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Notes from the SC&RA Symposium in Orlando

This week SC&RA is hosting its 26th Annual Specialized Transportation Symposium in Orlando, FL. SC&RA invited the four regional State Transportation Associations to coordinate a conference and meetings with SC&RA to discuss and work on issues of mutual interest on permitting and requirements for moving oversized and overweight loads. The four associations representing the 50 states and District of Columbia agreed to participate:

Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO)

ATA Truck Tonnage Index Posts Best Ever January

The advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) on February 19 increased 2.9 percent in January after jumping 2.4 percent in December. Tonnage has surged at least 2.4 percent every month since November, gaining a total of 9.1 percent over that period. As a result, the SA index equaled 125.2 (2000=100) in January versus 121.7 in December. January’s index was the highest on record. Compared with January 2012, the SA index was up a robust 6.5 percent, the best year-over-year result since December 2011.

Construction Prices Increase Sharply in January

Prices for construction materials moved higher in January, propelled by large jumps in items used in new housing and nonresidential building renovations, according to an analysis of new federal figures released February 20 by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Contractors were paying more for materials even as the pending federal spending “sequestration” threatens to cancel an estimated $4 billion worth of construction activity this year, noted AGC Officials.

Planning Advances on Major Wind Energy Projects

Recent issues of Wind Energy SmartBrief included the following items of interest to SC&RA members involved with the hauling, erection and maintenance of wind farms:

Canadians Worry about Growing Truck Driver Shortage

Tens of thousands of truck drivers are approaching retirement age in Canada, but very few young people and immigrants are entering the industry, according to a Conference Board of Canada report released on February 21. The report concludes that the gap between the supply of drivers and the demand for them—estimated at 25,000 by 2020—could be costly to the Canadian economy.

Obama Renominates Two NLRB Members

On February 13, President Barack Obama asked the Senate to confirm two Democrats whose recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court a month earlier, according to an article that day in The New York Times. The two, Sharon Block, a former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Richard Griffin, former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, had been serving on the NLRB since January 2012.

Supreme Court to Decide if Donning and Doffing PPE Is Part of Payable Workday

On February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning whether workers must be paid for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment and then traveling to and from their workstations. Justices are expected to hear the case as early as October. In May 2012, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals had rejected the argument by the workers’ union that changing into personal protective equipment is “a principal activity” they are employed to perform, which triggers the start of the work day under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

OSHA Issues Interim Final Rule on Whistleblowing under Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register that governs whistleblower complaints filed under Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1558 provides protection to employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange or Marketplace.

Arizona Disputes OSHA’s Threat to Take Over Its Fall Protection Enforcement

The Industrial Commission of Arizona recently rejected a demand from U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the state change its fall protection rule for residential construction or face a federal enforcement takeover, according to an article in the February 21 issue of Construction Labor Report. In a February 1 letter to OSHA, Commission Director Laura McGrory said OSHA had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the state’s new fall protection requirements and the state’s ability to enforce the rule.