Trucks at Work
Ray1 Photo: Risdon Photography
James Ray speaking at the 97th annual Transportation Research Board's awards luncheon.

The future of transportation is here and more is to follow

An engaging talk by James Ray highlights that many long-sought after transportation capabilities are now every-day realities.

Despite all the gnashing to teeth over the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, a now-suspended effort to establish national speed limit caps for commercial trucks, a growing shortage of truck parking spaces, crumbling highway infrastructure, and a host of other issues too numerous to name, we tend to forget just how advanced our national transportation system is for moving both freight and people.

Indeed, as part of a speech billed at discussing out nation’s infrastructure issues (but which in reality barely addressed them at all) James Ray, senior advisor for infrastructure for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) showed a short clip from the 1958 Walt Disney film “Magic Highway” during the 97th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board to illustrate just how many once-too-futuristic-to-imagine vehicles technologies are now actual everyday realities: backup cameras, forward-looking radar systems, cruise control, and the like.

“This year will be a particularly important year for transportation,” Ray said.

“But as we stitch together an infrastructure package, we need to remember just how transformed transportation has become,” he stressed. “We now have safety systems and technology like autonomous vehicles that were only dreamed of not long ago. And while transportation has changed a lot, it will change even more in the years ahead.”

You can watch some of the film “Magic Highway” below to understand where Ray is coming from:

Ray noted that President Trump remains committed to a $1 trillion transportation infrastructure package, though the details are still being worked out and a draft won’t be ready until February.

He added, too, that there will be “greater influence” on transportation infrastructure at the state and local levels of government going forward, with more outreach on the part of DOT and other federal agencies to “more stakeholders” in the future.

That view is also being partially espoused by state governors as well. For example, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval – who is also chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA) this year – noted in a new initiative launched this week called Ahead of the Curve: Innovation Governors that “transportation is a rapidly evolving area that is reshaping not just the present, but also the future.”

He added that “new, connected, automated and electric transportation technologies are transforming our world and altering the ways businesses and industries operate, affecting every aspect of our lives,” which in turn results in Americans “living in a time when the science fiction we grew up with is becoming reality.”

To keep that “reality” in the present and expand upon it will also mean being more prudent regarding regulatory activity going forward, noted DOT’s Ray in his talk.

“We can also accomplish our regulatory goals, I think, without being overly burdensome on the economy,” he said, stressing that DOT in particular plans to hew closely to Trump’s “two-for-one” regulatory guidance, which states for every new rulemaking effort undertaking, two existing rules must be repealed eliminated.

Long story short, we are hopefully approaching the point where a long-needed infrastructure package will help our transportation systems take the next great leap forward towards making more futuristic predictions become here-and-now realities.

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