources

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2013) – AAA President & CEO Bob Darbelnet will testify today to a Congressional subcommittee that the EPA should consider whether target volumes to the Renewable Fuels Standard can be met without putting consumers at risk.

“I would urge Congress to keep American consumers front of mind when reviewing the RFS requirements for 2014,” continued Darbelnet.  “If the only way to meet the RFS requirement is to introduce E15 gasoline before consumers are educated and consensus is reached on which vehicles can safely use the fuel, then the RFS should be modified.”

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power is conducting the hearing to examine the Renewable Fuels Standard, a program created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to establish a renewable fuel volume mandate. AAA has urged regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 gasoline until motorists are better protected due to the strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.

“The number of states where E15 is sold has doubled in recent months despite continuing evidence that drivers are not aware of the fuel and could be unknowingly putting their cars in jeopardy,” continued Darbelnet. “AAA is not opposed to either ethanol or the RFS, but we remain very concerned with the way that E15 has been brought to market and is being sold to consumers.”

The subcommittee hearing is scheduled for July 23 at 10:00 AM in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.

AAA believes that ethanol-blended fuels have the potential to provide motorists a clear choice at the pump that supports jobs, promotes energy independence and reduces fuel costs.  Both E10 and E85 provide options for consumers at this point, and AAA would support a motorists’ right to choose E15 once basic thresholds have been met regarding consumer protections. More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States is E10, which contains up to 10 percent ethanol. E85, which contains up to 85 percent ethanol, is designed for use by flex-fuel vehicles.

A AAA survey last fall found that only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads were approved by manufacturers to use E15. Thirteen manufacturers stated that the use of E15 may void warranty coverage. AAA’s automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 could result in costly problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights in some cars. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by AAA were not familiar with E15, indicating a strong likelihood of consumer confusion leading to misfueling.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Michael Green Contact Tile(WASHINGTON, July 16, 2013) AAA’s Chris Plaushin (director, federal relations) is testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today during a hearing “to explore the effects of ongoing changes in domestic oil production, refining and distribution on U.S. gasoline and fuel prices.” Chris Plaushin’s testimony is available here.

Nancy White

Originally released June 12, 2013

New research reveals that voice-activated in-car technologies dangerously undermine driver attention

Additional Resources

WASHINGTON, D.C., – Hands-free technologies might make it easier for motorists to text, talk on the phone, or even use Facebook while they drive, but new findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.  The research found that as mental workload and distractions increase reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them including stop signs and pedestrians. This is the most comprehensive study of its kind to look at the mental distraction of drivers and arms AAA with evidence to appeal to the public to not use these voice-to-text features while their vehicle is in motion.

With a predicted five-fold increase in infotainment systems in new vehicles by 2018, AAA is calling for action as result of this landmark research. “There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental  distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”

Cognitive distraction expert Dr. David Strayer and his research team at the University of Utah measured brainwaves, eye movement and other metrics to assess what happens to drivers’ mental workload when they attempt to do multiple things at once, building upon decades of research in the aerospace and automotive industries. The research included:

  • Cameras mounted inside an instrumented car to track eye and head movement of drivers.
  • A Detection-Response-Task device known as the “DRT” was used to record driver reaction time in response to triggers of red and green lights added to their field of vision.
  • A special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap was used to chart participants’ brain activity so that researchers could determine mental workload.

Using established research protocols borrowed from aviation psychology and a variety of performance metrics, drivers engaged in common tasks, from listening to an audio book or talking on the phone to listening and responding to voice-activated emails while behind the wheel. Researchers used the results to rate the levels of mental distraction drivers experienced while performing each of the tasks. Similar to the Saffir-Simpson scale used for hurricanes, the levels of mental distraction are represented on a scale:

  • Tasks such as listening to the radio ranked as a category “1” level of distraction or a minimal risk.
  • Talking on a cell-phone, both handheld and hands-free, resulted in a “2” or a moderate risk.
  • Listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features increased mental workload and distraction levels of the drivers to a “3” rating or one of extensive risk.

“These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.” Based on this research, AAA urges the automotive and electronics industries to join us in exploring:

  • Limiting use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and to ensure these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while the car is moving.
  • Disabling certain functionalities of voice-to-text technologies such as using social media or interacting with e-mail and text messages so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Educating vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks for in-vehicle technologies.

AAA also is using the findings to promote dialogue with policy makers, safety advocates and industry to ensure that these emerging in-vehicle technologies won’t lead to unintentional compromises in public safety.  As part of this effort, AAA has already met with safety advocates and provided copies of the report to CEOs of all major U.S. automakers.

“This study constitutes the most in-depth analysis to date of mental distractions behind the wheel.  AAA is hopeful that it will serve as a stepping stone toward working in collaboration with automakers to promote our shared goal of improving safety for all drivers,” said Darbelnet. “Specifically, these increasingly common voice-driven, in-vehicle technologies should be limited to use for just core driving tasks unless the activity results in no significant driver distraction.”

To view the full Cognitive Distraction in the Vehicle report, the AAA Foundation’s Research Compendium on Cognitive Distraction or AAA’s Distracted Driving Fact Sheet, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

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