Now, more than 25 years since we last improved the efficiency of our highway network, our mission has become increasingly important. As my grandfather would say, “we are trying to put ten pounds into a five-pound sack” as all modes of our transportation network struggle to keep up with increasing demands and the challenges of infrastructure designed for past generations.
The continuing growth in consumer demand, spurred in part by the rise of e-commerce, will only exacerbate this trend. Today over 122.5 million households and 7.5 million domestic businesses rely every day on the transportation system to obtain goods, and that number is projected to skyrocket in the coming years. Infrastructure designed to support fast, safe, and reliable shipping, along with modern regulations that take advantage of the latest technologies in safety and vehicle design, must be a top priority to support an economy geared for the future.
The recent release of the American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure analysis painted a bleak picture of our nation’s transportation system, giving a sub-par grade of D+. The impact of a crumbling infrastructure is tangible. 2014 traffic delays estimated to cost over $160 billion in wasted time and fuel, and drivers spent more than 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic.
Chronic underinvestment and a lack of dedication to maintaining America’s roads and bridges has at times put families in harm’s way, encouraged economic inefficiency, and put undue stress on the environment, but infrastructure investment cannot be focused on simply filling potholes, painting lines, installing signage, and building additional lane miles. It is impossible to simply build enough new roads to stay ahead of the physical and economic gridlock that will result from the anticipated increases in freight and personal vehicle miles expected over the next 25 years. Smart regulations that boldly take advantage of new technologies in safety, sustainability, and vehicle design are the only way to ensure we are ready to support a growing population, and a growing economy that benefits all Americans. Ultimately, the public and private sectors must work together to find sensible solutions that create greater trucking efficiency and stimulate long-term economic growth.
Fortunately, Congress has the opportunity to pursue several policies that will enhance safety, sustainability, and efficiency across our transportation system. Technology improvements such as Twin 33 trailers, smart road technologies, connect vehicles, driver assist safety technology, and increased investment in the Highway Trust Fund will support a productive and efficient interstate commerce system that works for all drivers. Twin 33s, in particular, represent a source of untapped efficiency at zero cost. Adding five extra feet to 28 foot trailers is just a common sense solution to creating adequate truck space for the modern consumer’s purchasing habits.