By Clifford F. Lynch
DC Velocity, July 2010
Those of you who are regular readers of this column will
recall that on several occasions I have mentioned the fact that our National
Transportation Policy hasn’t been revised or restated since 1940. Many
industry watchers have bemoaned the fact that our steps to improve the
transportation capability and infrastructure have been at best, haphazard, with
no overall plan or objective in sight.
This shortcoming finally has been corrected with the
DOT’s April 15 release of a draft of its strategic plan for FY 2010 – FY
2015, “Transportation for a New Generation.” It is billed as an outcome –
driven plan which addresses, what DOT feels at least, are the main concerns of
our transportation infrastructure,
systems and policies. The mission statement is fairly straightforward – “The
national objectives of general welfare, economic growth and stability, and the
security of the United States require the development of transportation policies
and programs that contribute to providing fast, safe, efficient and convenient
transportation at the lowest cost consistent with those and other national
objectives, including the efficient use and conservation of the resources of the
To accomplish this mission, the plan provides for five
strategic goals and one organizational objective, along with the expected
outcomes, challenges, risks, and strategies for each. The entire plan is 72
pages long, but briefly stated, the goals are as follows:
Improve the safety experience for all road users, but with a special
emphasis on children, seniors, and those with disabilities.
2. State of
Repair. This goal’s expected outcome will be a higher proportion of
highways, bridges, airports, railroads, and transit systems in good repair.
Competitiveness. This is one of
the more challenging goals with end results that are supposed to be maximization
of economic returns on transportation investments, a competitive air system,
U.S. transportation systems advanced in certain world markets, and expanded
opportunities for women-owned and minority businesses.
Communities. This objective addresses the need for public transit,
convenient and affordable transportation choices, bicycle and walking paths, and
transportation for special needs individuals.
Sustainability. This goal is designed to reduce carbon and other harmful
emissions, dependence on fossil fuels, air and noise pollution and increase the
use of environmentally sustainable policies, practices, and materials.
Excellence. This is the DOT’s goal to develop a diverse and collaborative
workforce of its own, that will ensure long-term social, security,
environmental, and economic needs. The subordinate goal is to make “DOT the
best place to work in the Federal government.”
At first blush these goals seem only slightly less pure
than peace and motherhood, but as usual, “the devil is in the details”.
Already the plan has stirred controversy, particularly with the American
Trucking Associations. In a strongly worded letter to Transportation Secretary
LaHood, ATA president Bill Graves questioned the DOT tactical view that truck
shipments should be diverted to rail. He pointed out it is both impractical and
in some cases impossible to make a meaningful impact on an industry handling 7O
% of the nation’s transportation volume. Contrary to that point of view of
course, is J.B. Hunt’s long term relationship with the BNSF that has proven to
be both economically and environmentally sound for both carriers.
There is sure to be other controversy as well, as industry
watchers begin to read the fine print. No doubt the plan will change
significantly before it is finally approved. But at least, at long last, it is a
start. Let’s give credit where credit is due.