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Infrastructure

Advance Regulatory Policies to Encourage a 21st Century Rail Network

By | Infrastructure, Innovation, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology, Transportation | No Comments

Since their inception, railroads have paved the way for American industrialization, safely transporting freight across the country with an efficiency and speed never before imagined possible. The American rail network has driven some of our most consequential economic developments, using that innovation to improve millions of lives. Now, groundbreaking advances in automation and analytics are opening yet another exciting frontier for rail—one that, with the right approach from D.C. policymakers, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in particular, can once again redefine the world of transportation.

To craft a technology-friendly regulatory strategy, FRA need simply look to its peer agencies in the automotive sector. The recent flurry of innovation in autonomous vehicle technology is progressing thanks in large part to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “light touch” regulatory approach toward testing and deploying these new technologies. Despite the fact that all real-world testing carries some initial risk, DOT has not allowed misconceptions to stand in the way of progress and the long-term safety benefits of autonomous vehicles. The same approach that is working there will work for rail as well.

While rare, one-third of train accidents are caused by human error, many of which will be eliminated by integrating automated processes into rail operations. Further, the deployment of autonomous technology is easier in the rail industry given that railroads operate on separate fixed tracks. In a world where DOT has vigorously supported the automation of millions of interacting cars and trucks, FRA’s support for similar—and simpler—opportunities to automate many different aspects of rail operations is an attractive and less controversial way to facilitate analogous rail-safety benefits.

Encouragingly, FRA made progress last April when it issued a request for information on automation in the rail industry. In response, Norfolk Southern provided substantive insights into the many technologies available to automate various aspects of our network—from locomotives and dispatch, to yard operations and inspections. We look forward to the next steps and urge FRA to promote the safety benefits of such technologies by issuing guidance that encourages railroads and third-party technology vendors to pursue innovation.

At Norfolk Southern, we are firmly committed to developing high-tech tools that will undeniably improve the safety and efficiency of our operations. Indeed, automated and predictive technologies can help open a new world of operational improvements, and we are working hard every day to realize these benefits and reimagine a safer, more reliable future for freight transportation. Yet we simply cannot unlock the full potential of this new technology without a 21st century regulatory environment that facilitates private innovation.

Just as it has throughout our country’s history, the rail industry is leveraging technology to surge towards transportation’s new technological horizon. By following the lead of other DOT agencies and regulating in a flexible, outcome-based manner, FRA can accelerate this technological progress, helping to dynamically transform the freight-rail industry and creating a safer system and a more efficient transportation network for 21st century manufacturers

Next Generation Broadband: Making Regulations Work for Innovation

By | Infrastructure, Innovation, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

Later this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a proposal to modernize existing regulations to speed the deployment of next generation wireless across the country. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr recently unveiled a plan to support the buildout of 5G, noting the need “to update our rules to match this revolutionary new technology.” Manufacturers agree and support Commissioner Carr’s proposal, along with a similar effort in the Senate with Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD) STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act (S. 3157).

Existing regulations for broadband infrastructure were designed for the technology of previous generations of wireless, which required siting decisions for 200-foot towers that would transmit signals over large swaths of land. Next generation broadband will be delivered through multiple “small cells”—devices that are much less intrusive and more much more numerous. The FCC’s plan would cut through a complex web of hurdles at the local level that could delay 5G buildout. It would ensure cities and towns charge reasonable fees, and it would shorten the shot clock for local regulators to act on build-out requests, while maintaining a role for local control over aspects of small cell placement decisions.

Next generation wireless broadband will unlock further innovation across the manufacturing ecosystem. The Internet of Things has transformed the way manufacturers do business, and today’s shop floors are quickly developing and deploying emerging technologies. Manufacturing operations are more data intensive than ever before. Improved processing speeds and increased wireless capacity with 5G will lead to advancements in data-heavy tasks, like those associated with connected devices and Artificial Intelligence.

The private sector is already investing in broadband infrastructure and the innovations that will be powered by 5G technology. Federal policymakers can help by ensuring the regulatory framework keeps pace with the evolving nature of mobile technology. We applaud Commissioner Carr and the Senate’s STREAMLINE Act sponsors for advancing proposals to clear the way for next generation broadband innovation.

Manufacturers Support Global Movement of Goods by Air

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Before Open Skies agreements, international commerce was stifled by post–World War II aviation rules that required governments to mandate flight routes between nations. These antiquated rules could not adapt to the aviation needs of a global economy and emerging technologies. In 1992, the United States signed an Open Skies agreement with the Netherlands to provide for unlimited flight between the two nations. Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was, and still is, responsible for ensuring that all airlines—foreign and domestic, passenger and cargo—are safe and airworthy. The bipartisan pursuit of Open Skies agreements created a framework to enable U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to access foreign aviation markets that had previously shut out U.S. air carriers. They also provide manufacturers the ability to access new customers in overseas markets while increasing competition and facilitating global trade.

Manufacturers have been stalwart advocates of these agreements because we export U.S.-made parts and goods across the world and thus depend on air cargo services with the kind of uninterrupted and continuous global reach that only Open Skies agreements can provide. In fact, the Brookings Institution estimates that Open Skies agreements add approximately $4 billion in annual economic gains to consumers. Learn more here.

And so, with the FAA reauthorization process underway and a September 30 authorization deadline looming, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) continues to urge both House and Senate leaders to support current Open Skies agreements because they open markets, promote competition and offer more options for manufacturers to access overseas customers. At the same time, manufacturers urge the Senate to reject proposals that would undermine Open Skies agreements and result in disruptions to the current agreements, jeopardizing manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks. That is why manufacturers stand with the Trump administration’s opposition to the so-called “Flag of Convenience” provision (Section 530) of the House-passed FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4). This provision would create new barriers for foreign carriers to enter U.S. airspace beyond the negotiated standards of our current Open Skies agreements. These new barriers would violate our current agreements and invite retaliatory action against U.S. cargo and passenger air carriers operating across the globe and providing manufacturers access to overseas customers. Learn more here.

Manufacturers need products and parts made in the United States to continue to have the guaranteed delivery to overseas customers that is protected by our current Open Skies agreements, and so we have been active on this issue for some time. In 2015, the NAM underscored to the departments of Commerce, State and Transportation that manufacturers in the United States depend on sales overseas to sustain and grow American operations and U.S.-based employment. And in 2017, the NAM reminded the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that Open Skies bilateral aviation agreements are one of several important tools that help ensure manufacturers’ access to global markets and critical services that support manufacturers in the United States. Now, with the Senate considering Open Skies agreements as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation, the NAM is again speaking out by urging Congress to reject false, so-called “Flags of Convenience” amendments and protect manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks and overseas customers that only these agreements can provide.

Manufacturers Unite with Retail, Labor and More to Call for Infrastructure Bill

By | General, Infrastructure, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), in partnership with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), led two Infrastructure Working Group (IWG) Hill Days on March 6 and 7 to build momentum on Capitol Hill behind a substantial investment in the country’s infrastructure. Over the past two days, representatives of manufacturers, organized labor, agriculture, retail, finance and local government held roughly 50 meetings with congressional leadership and members from the relevant authorizing committees. Some flew into D.C. from as far away as Texas and Iowa to make the case for upgrades to our nation’s infrastructure systems.

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr authored an op-ed in The Hill, Manufacturing and construction are expanding and ready to take on infrastructure package. They said:

“In other words, if we want to keep the momentum going, then Washington needs to enact a substantial infrastructure package as soon as possible. It’s an important message and one we’re taking to Capitol Hill today as part of the Infrastructure Working Group, bringing together a wide range of viewpoints, from labor, to retail, to finance, to agriculture. We are united in our determination to demonstrate broad support for infrastructure and see the type of action we think is necessary.”

The IWG has been meeting monthly for the past year, hearing from key policymakers in Congress and the White House and discussing solutions to address our country’s inadequately funded infrastructure. The group launched its first advocacy initiatives this year. At the beginning of this year’s congressional session, the NAM led an IWG letter signed by more than 100 business groups to the Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, urging them to develop and advance an infrastructure bill. These Hill Days brought that message directly to key members of the House and Senate.

There’s no doubt we need a substantial infrastructure investment. Republicans and Democrats both recognize that America’s economic competitiveness depends on first-rate infrastructure systems. Key manufacturing, retail and labor leaders made the following statements of support below:

David Farr, NAM Board Chair, Chairman and CEO, Emerson

“The time is now to work together to pass a targeted, substantial investment in modernizing our nation’s infrastructure that includes a more reliable, user-based funding stream to keep building roads, bridges, transit systems and highways far into the future. We can create more jobs, boost growth, save lives and help secure America’s mantle of economic leadership in the process. Manufacturers are all in to get infrastructure done, and we stand ready to do our part and build to win.”

Sean McGarvey, President, North America’s Building Trades Unions

“The Infrastructure Working Group Hill Days will allow congressional leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, to hear from a broad and sizable coalition of stakeholders on the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure. The state of our infrastructure presents a real challengethe 14 affiliated unions of North America’s Building Trades know it, and the American people know it. It is now up to Congress to meet this challenge with a broad, robust, responsible bipartisan infrastructure package, and we are willing to work with our coalition partners and members of Congress to pass a bill that addresses our present infrastructure challenges and creates good job opportunities for the hard-working craft professionals of North America’s Building Trades Unions.”

Matthew Shay, President and CEO, National Retail Federation

“Representing some of the nation’s largest shippers, NRF continues to call on Congress to follow the president’s lead and act on infrastructure this year. If we keep kicking the can down the road, this urgent issue will become even more challenging and costly to address. We hope bipartisan discussions will produce the infrastructure solutions American retailers, workers and consumers have been waiting for.”

The NAM has been a national leader for years on infrastructure and enshrined manufacturers priorities in our “Building to Win” proposal. Manufacturers will continue to lead this push for results and work with lawmakers so that a bipartisan infrastructure investment makes it to the finish line.

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