On Tuesday, May 26, The New York Times published an editorial reacting to a number of proposed rule changes impacting the trucking industry, including one that would bring new efficiencies to less than truckload (LTL) freight carriers by extending the length of twin 28-foot trailers to 33 feet. The editorial was built on a faulty premise, it contained a number of factual inaccuracies, and not surprisingly, it consequently recommended against changes to existing truck regulations.
The editorial titled A Foolish Attempt to Weaken Truck Safety, left readers with the impression that if Congress does nothing to modernize freight transportation, federal highways will remain largely unchanged for the foreseeable future.
That’s a faulty premise.
Because investments in infrastructure haven’t kept up with population growth, 42 percent of major urban highways in the U.S. are congested. Over the next decade, the amount of freight tonnage transported by large trucks is predicted to grow by more than 23 percent, compounding concerns about safety and sustainability on the nation’s already crowded highways.
Congestion is particularly concerning to LTL carriers. Over the next decade, as more Americans come to rely on parcel carriers to fulfill internet shopping orders and efficient package delivery services, LTL shipments that rely on 28-foot trailers will increase by 40 percent, from 145 million tons per year to 204 million tons.
A five-foot extension will reduce congestion by 6.6 million truck trips annually, preventing 912 accidents.
The longer wheelbase actually makes twin 33s more stable than 28s, according to federal studies.
And because twin 33s would be subject to the same weight restrictions as 28s, they would have virtually identical characteristics in terms of stopping distance.
The editorial cites a 17% increase in fatalities involving trucks from 2009-2013. The Times’ decision to pick 2009 as the baseline demonstrates some bias, because 2009 had the lowest number of truck-involved fatalities since 1975. By using 2008 as a baseline, fatalities decreased 7%, and a 10-year trend (since 2003) shows a 21% drop.
Economic growth goes hand-in-hand with freight transportation. As the economy expands, so too will highway congestion. Washington hasn’t modernized freight transportation since 1982. Now is the time to make LTL shipping more efficient, reduce highway congestion, and make our highways safer.