These letters appear in the June 5 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today
Driving Efficiencies For Heavy-Duty Vehicles
As the Donald Trump administration seeks to review and reduce regulations across the federal government, made clear by the president’s executive order to eliminate two regulations for every new one, a golden opportunity has presented itself to revitalize our infrastructure and improve America’s energy security simultaneously.
By modernizing the nation’s trucking fleet through new performance-based standards, or PBS, we stand to gain increased efficiencies and safer highways, reduce oil demand and road wear, and significantly streamline the rules challenging today’s trucking industry.
The energy security reasoning is clear: Oil currently powers 92% of our country’s transportation system, which is predominantly supplied by countries that do not share U.S. strategic interests. Through either OPEC or government-controlled national oil companies, these nations control a major portion of the world’s cheap oil, and their production decisions have an outsize influence on the global market. Coupled with this volatility is the fact that freight movements for our nation’s truck fleet — a key consumer of oil — are projected to increase dramatically in the coming years.
In 2015, the U.S. freight transportation system moved 18.1 billion tons of goods, worth $19.2 trillion. By 2045, the Department of Transportation projects this tonnage will grow by 40%, and the value of those goods will increase by 92%.
The trucking industry forms much of the logistics backbone for the American economy; thus, market conditions affect the entire supply chain, culminating in higher prices for consumers. In this context, it is imperative that the U.S. trucking industry use cutting-edge technology and innovative designs to carve out efficiencies wherever it can — passing on savings to consumers, employees and shareholders in the process.
One area where dramatic gains can be made while avoiding overregulation is through PBS. Rather than adhering to rigidly maintained and mandated vehicle configuration requirements, PBS sets a specific goal and allows companies to find their preferred way to meet this target.
The core idea of PBS involves matching the correct heavy-duty vehicle to a specific task. Already adopted by Canada and Australia, implementing PBS also will correct the flaws in the U.S. system by reducing the hundreds of current state-level size and weight exemptions. Once in place, PBS can provide certainty while improving safety and efficiency for an industry set to grow in both size and importance over the coming years, with standards that remain constant even as political forces come and go.
PBS can boost productivity while reducing truck trips, congestion and fuel usage and improving safety for all highway users. The increase in trucks that use quad-axle configurations has made Australia more competitive internationally for manufacturers and food producers, as more weight can be spread across a higher number of axles. New trailer designs there have also seen freight-sector productivity rise by up to 33%, without sacrificing maneuverability or safety performance. Furthermore, closer alignment of road and rail axle weight limits allows for a smoother integration of goods from one network to another — creating further productivity and efficiency gains.
Similarly, in the United States, linked 33-foot truck and trailer units known as twin-33s — which are already authorized to operate on sections of the national highway network in 20 states — could reduce fuel consumption by 255 million gallons per year if they replace existing fleets of twin 28-foot trailers.
Our economy is more dependent than ever on the fluid movement of goods. As shipping volumes grow ever higher, modernized truck design holds the key to taking control of our energy security by promoting economic prosperity while reducing burdensome regulations and our exposure to the volatile oil market.
Now is the time for the United States to create a system that truly works in our national interest.
Americans for Modern Transportation
Founder and CEO
Securing America’s Future Energy
State Takes Advantage of Lower Fuel Prices
In addition to increasing its diesel tax by 10 cents, Indiana recently approved a 10-cent increase in a surcharge tax for trucks.
Is this another state that is attempting to take advantage of low fuel prices and the expected return of manufacturing by putting more taxes on the backs of our truckers and manufacturers?
For the first time in a few decades, we are taking steps to bring back manufacturing to the United States. Some states already have raised the price of diesel because they are trying to use a hidden method to improve their state economies without regard to the effects on the country. What if every state raised its diesel price 10 cents? Does that seem right? No, it isn’t right, and they don’t seem to know that it isn’t right.
We have a Congress willing to spend money on roads and bridges, and at the very moment we see an advancement in thinking, we also see a reduction in good judgment.
I am not in favor of bigger government. In fact, I believe in smaller government — but poor state judgment is sad in numerous ways.
Diesel is a U.S. commodity fuel that is used mostly to power trucking nationwide, so that means that truckers will be harmed the most by the tax increase.
I ask that you please let the state government where you live know what you think about this subject.
The worst effect of raising the fuel tax in Indiana will be to motor carriers. That’s partially because out-of-state carriers probably will avoid the state when they need to purchase fuel.
Do you wonder how politicians in state governments can enact laws without thinking of the economic effects?
I actually hope I am wrong, because I believe in our country and the idea that we are all one and that together we will look out for the benefit of all.
I wish Indiana’s government and truckers well, and I hope the state politicians know what they are doing.
You decide what is right.
Reo B. Hatfield
President of Corporate Services