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Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are driving the increase in oil and natural gas extraction and allowing access to shale resources in Canada and the U.S. that were previously uneconomical to develop.

In fact, the United States became the No. 1 producer of oil in the world in 2014—overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. The U.S. produced 8.4 million barrels per day of oil in April 2014, which is the highest monthly production volume in more than 25 years—with North Dakota and Texas supplying almost half of the total U.S. crude oil production. The rapid expansion of crude oil production in North America has increased the use of rail, truck, barge and pipeline to carry crude to refineries.

Upon extraction, crude oil is transported to refineries to be processed into useful petroleum products—such as heating oil, diesel fuel or gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2009 70.2 percent of crude oil and petroleum products were transported by pipeline while 23.1 percent were shipped by oil tankers, 4.2 percent by truck and just 2.6 percent by rail. In 2013, crude oil accounted for just 1.4 percent of the commodities carried by rail. Although oil makes up a small percentage of rail freight, this proportion is increasing rapidly.

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Automotive Value Creators Report 2014: A Comeback in the Making

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Automotive Value Creators Report 2014: A Comeback in the Making
Source: Boston Consulting Group

A Comeback in the Making is the first in a series of annual reports from The Boston Consulting Group on value creation in the automotive industry. The report analyzes the industry’s two largest sectors, original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and makers of automotive components that are sold either to OEMs or to end users in the aftermarket.

These two businesses are very different, with distinct dynamics, financial characteristics, typical growth rates, capital requirements, and profit margins. Nevertheless, the sectors are inextricably linked and often have in common the same challenges; a pressing one for both sectors has been finding their footing in a global economy that was rocked to its foundation in 2008. Our analysis of total shareholder return (TSR) over the past three, five, and ten years suggests that the long-awaited recovery for both OEMs and component makers is finally starting to gain traction—across countries and regions and in all subsectors.

In fact, few economic sectors have mounted a more impressive comeback from the ravages of the financial crisis than those in the automotive industry. Both OEMs and component makers delivered five-year median annual returns that were well in excess of the median return for the 26 industries tracked by BCG. OEMs produced a median annual TSR of 29 percent from 2009 through 2013, while component makers posted a median annual TSR of 33 percent. The median annual return for all industries was 21 percent. The automotive industry’s recent performance represents a striking recovery from the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, when the big three U.S. automakers alone posted nearly $75 billion in losses and unit sales plunged worldwide.

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Automobile Manufacturing Shipments and Employment Up, According to Census Bureau’s Economic Census

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Automobile Manufacturing Shipments and Employment Up, According to Census Bureau’s Economic Census
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The total value of shipments for the automobile manufacturing industry (NAICS 336111) was $108.8 billion in 2012, up 28.4 percent from $84.7 billion in 2007, according to the latest 2012 Economic Census statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of employees increased 5.6 percent, from 65,436 in 2007 to 69,078 in 2012.

While shipments and employment increased, the number of establishments decreased from 188 in 2007 to 180 in 2012. The average payroll per employee decreased 6.5 percent, from $78,092 in 2007 to $73,053 in 2012.

Total value of shipments for the light truck and utility vehicle manufacturing industry (NAICS 336112) decreased 20.7 percent, from $154.0 billion in 2007 to $122.2 billion in 2012. For this industry, other highlights include:

  • The number of establishments decreased from 90 in 2007 to 77 in 2012.
  • The number of employees decreased 31.3 percent, from 84,806 in 2007 to 58,241 in 2012.
  • The average payroll per employee decreased 3.8 percent, from $81,262 in 2007 to $78,194 in 2012.

Aid Worker Security Report 2014 — Unsafe Passage: Road attacks and their impact on humanitarian operations

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Aid Worker Security Report 2014 — Unsafe Passage: Road attacks and their impact on humanitarian operations (PDF)
Source: Humanitarian Outcomes

Summary of Key Findings

  • The year 2013 set a new record for violence against civilian aid operations, with 251 separate attacks affecting 460 aid workers.
  • Of the 460 victims, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were seriously wounded, and 134 were kidnapped. Overall this represents a 66 per cent increase in the number of victims from 2012.
  • The spike in attacks in 2013 was driven mainly by escalating conflicts and deterioration of governance in Syria and South Sudan. These two countries along with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan together accounted for three quarters of all attacks.
  • The majority of aid worker victims were staffers of national NGOs and Red Cross/Crescent societies, often working to implement international aid in their own countries.
  • Year after year, more aid workers are attacked while traveling on the road than in any other setting. In 2013, over half of all violent incidents occurred in the context of an ambush or roadside attack.
  • The advances in humanitarian security management have failed to effectively address this most prevalent form of targeting. While some good practice exists in protective and deterrent approaches to road security, more collective thinking and action is required, particularly in developing ‘kinetic acceptance’ strategies for negotiating safe access in transit.

Driving While Revoked, Suspended or Otherwise Unlicensed: Penalties by State

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Driving While Revoked, Suspended or Otherwise Unlicensed: Penalties by State
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

All 50 states and the District of Columbia issue driver’s licenses, and conversely, all have penalties for driving without a license. These penalties vary widely, but follow a similar theme: driving without a license is a serious offense that goes beyond a moving violation. Penalties generally involve fines, jail time or both.

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or use the dropdown menu option to select a state.

Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure
Source: IBISWorld

In August, the Highway Trust Fund, which provides federal funding for highways, roads and mass-transit systems, was expected to run out of money. Since the fund relies on a federal gas tax that is not indexed to inflation and has therefore not increased since 1993, its ability to finance infrastructure projects has eroded. Although lawmakers across party lines scrambled to extend the fund’s lifetime, disagreements over revenue sources prevented any serious development. On July 15th, 2014, just two weeks before the Department of Transportation would be forced to cut funding for major projects, the US House of Representatives passed a $10.8 billion short-term fix to extend the fund into May 2015.

Protracted political gridlock is just one of the many challenges burdening public infrastructure in the United States. Underfunding and underinvestment, crippled state and municipal budgets and delayed maintenance and repair have also contributed to the country’s glaring infrastructure deficit. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the nation’s major infrastructure industries according to factors like capacity and funding. In 2013, the average grade for these industries was a D+. By comparison, solid waste management received a B-, while aviation, dams, roads, transit, inland waterways, wastewater, hazardous waste and even drinking water all earned dismal Ds. According to the ASCE, based on current investment trends in public infrastructure, the country will develop a $1.1 trillion gap between projected infrastructure funding and expenses by 2020. To make matters worse, this deficit could widen to $4.7 trillion by 2040.

Success of public-private enterprise

In response to these challenges, state governments are increasingly experimenting with public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance new infrastructure projects or maintain existing assets. PPPs are financing tools whereby a joint venture between public and private sector participants executes the delivery of a public-purpose project. The degree to which a private enterprise is involved varies according to the risk and responsibilities that the partner assumes. The government usually claims residual ownership rights, while the private firm finances the construction, maintenance or operation of the project, collecting revenue during a contract period. For example, in transportation, a PPP contract can range from a private contract fee service agreement, which transfers only project management into private hands, to design-build-finance-operate-maintain concessions, which transfer all activities to the private partner. The degree of private involvement is captured in the PPP spectrum, allowing for greater flexibility in adapting to specific project objectives and needs. Typically, a PPP concession begins at the state level and PPP legislation is required to define qualifying projects, create the framework for concession terms and impose rules of accountability.

CRS — Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress (August 5, 2014)

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

China’s actions for asserting and defending its maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims in the East China (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS), particularly since late 2013, have heightened concerns among observers that ongoing disputes over these waters and some of the islands within them could lead to a crisis or conflict between China and a neighboring country such as Japan, the Philippines, or Vietnam, and that the United States could be drawn into such a crisis or conflict as a result of obligations the United States has under bilateral security treaties with Japan and the Philippines.

More broadly, China’s actions for asserting and defending its maritime territorial and EEZ claims have led to increasing concerns among some observers that China may be seeking to dominate or gain control of its near-seas region, meaning the ECS, the SCS, and the Yellow Sea. Chinese domination over or control of this region, or Chinese actions that are perceived as being aimed at achieving such domination or control, could have major implications for the United States, including implications for U.S.-China relations, for interpreting China’s rise as a major world power, for the security structure of the Asia-Pacific region, for the long-standing U.S. strategic goal of preventing the emergence of a regional hegemon in one part of Eurasia or another, and for two key elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II—the non-use of force or coercion as a means of settling disputes between countries, and freedom of the seas.

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