• Transformational Trucks

    Posted on November 29, 2010 by David S. Congdon- President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.

    A legislated bottleneck is causing the United States to fall behind: A federal law limits the maximum length of tractor-trailer trucks that can be used on the national highways. States are prohibited by that law from allowing trucks that are longer than those that were being operated as of June 1991.

    The effect is that American trucking has been “frozen” in place for nearly 20 years while our competitors in the rest of the developed world have moved forward with trucks that are more productive, safer and more environmentally sound. The United States cannot match them because of the 1991 freeze.

    The Coalition for Cleaner, Safer Trucking (CCST) is promoting the use of “transformational trucks.” That is a term used by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an energy and environmental think tank, to describe longer trucks that employ state-of-the-art safety and clean technologies.

    Transformational trucks help create jobs: The freeze impedes job creation by causing a major drag on our economy through unnecessarily high transportation and fuel costs. The use of transformational trucks will encourage job creation by reducing the cost of doing business.

    Transformational trucks are more productive and efficient: Allowing more freight to be hauled on fewer trucks makes transportation more efficient which, in turn, makes American businesses more competitive. At the same time, transformational trucks incorporate the newest clean air technologies, idle reduction equipment, low rolling resistance tires, and the use of aerodynamic components.

    Transformational trucks reduce emissions and lessen traffic congestion: RMI concludes that transformational trucks would increase individual vehicle efficiency from the present 130 to the calculated 335 ton miles per gallon while reducing the number of trucks on the road by approximately 30%. A recent study in Ontario, Canada, where longer length trucks presently are used, found that they eliminated 750,000 truck trips per year, removed 2,800 trucks per day from the roads around Toronto, and reduced greenhouse gases by 151 kilotons a year. All of that was achieved simply by permitting longer trucks.

    Transformational trucks are safer: Transformational trucks use advanced safety technologies such as anti-rollover equipment, electronic on-board recorders, enhanced braking systems, and lane departure warning devices. Those technologies work. RMI studies show that widespread use of such trucks will result in fewer fatal crashes due to the reduction in overall tractor-trailer vehicle miles traveled.

    The time is now to bring American freight transportation into the 21st century: This cannot be done as long as Congress leaves the 1991 bottleneck in place. The message to lawmakers is clear: lift the freeze and permit the states to authorize longer length transformational trucks. We reduce emissions, reduce fuel consumption, have less congestion, less reliance on foreign oil, improve safety, and we have more efficient use of our highways. It is a win-win. The benefits are immediate.

    David S. Congdon
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc

  • Solving the problem with small steps

    Posted on November 29, 2010 by Shepard Dunn - President & CEO, Best Way Express, Inc.

    Drive on any major highway or interstate in the country, and you see it for yourself. The backbone of the U.S. transportation industry continues to be heavy trucks hauling freight over our roadways. It’s been that way for decades.

    We also know that new roads and highways added to our infrastructure are few and far between.

    As the volume of freight increases in America – and all projections indicate that it will – we have to find practical ways to move more freight on the existing highway infrastructure. Some organizations are backing an increase in the truck weight limit from today’s 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. Since many loads already “cube out” – meaning the trailer space is filled before the weight limit is reached – this might appear to be a good option.

    But there are other factors to consider. Moving to a 97,000-pound limit will require a third axle and larger brakes to maintain safety standards – a capital investment that makes this proposal less attractive. Many of us dry van truckload carriers saw little-to-no additional earnings for the extra freight moved when we switched to longer trailers several years ago (from 48 feet to today’s standard 53 feet). As a result, some are not willing to invest capital without being confident that we’ll see a return on our investment. In other words, if we can’t get paid for the increased freight we’re hauling, why would we haul it?

    Yet the crisis of congestion continues to plague our country, so we have to find solutions.

    Sometimes a divisive issue can be scraped away by taking many small but consistent steps. This may be the case when it comes to improving truck productivity. One suggestion that might avoid major capital investment, and could be put in place immediately (with a change in bridge formula) is to shift the weight limit to 88,000 pounds rather than 97,000. After much debate, this is the position endorsed by the Truckload Carriers Association. Nothing is ever that simple in a democracy, and I know that laws in certain states would have to be adjusted, but can it be that difficult if we have the will?

    To solve the growing problem of freight transport in this country, we’ll need many solutions. It’s time for Congress, state officials, the trucking industry and companies that move freight to come together and find common ground for change.

    Shepard Dunn
    President & CEO
    Best Way Express, Inc.

  • Truck Weight Legislation Drives More Efficient Future

    Posted on September 23, 2010 by Harry Haney - Associate Director of Transportation Planning, Kraft Foods

    You visited this website, so you are probably aware that the U.S. desperately needs to make freight transportation more efficient. It’s not just a matter of business competitiveness; truck inefficiency impedes travel and will threaten highway safety if we don’t act now. But you may not realize that Congress is already considering action to safely help alleviate truck inefficiency through unique, new legislation.

    The Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), a bipartisan bill now pending in both the House and Senate, gives states the option to set interstate weight limits of up to 97,000 pounds – but only for trucks equipped with six axles instead of the typical five. Without lengthening the truck, the sixth axle maintains braking and handling capabilities, with a slight decrease in the current weight per tire.

    SETA is critical to making the shipment of heavy goods more efficient. Many trucks packed with weighty goods hit the 80,000-pound federal weight limit before the truck is fully loaded. That means these trucks leave the loading dock partially empty. Under SETA, however, shippers could safely utilize more space in their rigs – and avoid using more truckloads and fuel than necessary.

    By boosting the amount of freight each truck can safely carry, SETA will reduce the number of trucks and vehicle miles necessary to meet demand – and therefore make roads safer now and in the future. In fact, based on the findings of a 2009 Wisconsin Department of Transportation study, if a law like the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act had been in place in 2006, it would have prevented 90 truck-related accidents in the state that year.

    SETA is the carefully crafted, sensible proposal we need. Here’s why:

    • SETA is not a national mandate. States would “opt into” the legislation and restrict heavier trucks from any bridges or roadways that may not be safe. Further, states would be free to evaluate local safety and infrastructure factors and create customized interstate weight limits, freight corridors and pilot projects.
    • SETA only applies to an estimated 25 percent of truck shipments. Because SETA increases weight limits but not truck size, only shippers that move dense, heavy products will utilize the new six-axle configuration. The reality is SETA would only affect perhaps a quarter of freight shipped in the U.S. – not the entire trucking community. The majority of freight will still be handled efficiently by the current configuration.
    • SETA yields greener shipping. At Kraft Foods, about 40 percent of our trucks currently hit the weight limit with significant space left in the trailer. Under SETA, we could reduce the number of trucks we’re using by about 6 percent. That translates to 60,000 fewer loads and 33 million fewer vehicle miles traveled each year. And we could also eliminate 73,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

    SETA is a transportation solution that is poised to improve both the efficiency and safety of U.S. truck shipment. Please contact your members of Congress, and help us show them that SETA will make highways safer, greener and more productive. For more information about SETA and this truck weight reform effort, visit www.transportationproductivity.org.

    Kraft Foods makes delicious foods consumers can feel good about in 150 countries around the globe and is a customer of Volvo. Harry Haney also serves as Chairman of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a group of more than 160 shippers and related industry organizations advocating for the passage of SETA.

  • Let the debate begin

    Posted on August 26, 2010 by Robin Crawford, Executive Director-Corporate Affairs, Volvo Trucks North America

    What did you buy this week?

    We ask that question in the introductory video on freight transport efficiency, available here at moreproductivetrucks.com. It reminds us of all the things we use regularly in our lives and how they reach us – mostly by trucks.

    As a society, we want our online purchases delivered fast, often within 24 hours. We want grocery stores stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown hundreds of miles away. When we’re ready to shop for big-ticket items like cars and electronics, we want a wide selection to choose from.

    The reality is that without significant changes in the way we move freight, we might not get what we want, when we want it, in the very near future. Plenty of eye-popping statistics support this view. Consider these numbers:

    • Trucks traveled 164 billion miles on our roadways in 2004, and that number is expected to double in the next 30 years if we don’t take steps to haul more freight per trip.
    • Freight bottlenecks are responsible for 4 billion hours of lost productivity each year and 3 billion gallons of wasted fuel.

    You may have noticed that this website is sponsored by Volvo Trucks North America, a leader in the design and manufacture of heavy-duty trucks. And you may be asking yourself why. After all, if we find ways to improve the efficiency of freight transport, our customers won’t need as many trucks.

    We’re sponsoring this site and encouraging debate on the issues related to truck productivity because Volvo Trucks North America offers transport solutions to its customers. This means we pay attention to more than selling and maintaining trucks. We’re concerned about the broader issue of freight movement and how it affects society – especially safety on our highways and the environment impact of increased traffic and congestion. Safety and environmental care have long been core values of our parent company, the Volvo Group, and at Volvo Trucks North America, we’re serious about finding more efficient ways to get goods delivered.

    The issues surrounding freight efficiency are complex, and not everyone agrees on the solutions. We can’t resolve these differences overnight, but we begin the debate. I encourage you to review this website to learn more.

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