The arrival at the Transportation Department of Elizabeth Hanford Dole has been accompanied by the departure of some of the top people under former secretary Drew Lewis. This week, Judith Connor told Dole she is planning to step down in about a month as assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, the latest in a long string of jobs she has held in several administrations.
Connor's shop, as the title implies, has helped shape the U.S. position in international aviation issues (such as the recent cut-rate ticket hassle with Canada) and the government response to the so-called truckers' strike. "I've decided two more years isn't in the cards for me," Connor said, "so I plan to go to my farm for the spring, watch tulips come up and think through what I'm going to do."
Linda Gosden, Lewis' press secretary and a member of the inner circle who had a lot to do with the good press the secretary received, followed Lewis out the door within a week of his Feb. 1 departure. She has become a "government relations adviser" at the law firm of Heron, Burchette & Ruckert.
Soon thereafter, John Fowler, a long-time associate of Lewis' from Philadelphia, left as general counsel and rejoined Lewis in New York at Warner Amex, the cable firm Lewis is heading. KEEP ON TRUCKING . . .
We have not seen the last of the trucking disputes, even though the strike is over. There is substantial concern on Capitol Hill, fed by trucking lobbyists, that changes are needed in new truck taxes. They passed Congress along with the 5-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax that takes effect April 1 to finance highway and transit rehabilitation.
The department has said for months that it is willing to discuss adjusting the relative size of the taxes on tires, weight, retail sales and diesel fuel, but that it still wants truckers to pay the same total sum into the highway trust fund because it represents the amount of damage that trucks do to roads and bridges.
DOT's Federal Highway Administration recently published a new policy on truck size and weight to sort out some other effects of the legislation. For example, the law says states must permit trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds and meeting a certain axle-weight formula to use their highways. Four states now have lower weight limits, and several other states are affected by the axle formulas.
FHWA gives the states until Oct. 1 to bring their laws in line with the federal statute before they become subject to the standard penalty, the withholding of federal highway funds. Each affected state's legislature will have had a regular legislative session by then, FHWA reasoned. WHAT ABOUT SAFETY? . . .
The legislation also permits wider and longer trucks, as well as heavier ones. This week the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a tract reinforcing facts well known in the highway safety business--that in a car-truck accident, automobile occupants are much more likely to be killed than truck drivers or passengers.
In 1980, according to institute research, a car occupant was 32.9 times more likely than a truck occupant to be killed in a fatal crash involving a tractor-trailer combination and a car, and 25.6 times more likely to be killed than occupants of a single-unit truck.
Further, the institute said, "These concerns will become further magnified in coming months as even larger and heavier trucks are permitted under new federal and state laws," particularly because cars are getting smaller.