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In this era of digital access, knowledge is power. And thanks to a new rule NHTSA issued yesterday, effective one year from now, consumers will have online access to the power they need to make sure their vehicle, or one they are considering buying, is safe.

This new rule requires that major automakers and motorcycle manufacturers provide information on uncompleted vehicle safety recalls online.  This information will be searchable by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – free of charge. Consumers will be able to instantly determine whether action is required to address an uncompleted safety recall that affects their personal vehicle, as identified by their unique VIN. Automakers and motorcycle manufacturers will have to update that information at least once a week. NHTSA will also offer the ability to search the industry recall data through our website SaferCar.gov.

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While in Atlanta for the National Conference of State Legislators earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a talented group of young people to discuss opportunities for careers in transportation. With approximately 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, it's important the next generation is aware and excited about the career possibilities in the transportation industry.

With the need for transportation services always growing, it’s a particularly great time to consider a career in the industry. Fifty percent of the current transportation workforce will be eligible to retire by 2013 – that is double the rate of the overall U.S. workforce.  This means there will be a high demand for transportation operators, from truck drivers and pilots to inspectors and rail workers.

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Every October, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) hosts Drive Safely Work Week, an annual reminder for businesses and organizations to help their employees focus on safe driving.

This year, Drive Safely Work Week will run from October 7 - 11.  But employers can get a jump start on safety today by downloading this year's free campaign toolkit at http://www.trafficsafety.org.

NETS has a long history of success with Drive Safely Work Week, which it has been sponsoring since 1996.  In just the last three years, an average of 3,500 organizations have participated annually, representing 16.5 million employees per year.

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This morning, I was pleased to officially swear in former U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton as the new Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC).  Ms. Sutton brings a wealth of experience from her years of service at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government, and is well versed in the issues of maritime commerce.

As a native of the Great Lakes region, I know that she fully appreciates the importance of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System not only to international commerce and to our national transportation system, but to the economic vitality of the Great Lakes area.

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In May, Nippon Sharyo expanded its railcar assembly plant in Rochelle, Illinois by 330,000 square-feet creating 80 new jobs in the process, on top of the 250 created when the plant opened less than a year earlier. 

These jobs were added to help meet a contract to build 130 new rail cars for California and the Midwest.  And the order was the result of a groundbreaking multi-state effort – with funding through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program – to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on state corridors.  Good news for workers in Illinois, and the people who will eventually ride in those cars.

The better news? We’re only getting started.

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When we talk in Washington, DC, about the challenge of financing the transportation maintenance and improvements needed in every state in America, members of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) know exactly what we mean.

After all, our state legislators are the ones who have to figure out how to stretch a budget so their state can modernize a key airport. They're the ones who have to cast the difficult votes that mean their state can fix one road but not another...

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With ReCat, busy FedEx World Hub increases departure capacity

FedEx NextGen Demo in Memphis

Last week, on a visit to Memphis, I was fortunate to have the opportunity of touring the FedEx World Hub at Memphis International Airport. The FedEx facility covers more than 800 acres and is operated by more than 11,000 FedEx employees moving an average of over 1.5 million packages through the hub each day.

What I saw is a terrific example of using innovation to improve transportation...

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There are 2.6 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing our nation, running under our streets and neighborhoods.  And underground there are utility lines that deliver most of the energy used to heat, cool, and operate the nation’s homes, cars, and businesses. 

That’s why it is so important that everyone from backyard DIY’ers to utility workers to independent contractors always call 8-1-1 before they dig to avoid major disruptions and injuries, and even loss of life.

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Today it was great to be back in Portsmouth to celebrate the opening of the new Memorial Bridge, a vital connector for the people of both New Hampshire and Maine.  I was here 18 months ago, on a cold February day, to see some of the demolition work on the old bridge, and it’s fair to say we wouldn’t have been there today without a tremendous team effort by the leadership, congressional delegations and transportation officials of both states.

That teamwork was especially helpful in securing a $20 million TIGER grant that helped move this project forward.  The bridge is a perfect example of what transportation is all about.  It links cities and states.  It joins communities and families.  It supports jobs and businesses.

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Yesterday, I made my first official visit to Ohio, thanks to an invitation from Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman. It was great to see firsthand the terrific work being done by the Ohio DOT on the Columbus Crossroads Project, the first major overhaul of this critical highway intersection in more than 50 years.

As Mayor Coleman knows, transportation is about more than the roads we pave. It's about quality of life, and the Columbus Crossroads Project makes that abundantly clear.

Photo of workers doing a concrete pour at night onthe Columbus Crossroads Porject. Photo courtesy Ohio D.O.T.

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