News from Notch Consulting, Inc.

August 18, 2008

Americans Are Driving Less

Filed under: General, Tires — Notch @ 3:23 pm

Perhaps the least surprising news of the day is that Americans are driving fewer miles due to high gas prices. More coverage here.

WASHINGTON – New data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that, since last November, Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier – topping the 1970s’ total decline of 49.3 billion miles.

“We can’t afford to continue pinning our transportation network’s future to the gas tax,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. “Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges and transit systems.”

Americans drove 4.7 percent less, or 12.2 billion miles fewer, in June 2008 than June 2007. The decline is most evident in rural travel, which has fallen by 4 percent – compared to the 1.2 percent decline in urban miles traveled – since the trend began last November.

Last month, Secretary Peters unveiled the USDOT’s transportation reform plan which offers lawmakers several options to consider when Congress takes up highway and transit legislation next year. “It really makes little sense to try to upgrade our infrastructure using a revenue source as ineffective, unsustainable and unpopular as the fuel tax,” she added.

“Secretary Peters’ plan to overhaul our nation’s transportation investment strategy begins the much-needed transition away from status quo solutions that produce status quo results. Her plan strengthens the abilities of state and local officials to integrate effective transit and highway solutions to meet Americans’ ever-changing travel demands,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.

As Americans drive fewer miles, less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund from gasoline and diesel sales – 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively. During the first quarter of 2008, motorists consumed nearly 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline, or about 1.3 percent less than during the same period in 2007, and 7 percent less – or 318 million gallons – of diesel.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) collects vehicle-miles-traveled data for all motor vehicles through more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies. To review the FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports, including that of June 2008, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm.

Could Run-Flat Tires Have Prevented War Between Russia & Georgia?

Filed under: General, Run-flats, Tires — Notch @ 2:35 pm

An intriguing possibility.

According to the leading British newspaper, a flattened tyre of a Russian diplomatic car forced the cancellation of key peace talks between the sides before fighting erupted 10 days ago.

Though trouble had been brewing in the disputed South Ossetian region for weeks as Moscow-backed militias skirmished with Georgian troops, Russian-brokered negotiations between the Georgian government and the separatists continued.

But on Aug 7, the first substantial face-to-face talks failed following a farcical chain of events with a top Russian diplomat claiming that he could not attend the meeting in South Ossetia because his car tyre had run flat, the newspaper said.

But looking more closely at the situation, it seems the flat tire was simply an excuse.

“I called and spoke to [Russian diplomat Yuri] Popov and he said he could not get to the office because his car had a flat tyre,” [Timur] Yakobashvili said. “This was preposterous. I said the delegation must have more cars. He said there is another car but its tyre is flat too. At this point I knew it was a trap and I was very angry.”

And even if run-flat tires were to effectively eliminate the flat tire excuse, there are other ways to miss an important meeting.

Asked about the whereabouts of the rest of the delegation, General Kulakhmetov, the only Russian present at the meeting hall, said the South Ossetian delegate had turned his mobile off.

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