Everyone wants policy to advance safe, sustainable transportation. A change to the length of twin trailers in the less than truckload (LTL) market, with no additional weight, would streamline the use of resources and have a dramatic positive impact on the environment.
Often, environmental goals are at odds with other objectives such as productivity or safety. In the case of five additional feet for twin trailers, the productivity gains have matching and correlated environmental benefits.
Extending 28-foot trailers by five feet would save 6.6 million truck trips per year. That is 6.6 million times a truck does not roll out from a dispatch center, 6.6 million routes where there is absolutely no idle time for the engine and 6.6 million trips never added to the collective traffic logs.
With fewer trips, the LTL industry would use less fuel. While the savings is hard to imagine for a typical family, conservative estimates show a 204-million-gallon reduction in annual diesel fuel use. That is a lot of crude that is not drilled, transported, refined, transported again and burned to power the LTL fleet. The fuel not consumed would fill 308 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Another way to consider the reduced impact on the environment is through miles driven — or not driven. The CERT proposal would reduce truck traffic by 1.3 billion miles in a year. With 47,714 miles in the federal interstate system, it would take a fleet of 1,000 drivers each covering every single mile of the interstate system 27 times to approximate the reduction in miles driven from the policy change.
There is no credible proposal to remove more than 1.5 million cars from the nation’s roads, but five more feet on LTL trailers would have the same environmental impact.
And with regard to the critical environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Environmental Protection Agency data a five-foot extension for LTL trailers, with no change in the weight limits, would avoid 4.4 billion pounds of carbon emissions.
How much is 4.4 billion pounds of emissions? It is the same as the CO2 emissions from 666,708 homes’ energy use for one year. All of the greenhouse gas emissions from 1,540,648 passenger vehicles for a year is equivalent to 4.4 billion pounds of emissions. There is no credible proposal to remove more than 1.5 million cars from the nation’s roads, but five more feet on LTL trailers would have the same environmental impact.
Perhaps the most visible benefit from a rule change would be on America’s infrastructure. Fewer truck trips translate directly to less wear and tear on pavement and bridges. An additional benefit would be gained because the existing freight would be shipped over a slightly longer wheelbase, which has significant impact on the lifespan of bridges. Every infrastructure dollar would go further because the roads would last longer and require fewer repairs.
Sustainability for a growing economy requires a close look at all policies that affect the development, transport and use of goods. When it comes to freight transport, the LTL industry has a proposal with clear environmental benefits that deserves support.