January 4, 2018 6:00 PM, EST

Editorial: Cold Outside, but Transportation’s a Hot Topic

The familiar classic duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been recorded by countless artists over the years, and it’s a tune those of us on the East Coast have been humming through gnashed teeth the past several days.

The “Bomb Cyclone,” as weather forecasters have called it, punished parts of the Eastern Seaboard, put pressure on fuel prices and laid down a challenge for motor carriers trying to make deliveries in the early days of this year.

Parents might shudder at the thought of how the kids’ Christmas mornings might have been affected had this one hit a little earlier. Fortunately for the tykes — and Santa’s reindeer — it didn’t.

Parcel carriers are also likely relieved, as the busy shopping season kept them on their toes. Bloomberg reported that Cyber Monday sales alone jumped 16.8% to $6.6 billion, pushing a volume of deliveries that tested UPS in the week following Black Friday. The company extended the workweek for some employees and redeploying office workers to help load trucks or deliver packages.

However, for the week ended Dec. 23, UPS had a 99.1% on-time delivery rate for ground packages. Rival FedEx’s rate was 98.7%. And both had success rates in the high 90s for packages shipped by air, Bloomberg said.

The implications of this rapid growth in e-commerce for last-mile deliveries is just one of myriad topics transportation experts will explore this week in Washington at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting. With its convenient location in the nation’s capital right in Transport Topics’ back yard, this event gives us — and our readers — an opportunity to drill down into the details of many issues confronting trucking. This year, look for our reporters to cover issues including truck size and weight, bridges and tunnels, platooning, emission technology, driver safety, truck parking, intermodal, cybersecurity and — believe it or not — even more. It’s quite an event, and we look forward to telling you about it.

Beyond the convenience, it’s perhaps appropriate that TRB is taking place at a time when congressional focus on advancing infrastructure legislation appears to be heating up. Rep. Bill Shuster, the current chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has announced that while he won’t seek re-election, he wants to advance an infrastructure bill before his term ends later this year. That an influential member of Congress wants to complete something good for trucking on his way out the door is a welcome development, and one we hope Rep. Shuster and his congressional colleagues see through to the finish line.

Too bad they can’t do something about these cold temperatures.