The hearing will explore stakeholder perspectives on implementation of the recently-enacted FAST Act and its role in improving our nation’s infrastructure, increasing safety, and enhancing economic growth. The hearing will also cover emerging economic and policy opportunities and challenges for transportation providers, shippers, planners, and state officials.
• Mr. Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, Chief Executive Officer, Kansas City Southern Railway Company
• Major Jay Thompson, Arkansas Highway Police; President, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
• Mr. David Eggermann, Supply Chain Manager, BASF
• Mr. Stephen J. Gardner, Executive Vice President and Chief of NEC Business Development, Amtrak
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
2:30 p.m. ET
Senate Russell Building 253
Witness testimony, opening statements, and a livestream will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Senator Deb Fischer
Good afternoon. I am pleased to convene the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation & Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security for today’s hearing entitled “Intermodal and Interdependent: the FAST Act, the Economy, and Our Nation’s Transportation System.”
This hearing will explore diverse stakeholder perspectives on the implementation of the FAST Act and its role in improving our nation’s infrastructure, increasing safety, and enhancing economic growth.
We also plan to cover emerging economic and policy opportunities and challenges for freight and passenger transportation providers, shippers, and transportation safety officials.
Transportation is critical to our nation’s economy. Safe and reliable infrastructure facilitates commerce across the United States and with our global trading partners.
As I’ve stated before in this Subcommittee, time is money.
Efficient supply chains are key to reducing costs for both businesses and consumers.
America’s economy relies on our vast multi-modal transportation network consisting of railroads, highways, ports, maritime vessels, automobiles, and airplanes.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, our nation’s 140,000 miles of freight railroads, “move more freight than any other freight system worldwide.”
A recent report from Towson University found that class I freight railroads generated $274 billion in economic activity in 2014.
Nearly 31 million passengers boarded Amtrak’s passenger trains last year.
On the nation’s highways, commercial truckers carried almost 10 billion tons of freight in 2014, representing 69 percent of all domestic freight hauled in the U.S.
Across our skies, America’s aviation system transported an all-time high of nearly 897 million passengers and carried 66 billion revenue ton miles of cargo.
The overall success of the transportation sector is often considered a key indicator for activity in the financial markets. Many investors and economists believe that transportation sector trends can indicate broader market directions, often referred to as “Dow Theory.”
As the Wall Street Journal explains, “Dow Theory holds that any lasting rally to new highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average must be accompanied by a new high in the Dow Jones Industrial Transportation Average—[this is] the 20-stock index that tracks some of the largest U.S. airlines, railroads, and trucking companies. When the transport average lags, it can presage broader stock declines.”
Unfortunately, the transportation sector currently faces economic challenges. In general, rail, maritime, air cargo, and trucking carrier volumes are down because of a variety of factors. These include a dip in commodities, such as agriculture and certain energy products.
I understand that many carriers are turning to intermodal shipments as a growing area of business, including household goods and manufactured products, as they seek to address current downturns in commodities. It is my hope that the FAST Act’s robust national freight policy will help to enhance the flow of intermodal freight across our country.
I’m proud that this Congress accomplished the passage of a long-term highway bill. It will increase safety on our roads, highways, and railways. It will also provide certainty to states and localities, and ultimately, bolster our economy.
But our work to strengthen America’s transportation network is not done. Traffic is rising and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway fatalities increased by 7.7 percent in 2015.
As I mentioned, the FAST Act includes a new national strategic freight program, which will help our states prioritize freight traffic and increase safety. The program provides states with the discretion to direct new funds to rural and urban freight corridors with higher commercial traffic.
Increased investment will also be available for first and last mile connectors for freight at airports, trucking facilities, and railyards under this national freight program.
Meanwhile, members of this Committee have worked with carriers and law enforcement to reform the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to increase transparency and stakeholder participation. The FAST Act streamlines motor carrier safety grants, enhances the safety of hazardous materials transportation, and includes a comprehensive rail safety title.
I’m pleased that today we’ll hear from a wide array of participants in our transportation network. We are fortunate to have the incoming CEO of one of our nation’s leading freight railroads. We also welcome representatives from the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, America’s passenger railroad, and a motor carrier law enforcement official to speak with us this afternoon.
I look forward to our discussion on the FAST Act and the impact it will have on our transportation system and the economic growth of the United States.
I would now like to invite Senator Booker to offer his opening remarks.
Mr. Patrick J. OttensmeyerChief Executive OfficerKansas City Southern Railway Company
Major Jay ThompsonArkansas Highway Police; PresidentCommercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
Mr. David EggermannSupply Chain ManagerBASF
Mr. Stephen J. GardnerExecutive Vice President and Chief of NEC BusinessAmtrak