Letters: Toll Plan, Drivers and Large Fleets

These letters appears in the Feb. 29 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

In Defense of Rhode Island Toll Plan

Weight is a roadway’s enemy. Heavier weight requires thicker pavements, longer curves, reduced grades and more substantial bridges. These truths cannot be disputed; the construction standards associated with each item substantially increases the initial cost of the roadway network.

Similarly, heavier weight is what beats up roadways and bridges and thus inflates everyone’s ongoing maintenance budgets.

Railways, which pay for their own infrastructure, know these facts well. When we went from 70-ton to 100-ton cars, our track structure began to rapidly deteriorate; it took the industry a decade to “catch up” by utilizing heavier rail, larger ties, a better ballast and subgrade structure and heavier bridges.

Today, as 110-ton cars become more prevalent and in demand, railways are not repeating their previous mistake. These 110-ton cars are only allowed when the track structure and bridges have been upgraded to handle these higher weights. Rails learned the hard way that weight is an ongoing “enemy” that must be accommodated in construction and the following maintenance costs.

So why the editorial opposing Rhode Island’s specific charges for heavy trucks?

Heavier weights, which is to say trucks, are the problem. So why oppose Rhode Island’s efforts to specifically charge those responsible? If trucks were to lose market share to another mode there might be an argument, however unconvincing, but in most cases the increased cost will be a pass-through — a pass-through that will more accurately assess Rhode Island trucking’s real costs of providing and maintaining the roads and bridges utilized.

Michael V. Smith


Finger Lakes Railway Corp.

Gilmanton, New Hampshire

Editor’s Note: Transport Topics is not opposed to trucks paying their fair share. The editorial notes the Rhode Island Trucking Association has offered an 18-cents-a-gallon increase in the diesel tax, with no increase in the tax on gasoline, used by the overwhelming majority of passenger cars on the road. We remain wary of the truck-only toll plan, which the governor signed into law but the Federal Highway Administration has not yet green-lighted. Projections of how much revenue would actually be raised have been disputed, and if tolls were needed to solve a funding crisis, shouldn’t all vehicles be included? For all of these reasons, hikes in the diesel tax and truck registration fees remain far better options than truck-only tolls.


Drivers and Large Fleets

This is just speculation on my part, but I believe that large-carrier turnover will outpace small-carrier turnover for awhile, for the following reasons:

• Almost all larger fleets use electronic logging devices now. This conversion to ELDs has led many grizzled, old-school, dyed-in-the wool drivers to leave large carriers with ELDs, so they could keep using paper logs, which are more to their liking.

• Larger fleets are installing in-cab cameras and other technology to monitor driver safety performance. The feedback provided by the cameras and other technology that identifies hard braking, speeding and aggressive driving is increasing driver turnover at larger carriers.

• Larger carriers that haul steel and were serving the fracking industry are suffering due to a wave of steel imports and a reduction in oil and gas exploration activity. Larger carriers are more exposed to these industries than smaller carriers. When miles drop off, drivers flee these larger carriers and turnover grows dramatically.

Well, its pure speculation on my part, but thats the best I can do to explain the divergence in turnover rates between small and large carriers.

Mitch Bookbinder

Eastern Freight Ways

North Brunswick, New Jersey