FEATURED: An aerial image of a tanker at the Port of Brownsville. Ranking among the top U.S. steel ports, the Port of Brownsville moves more steel into Mexico than any other domestic competitor. In 2021, the port moved 4.3 million tons of steel across the United States’ southern border.
Photograph Courtesy PORT OF BROWNSVILLE
Texas House Transportation Committee, which includes Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, to hold public hearing at UTRGV-Brownsville beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday, September 8, 2022
Issues affecting job growth and public safety – featuring what to do about the disturbing recent trend of increasing annual deaths of motorists on Texas highways, the coming of self-driving commercial trucks, and the supply chain affecting such vehicles and the 12 seaports in Texas – will be discussed by the Texas House Committee on Transportation in a public hearing on Thursday, September 8, 2022 in Brownsville.
The legislative gathering, which begins at 1 p.m., will take place in Salon Cassia (BMAIN 2.402) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – Brownsville, in One W. University Building.
For public access to the hearing, see the following map for assistance:
The public may park at Lot B1 on the south side of campus and should head to the building identified as BMAIN or (1) on the map. Go to the second floor of the building, and Salon Cassia is 2.402. Elevators are available if needed.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, serves as Chair of the House Transportation Committee, while Rep. Armando “Mando”Martínez, D-Weslaco, is a long-serving member of that panel.
The House Committee on Transportation is responsible for what often is the first to debate and vote on major proposals that shape the development of roads, highways, airports, railways, land ports, and seaports in Texas, among other committee duties and responsibilities, for action by the full House of Representatives.
The public notice of the Thursday, September 8, 2022 meeting provides the following agenda:
The House Committee on Transportation will meet to hear invited testimony on the certain interim charges and topics.
(The interim is the 18-month period between the 140-day regular sessions of the Texas Legislature. In between regular sessions, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor issue interim charges to House and Senate committees, respectively. These interim charges allow committees to study certain issues in order to develop policy for the upcoming legislative session.)
The agenda posted by the House Committee on Public Transportation follows:
• The committee will receive brief welcoming remarks from local leaders;
• Discuss tools available to reduce the unprecedented increase in fatalities on Texas roads;
• Study policies impacting truck transportation, a key link in the supply- chain, including utilizing state property and right-of-way for natural gas fueling stations and truck parking, the potential shortage of drivers and sellers of commercial trucks, the shortage of truck parking options to accommodate hours of service regulations, and ways to reduce border crossing wait times;
• Examine regulatory and statutory impediments to connected vehicle and autonomous technologies aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of trucking in Texas;
• Examine the ability of the state’s seaports to promote the public purposes of state economic growth, diversification, and commerce through development of port-owned properties within their boundaries; and
• Review the investments needed for Texas ports to remain competitive in handling increased cargo volumes and ensuring a resilient supply chain.
Electronic public comment will be available for the following:
• Welcoming Remarks;
• Transportation safety;
• Study policies impacting truck transportation and supply chain; and
• Examine the state’s role in supporting growth of seaports.
A live video broadcast of this hearing will not be available here, but it will be audio recorded.
Texas residents who wish to electronically submit comments related to agenda items on this notice without testifying in person can do so until the hearing is adjourned by visiting:
As is the case for all House committee meetings, persons with disabilities who plan to attend this meeting and who may need assistance, such as a sign language interpreter, are requested to contact Stacey Nicchio at (512) 463-0850, 72 hours prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
WITH ALMOST 4,500 FATALITIES, 2021 WAS THE SECOND DEADLIEST YEAR ON TEXAS ROADWAYS, ACCORDING TO TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Key statistics provided by the Texas Department of Transportation provided the following insights for 2021;
There were no deathless days on Texas roadways that year.
• Texas experienced an increase of 15.22 percent in the number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities over 2020 – 4,489 deaths in 2021 compared with 3,896 killed in 2020;
• There were 521 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) killed in 2021. This is a 15.4 percent increase from 2020;
• There were 1,077 people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol. This is 24 percent of the total number of people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes;
• There were 433 people killed in crashes involving distracted driving. This is a 17.34 percent decrease from 2020; and
• There were 433 people killed in crashes involving distracted driving. This is a 17.34 percent decrease from 2020.
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users because they aren’t equipped with protective equipment such as airbags, seat belts, and bumpers.
• There were 5,366 crashes involving pedestrians in the state. Pedestrian deaths are continuing to rise in Texas and now account for one in five of all traffic fatalities;
• Pedestrian fatalities totaled 824 in 2021, a 15.24 percent increase from 2020. Another 1,470 people were seriously injured; and
• In 2021, there were 5,366 crashes involving pedestrians in the state.
The top factors contributing to traffic crashes in Texas involving pedestrians are:
• Pedestrians failing to yield the right-of-way to vehicles;
• Driver inattention;
• Drivers failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians; and
Pedacyclist fatalities totaled 90 in 2021, up almost 14 percent from 2020.
Pedalcyclists are generally defined as bicyclists and other cyclists including riders of two- wheel, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles, and unicycles powered solely by pedals.
MORE LABOR SHORTAGES IN TEXAS, U.S. TRUCKING INDUSTRY PREDICTED, BUT GROWTH IN SELF-DRIVING TRUCKS ARE ON THE WAY
About 3.5 million truck drivers, with an average age of 46, are on U.S. roadways, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2030, more than half of current truck drivers will have passed retirement age.
In the recently released March/April issue of Fiscal Notes, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts looks at looming labor shortages in the trucking industry.
n 2021, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chains and shipments slowed, causing worldwide shortages and affecting consumer patterns. Causes of the economic slowdown included workers becoming sick with COVID-19 as well as mandates and restrictions affecting the availability of staff.
The numbers bear out the importance of trucking to the supply chain.
Texas alone has transported goods worth more than $1.1 trillion out of state.
Trucks move 72 percent of U.S. domestic freight by weight, according to the American Trucking Associations.
A commercial truck driver shortage across the nation has compounded supply chain problems, driving inflation, and experts have varying ideas on why it’s happening and how to tap the brakes.
Often, the American Trucking Associations is quoted for its statistic of an 80,000-driver shortage, and John Esparza, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Trucking Association (TXTA), says the shortfall is growing larger.
“We will be at 160,000 at the end of the decade,” he says. “We are losing a generation of drivers, and we aren’t replacing them with a generation of potential drivers that is large enough.”
The industry is exploring automation as one way to fill the gap between drivers needed and drivers available.
“Texas is leading the way in its application,” says Esparza. “[Automated trucks] are already on Texas roads.”
As an example, one major shipping company is using partially automated trucks along Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston.
“Someone is in the back of the cab, monitoring the systems, but in the next couple of years, that person won’t be there,” says Esparza. “It will be touchless. It’s a part of the solution to the driver shortage.”
Trucking automation is the process of utilizing various AI-based software and sensors for controlling and driving commercial vehicles. Trucks that feature this technology need less intervention from human drivers. These features are mainly used to assist the truckers, making their job easier.
On January 22, 2019, with the support of the governor, the Texas Department of Transportation announced it was creating a Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Task Force to become a central point for CAV advancement in Texas.
As transportation technology advances, the CAV Task Force will ensure that the Lone Star State remains at the forefront of innovation
GOV. ABBOTT HELD PREVIOUS ROUNDTABLE ON ECONOMY, SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES AT PORT OF BROWNSVILLE IN LATE MARCH 2022
The Thursday, September 8, 2022 public hearing of the House Committee on Transportation comes several months after Gov. Greg Abbott was at the Port of Brownsville, meeting with port sector leaders, staff and stakeholders at the Port of Brownsville for a roundtable discussion on the Texas economy and supply chain issues, and the port industry.
In addition, the Maritime Division of the Texas Department of Transportation supports the development of high-value growth in Texas’ maritime system by collaborating with national and statewide transportation policy-makers, port and waterway operators, the private-sector freight community, and local partners to identify system-wide challenges facing Texas ports, waterways, and supply chains.
The Maritime Division takes an integrated approach to developing solutions to these challenges and communicates to the public the need to invest in the maritime system. The Maritime Division highlights the significant economic impact that Texas ports provide to the state and nation, serves as a resource for Texas ports, works to increase the use of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and promotes waterborne transportation and related intermodal projects essential to maintaining Texas’ economic competitiveness.
OnWednesday, March 30, 2022, Abbott highlighted the Port of Brownsville as a key component of Texas’ booming energy industry and as a critical asset to the Lone Star State’s economic success, including the ability for the port to become the center of American energy independence through liquified natural gas facilities.
“Ports are the gateway to the might of the Texas economy and the Port of Brownsville is vital infrastructure for our booming energy industry,” said Abbott. “The Port of Brownsville is rapidly growing the economy of the Rio Grande Valley and bringing new opportunities to South Texans, and I look forward to continuing our state’s partnership with members of the port sector to unleash the full potential of all that the Port of Brownsville has to offer.”
A major center for intermodal transportation and industrial development, the Port of Brownsville is the only deepwater seaport directly on the U.S./Mexico border. Opened in 1936, at the southernmost tip of Texas and connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a 17-mile-long ship channel, the Port of Brownsville is also the largest land-owning public port authority in the nation with approximately 40,000 acres.
As a bulk and break bulk commodity port, the Port of Brownsville has developed a versatile marine terminal operation for both liquid and dry cargoes. Petroleum products, diesel, heavy naphta (a flammable oil containing various hydrocarbons, obtained by the dry distillation of organic substances such as coal, shale, or petroleum), steel bulk materials, ores, scrap, sand, windmill components, and limestone are some of the many commodities handled at the Port of Brownsville.
The Port of Brownsville is recognized worldwide as the premier U.S. port for ship recycling and is home to the largest U.S. fabricator of offshore drilling platforms. Other services found at the port include bulk terminaling for liquids, break bulk heavy lift in project cargo, steel fabrication, storage, crane services, towing and tug services among others.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, an improved navigable waterway along the Gulf Coast of the United States, extends from Apalachee Bay, Florida, westward to the Mexican border at Brownsville, Texas, a distance of more than 1,100 miles (1,770 km).
In part artificial, the waterway consists of a channel paralleling the coast behind barrier beaches, the channel being linked by a series of canals. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is an important route for barges, and several sections of it furnish access to major gulf ports for oceangoing vessels.
DUTIES OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
House Resolution 4, approved in mid-January 2021, established the rules of the Texas House of Representatives, and spells out the powers of the House Committee on Transportation in this way:
The House Committee on Transportation shall have 13 members, with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to:
• Commercial motor vehicles, both bus and truck, and their control, regulation, licensing, and operation;
• The Texas highway system, including all roads, bridges, and ferries constituting a part of the system;
• The licensing of private passenger vehicles to operate on the roads and highways of the state;
• The regulation and control of traffic on the public highways of the State of Texas;
• Railroads, street railway lines, interurban railway lines, steamship companies, and express companies;
Airports, air traffic, airlines, and other organizations engaged in transportation by means of aerial flight;
• Water transportation in the State of Texas, and the rivers, harbors, and related facilities used in water transportation and the agencies of government exercising supervision and control thereover;
• The regulation of metropolitan transit; and
• The following state agencies: the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
The chief duties of the Texas Department of Transportation are to delineate, build, and maintain all state highway and public transportation systems; issue permits for the use of heavy trucks, and register motor vehicles. Administrative control of the department is vested in a three-person commission and an engineer-director.
MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
• Rep. Terry Canales
• Rep. Ed Thompson
• Rep. Trent Ashby
• Rep. John H. Bucy, III
• Rep. Yvonne Davis
• Rep. Cody Harris
• Rep. Brooks Landgraf
• Rep. J.M. Lozano
• Rep. Armando Martínez
• Rep. Evelina “Lina” Ortega
• Rep. Mary AnnPérez
• Rep. Glenn Rogers
• Rep. John T. Smithee
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).