Posts tagged ‘DOT’

Are We Getting Anything Out of Transit Spending?

In the 2012 budget, the DOT will spend about $59.4 billion on highways and $30.2 billion on transit and rail (source).   Highways are getting a smaller and smaller portion of what we think of as the Federal highway budget, with transit and rail spending almost 50% the size of highway spending.  For what results?

Despite huge efforts to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles, nearly 8 million more people drove alone to work in 2010 than in 2000, according to data released by the Census Bureau. Wendell Cox’s review of the data show that the other big gainer was “worked at home,” which grew by nearly 2 million over the decade.

Transit gained less than a million, but transit numbers were so small in 2000 that its share grew from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent of total workers. While drive alone grew from 75.6 percent to 76.5 percent, the big loser was carpooling, which declined by more than 2 million workers. As a result, driving’s share as a whole declined from 87.9 percent to 86.2 percent.

Though they get less money in absolute dollars, transit and rail have for years gotten wildly disproportionate amounts of money compared to their ridership.  This is not an accident of timing -- rail and mass transit costs per passenger mile are simply way higher than for cars in all but a few very specific high-density urban areas.

Much of this Federal spending is a huge waste of money, made worse by the fact that local authorities who get this money have little incentive to use it wisely.  Its time for the Feds to get out of the transit funding business.  If LA wants more subways, let them pay for it.

This is an AWESOME Idea. I Want to Propose California Do Much More of This

Via Carpe Diem and a whole string of other sites:

"How will California parents react when they find out they will be expected to provide workers' compensation benefits, rest and meal breaks, and paid vacation time for…babysitters? Dinner and a movie night may soon become much more complicated.

California Assembly Bill 889 will require these protections for all “domestic employees,” including nannies, housekeepers and caregivers. The bill has already passed the Assembly and is quickly moving through the Senate with blanket support from the Democrat members that control both houses of the Legislature – and without the support of a single Republican member. Assuming the bill will easily clear its last couple of legislative hurdles, AB 889 will soon be on its way to the Governor's desk.

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers' compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

Failure to abide by any of these provisions may result in a legal cause of action against the employer ("parents") including cumulative penalties, attorneys' fees, legal costs and expenses associated with hiring expert witnesses, an unprecedented measure of legal recourse provided no other class of workers – from agricultural laborers to garment manufacturers."

I know this is exactly the kind of thing you would expect me to oppose, but I have decided this is exactly the kind of thing California needs.  I am tired of average citizens passing crazy requirements on business without any concept of the costs and injustices they are proposing, and then scratch their head later wonder why job creation is stagnant.
I want to propose that California do MORE in this same vein.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Every household will have to register for a license to conduct any type of commerce, a license to occupy their house, and a license to hire any employees.  Homeowner will as a minimum have to register to withhold income taxes, pay social security taxes, pay unemployment insurance, pay disability insurance, and pay workers comp insurance.
  • Households should have to file a 1099 for every payment they make to contractors
  • All requirements of Obamacare must be followed for any household labor, including payment of penalties for even part-time labor for which the homeowner does not provide medical insurance
  • No alcohol may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state liquor license
  • No cigarettes may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state cigarette license
  • No over the counter drugs may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state over the counter drug license
  • No eggs may be purchased by any individual without first applying for and receiving a state egg license
  • Any injuries of any type in the household must be reported to OSHA
  • Form EEO-1 must be filed once a year to catalog the race and gender of anyone who did any work in the home
  • Any time one has a dispute in court with another citizen or an employee, they will now be treated the same as businesses in California, which means that the presumption, irregardless of facts, will be strongly in favor of any employee and against the homeowner, and in favor of any other party in any dispute whose net worth is perceived by the jury as less than the homeowner's.
  • At least once a year the home's kitchen must be inspected and certified by both the fire marshal and the health department.  Any deficiencies must be immediately repaired before the kitchen can be used.  All code requirements for commercial kitchens will apply to household kitchens, including requirements for a three-basin washup sink, separate mop sink, and fire extinguishers
  • All homes will be inspected once per year for ADA compliance.  All parts of the home must be wheelchair accessible, even if there are currently no handicapped residents in residence.  Homes more than one-story tall will require an elevator.  All counters must be of the proper height, and all bathrooms must have ADA fixtures.
  • Each home will be required to prominently display all its required licenses as well as state and federal information posters for workers.
  • All homes will be audited at least once every three years to ensure that use taxes have been filed and paid on all out of state Internet purchases
  • Material Safety Data Sheets must be on file for all household cleaning products and other chemicals and available for inspection by the fire marshal
  • All gas tanks (car, lawnmower, portable 5-gallon) will be treated just like commercial gasoline storage tanks, and require monthly leak / loss reporting.  Annually, a complete spill prevention plan must be filed with the state.
  • A stormwater discharge plan must be filed annually with the state
  • Any dropped thermometer or CFL bulb will require homeholder to call out (and pay disposal costs) of a state hazmat team
  • Lifeguards are required at all home pools during daylight hours
  • Households should file property tax returns in the same way that businesses must, listing individually every single piece of personal property they own, from their car to their lawnmower to the pink flamingo in the front yard.
  • Homeowner must track the number of days any guests stay in their house so they can file and pay lodging taxes on a monthly basis
  • Any homeowner who hauls a boat or trailer on US highways must register with the Department of Transportation and receive a DOT number.  They must keep full driver logs and maintenance records available for DOT audit and inspection, and every driver must be drug-tested at least once per year.
  • All food on pantry shelves must meet all state labeling laws
  • At each entrance to the house, a sign warming those entering must be posted warning that certain cancer causing chemicals may be present

Finally, after spending the entire day complying with these rules, the homeowner must read at least 3 posts each day from progressive blogs explaining why anyone who complains about such rules as unreasonable is just a reactionary who doesn't really know how to run his business very well, and they could certainly do better.

Postscript:  Every single item on this list is something my company has been required to do.  I am sure I left a bunch out.

Licensing is Anti-Competitive -- This Time, Its Personal

I have written any number of times about how the justification for licensing is usually consumer protection or safety but the actual purpose is to protect larger, entrenched incumbents against competition.  However, most of those stories have been about caskets or hair braiding or other businesses that don't really affect me.  This time, its personal.

Sometime last October we needed a boat moved across the country from one of our marinas to another.  We found a local guy who was going in the right direction anyway and paid him a couple hundred bucks to haul the boat on a trailer behind his pickup.  Note that this is a perfectly ordinary pickup truck and a perfectly normal pontoon boat, the kind of car-trailer rig you can see thousands of people driving to the lake every Saturday morning.

The driver was stopped at a checkpoint in Wyoming.  And was busted there, at least long enough until he could give them my name and number and escape.

Why was he busted?  Because a) the truck/boat combination apparently weighed a tad more than 10,000 pounds and b) the boat was being moved for a commercial purpose  (i.e. it was a business asset).  Unknown to me, the combination of these two takes this transport event to the realm of "commercial carrier," which requires a Department of Transportation (DOT) license and a slew of regulatory responses.   Technically, the contractor we paid was at fault, but he escaped any legal problems because 1) he claimed he was our employee (untrue) and 2) he claimed he was driving our truck (untrue).  This led to Wyoming and later the DOT calling me asking for my DOT number (which I didn't have), my employment records (for a person who is not my employee) and my vehicle records (for a truck I have never owned).

Months later, I am still going back and forth with the cops in Wyoming.  But in the mean time I decided that since I was likely to move my stuff across state lines again, I might as well get my DOT number.  So I started that process.

As it turns out, there is absolutely no difference in regulation and compliance requirements between driving my own boat across state lines once a year and running United Van Lines.   The regulations one has to know are hundreds of pages long.  The user-friendly summary is 162 pages long! And it is careful to state, "Please do not use this guide as a substitute for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations."  There are driver and vehicle files that have to be maintained, special driver certifications, driver medical tests and certifications, etc.

In other words, there is absolutely no accommodation for a company like ours that is doing nothing different than you are driving you boat to the lake, but we have to set up a compliance and record-keeping system that trucking companies have whole departments for.  Which, of course, is the point.  Compliance costs for regulations can always be born easier by large companies and by incumbents.  The idea is to make it so onerous for individual companies to move their own boats that they are willing to pay over-priced Teamster-friendly trucking corporations to do it for them.  The point is not to make us safer - the average individual unregulated boater hauls boats more miles a year than we do - the point is to make sure we don't compete, even in the smallest way, with established trucking firms.

By the way, the issue that is likely to kill the deal totally on our getting a DOT number is the government mandate that I drug test my employees.  The relationship I wish to have with my employees is not one that encompasses my demanding samples of their bodily fluids on a regular basis.  I have turned down at least two potentially lucrative management contracts because both had drug-testing requirements and I am not going to do it.

Wow! Nancy Pelosi Cuts Auto Development Cycle From 6 Years to 6 Months

It used to be that it took something like 5-6 years to develop a new vehicle from scratch.  Apparently, though, GM has accelerated this to 6 months, as Nancy Pelosi is taking personal credit for the recently released GM vehicles.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Obama administration officials defended last year's federal bailout of automakers on Monday, pointing to new vehicles at the Detroit auto show as a sign of the industry's rebirth. ...

"We've seen ideas turned into policy turned into product," Pelosi said.

Pelosi and company fawned over cars like the Volt, expected to be a money-loser from the get-go, while ignoring the trucks and larger family cars where GM actually makes money.  Bob Lutz steps up to take on the Orren Boyle mantle:

GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said Sunday that Washington's interest in the auto industry was welcome after being ignored by U.S. lawmakers for decades while other nation's backed their carmakers.

He said he had always thought the U.S. "was the only car-producing nation in the world where the administration and the politicians ... didn't know about American car companies, didn't care about American car companies - none of the politicians drove American cars."

"It's like we were the stepchild of the American industry and the American economy," Lutz said.

This is hilarious - few other industries have been the subject of more government bailouts and protection and subsidies than the auto companies.  Remember all those DOE and DOT grants?  Remember Chrysler bailout #1?  Remember the tariffs and import quotas?  But wait, it gets even more barf-inducing:

"Unfortunately it took the financial failure of the American automobile industry to make the whole country aware of the importance of the American automobile industry," Lutz said at a Society of Automotive

Analysts event.

See, its all of our fault they went bankrupt, not their crappy management, crappy designs, and crappy labor agreements.  All our fault.  I feel so terrible.

An Example Bureaucratic Hassle

Last week I wrote:

I had an employee in a truck towing a pontoon boat from a marina we operate in Alabama to a marina we operate in California.  Apparently, we have grossly violated the law because to haul our boat from our own facility in one state to our own facility in another requires that we register as an interstate motor carrier and put DOT numbers on all of our vehicles.  Just great.  Who wants to bet that this will be an enormous and expensive hassle?

I dumped the compliance task on my Chief Operating Officer, who routinely deals with a lot of really irritating compliance issues without complaining.  He sent me this email this morning:

I've now left at least 5 recorded messages for USDOT employees, and spoken to 3 of them. I almost have my arms around this compliance issue. This was a very cruel assignment...will never forget this

Stupid Government Indignity of the Day

I had an employee in a truck towing a pontoon boat from a marina we operate in Alabama to a marina we operate in California.  Apparently, we have grossly violated the law because to haul our boat from our own facility in one state to our own facility in another requires that we register as an interstate motor carrier and put DOT numbers on all of our vehicles.  Just great.  Who wants to bet that this will be an enormous and expensive hassle?

Update: Credit where it is due:  The application online was totally arcane (and of course the help link and instructions links were broken) but the guy at the DOT help line was remarkably helpful and walked me through it.  It was pretty clear that a lot of folks who casually transport their private property across state lines gets swept up in this net, and they actually were prepared to be helpful.  I did have to laugh when the very first screen of the application process was to get my credit card number - I think this clarifies the reason for this licensing process.

Let's Make Sure To Put These Guys In Charge of Health Care

I suspect many of my readers also read Megan McArdle, but in case you missed her story, its pretty funny (as long as you are not the person experiencing it):

While consuming my one (1) beer, I was apprehended by agents of the
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  They called my parents, fined me,
and made me attend a class on the horrors of underaged drinking (did
you realize that drinking can lead to uncontrollable vomiting?)  It was
during that class, with the errors of my ways now readily apparent,
that I made a pledge to myself to quit underaged drinking with all due
speed.  And on January 29th, 1994, I honored that pledge....

The
problem, you see, is that at the time of my conviction, I did not have
a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Driver's License.  Indeed, I had no
driver's license at all, being one of those benighted city people who
get their first driver's license at the age of 23.  The laws of the
State of Pennsylvania, however, say that the Department of
Transportation is entitled to suspend the driver's license of anyone
arrested for underaged drinking.  And the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation is, apparently, determined to exercise
this privilege.  Thus, the spectacle of a 35 year old woman being
informed that she is about to have her driver's license suspended for
underaged drinking.

To add insult to injury, I am expected to
fill out a form and, at my own expense, mail it to the DOT in order to
commence this suspension.

This would be funny and mildly
annoying if it were not for the fact that until they clear the
suspension, I cannot get a DC driver's license, because states are
required to scan for violations from other states before they issue a
new license.  (No word on how I got one out of the State of New York).
And until I get a DC driver's license, I cannot register the car I just
bought.  The DMV here, after much wrangling, gave me temporary tags,
but it looks like I'm going to have to garage the thing for three
months unless the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relents.  Which, at this
time, they show no evidence of doing.