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The Nation

TRIP report on freight delivery system an echo of themes heard before

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Trip report on freight delivery system an echo of themes heard before
“America’s Rolling Warehouses: Opportunities and Challenges with the Nation’s Freight Delivery System,” examines current and projected levels of freight movement in the U.S., large truck safety and trends impacting freight movement. (Courtesy: TRIP).

WASHINGTON — TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, has released a new report the gist of which should surprise no one and which sounds like the 100th verse of a song sung by Americans and led by a choir of thousands of those associated with the freight transportation industry.

“The ability of the nation’s freight transportation system to efficiently and safely accommodate the growing demand for freight movement could be hampered by inadequate transportation capacity, institutional barriers to enhancing the nation’s freight facilities, a lack of adequate funding for needed improvements to the freight network and a shortage of drivers. This is happening as freight movement is being transformed by advances in vehicle autonomy, manufacturing, warehousing and supply chain automation, increasing e-commerce, and the growing logistic networks being developed to accommodate consumer demand for faster delivery.”

TRIP’s report, “America’s Rolling Warehouses: Opportunities and Challenges with the Nation’s Freight Delivery System,” examines current and projected levels of freight movement in the U.S., large truck safety and trends impacting freight movement.

TRIP’s report found that freight delivery is expected to increase rapidly as a result of economic growth, increasing demand, growing international trade, changing business and retail models, and a significantly increased reliance on e-commerce by businesses and households.

Each year, the U.S. freight system moves approximately 17.7 billion tons of freight, valued at $16.8 trillion.

Trucks carried 72 percent of freight by value in 2016 and 66 percent by weight. From 2016 to 2045, freight moved annually in the U.S. by trucks is expected to increase 91 percent in value (inflation-adjusted dollars) and 44 percent by weight.

“The new TRIP report again highlights the urgent need for federal action to modernize America’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer. “The future of our country’s ability to compete in a 21st century economy by providing the safe movement of commerce is at stake, and this report helps bring a spotlight to the issue.”

The TRIP report also found that 12 percent of travel on interstate highways and 21 percent of travel on rural interstate highways is by combination trucks.

“TRIP’s report makes an important contribution to a growing body of evidence that our deteriorating infrastructure is putting the brakes on our economy,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Association. “The cost of doing nothing is too high and will only get higher if our leaders do not step up and put forward a comprehensive investment package backed by real funding.”

Many states exceed the 12% of travel on interstate highways by combination trucks led by Wyoming at 29%, Arkansas at 27%, New Mexico at 23% and North Dakota and Iowa at 20%.

Arkansas has the highest percentage of combination trucks on rural interstate highways at 32% followed by New Mexico at 30%, Wyoming at 29%, and Illinois, Texas and Tennessee at 28%.

The Arkansas number is buoyed by the fact that in excess of 20,000 combination trucks travel on Interstate 40 between North Little Rock, Arkansas, and West Memphis, Arkansas every day.

The report suggests that highway congestion, which is a thorn in the side of every over-the-road professional truck driver, will worsen drastically if something is not done to improve the national infrastructure.

The report notes that the U.S. Department of Transportation forecasts that between 2012 and 2045, the miles of major U.S. highways that are congested during peak periods will quadruple from 19,200 miles to 78,500.

Most of the top 10 bottlenecks listed in the report are nothing new to trucking as they have been reported by the American Transportation Research Institute, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations:

  • Fort Lee, New Jersey: I-95 at SR 4, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 23 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 35.
  • Atlanta: I-285 at I-85 (North), where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 23 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 41.
  • Atlanta: I-75 at I-285 (North), where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 27 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 43.
  • Los Angeles: SR 60 at SR 574, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 35 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 43.
  • Houston: I-45 at I-69/US 59, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 24 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 38.
  • Cincinnati: I-71 at I-75, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 36 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 47.
  • Chicago: I-290 at I-90/I-94, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 18 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 27.
  • Nashville, Tennessee: I-24/I-40 at I-440 (East), where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 28 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 48.
  • Atlanta: I-20 at I-285 (West), where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 38 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 47.
  • Los Angeles: I-710 at I-10, where the average speed during peak traffic hours is 27 mph and the average speed during non-peak hours is 43.

The report listed facts concerning large truck fatalities, which have risen steadily from 3,981 in

  • In 62 percent of fatal large truck crashes from 2013 to 2017, the most critical pre-crash event was either another vehicle’s encroachment into a large truck’s lane (38 percent) or another vehicle entering a large truck’s lane (26 percent).
  • A 2018 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that analyzed 2016 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a large truck found the following: in 43 percent of the crashes both vehicles were proceeding straight, in nine percent of the crashes the other vehicle was turning left or right regardless of the large trucks maneuver, in 10 percent of the crashes the truck and the other vehicle were negotiating curves, and in seven percent of the crashes either the truck or the other vehicle was stopped in a traffic lane (five percent and two percent, respectively).
  • In large truck-involved fatal crashes in 2016, two percent of large truck drivers had blood alcohol concentrations above .08 f/dL, while the share for drivers of passenger vehicles, light trucks and motorcycles with blood alcohol concentrations above .08 f/dL was 21, 20 and 25 percent, respectively.
  • Fatal large truck crashes are more likely to occur on rural roads, two-lane roads and roads with speed limits 55 miles per hour or higher.

“It’s clear that the safe and efficient movement of goods and services depends on a well-funded national transportation system,” said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Without strong investment from our federal partners, state departments of transportation won’t be able to meet the growing demands on the system.”

TRIP’s report concludes with a series of recommendations —  many of which have been previously expressed by TRIP and other transportation stakeholders — to improve freight transportation by increasing capacity on the nation’s freight transportation system, particularly at major bottlenecks; improving the reliability and condition of intermodal connectors between major highways and rail, ports and waterways; continued development of vehicle autonomy and the further automation of warehousing; improving roadway safety and providing additional truck parking spaces to ensure adequate and timely rest for drivers; providing funding for freight transportation improvements that is substantial, continuing, multimodal, reliable, and, in most cases, specifically dedicated to freight transportation projects; and, providing a permanent, adequate and reliable funding fix to the federal Highway Trust Fund as a critical step towards funding a 21st Century freight transportation system.

“As consumers demand faster deliveries and a more responsive supply chain, the nation’s freight transportation network is facing unprecedented roadblocks in the form of increasing congestion and a lack of transportation funding to improve the nation’s transportation system,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.  “Fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of revenue that supports needed transportation investment will be crucial to improving the efficiency and safety of our freight transportation system.”

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The Nation

Former NASCAR driver and Talladega’s iconic trucker John Ray dies at 82

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Former nascar driver and talladega superspeedway’s iconic trucker john ray dies at 82
John Ray whose diesel big rig sporting the giant American flag became iconic during the track’s national anthem performances, has died. (Courtesy: Talladega Superspeedway)

TALLADEGA, Ala. —John Ray, whose big rig sporting a giant American flag became iconic during Talladega Superspeedway’s national anthem performances, has died, according to a news release. The former NASCAR driver was 82 years old.

Since 2001, Ray had driven his gold, brown and chrome Peterbilt with a large American flag down the Talladega frontstretch prior to the start of races.

“National anthems at Talladega Superspeedway are the most iconic, and it’s because of our great friend John Ray,” said Speedway President Brian Crichton. “What he brought to our fans can’t be duplicated. He was an incredible, passionate man who supported the track and all of motorsports with everything he had. His spirit will live here forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ray family.”

For more than 40 years, Ray was a member of the White Flag Club, a dedicated service group of local businessmen from surrounding communities that assist during race weekends.

In 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks and the tragic passing of his longtime friend Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ray, along with then Talladega Superspeedway Track Chairman Grant Lynch, looked to boost the morale of a country, and a fan base that had gone through tough times.

“I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back,” said Ray, who lived down the street from the track in Eastaboga, three years ago. “It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale.

“I never thought it would become the heart-felt moment that it has over the past some-odd years, but I’m glad it has become a tradition that means so much to the fans and the Talladega family. It represents such a sense of pride that we all share together as a nation and as a community. It is my honor and privilege to do it,” added Ray, who eventually gave up the driving duties of his big rig and handed them off to his late friend Roger Haynes, and last year to his son Johnny.

That wasn’t Ray’s first time at the 2.66-mile track. Ray, who owned “John Ray Trucking Company” since the early 70s, actually set the world speed record for a semi-truck and trailer around the mammoth track at 92.083 mph in 1975 — in a powerful Kenworth.

“We were testing brakes for a company out at the track,” Ray said. “One thing led to another — and there I was truck, trailer, and all — making my way around the track, trying to set a speed record. It was something else.”

Ray drove in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1974-1976. He competed in eight races, four at Talladega (where his best career finish was 22nd in 1974), but an accident at Daytona in 1976 ended his driving career. He continued as a car owner and essentially gave one of the sport’s greatest legends one of his first opportunities: 10-time Talladega winner Earnhardt. It would be Earnhardt’s third career start.

To read the full release, visit Talladega Superspeedway’s website.

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The Nation

Dependable and daring truckers recognized for driving excellence by National Carriers

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Dependable and daring truckers recognized for driving excellence by national carriers
Reggie Ely, left, and Ernie Garcia have been chosen by National Carriers Inc. as Drivers of the Month for November and December. (Courtesy: National Carriers)

IRVING, Texas — One is steady as a rock. The other’s a risk-taker, but both are Drivers of the Month for National Carriers, Inc.

The company named Ernie Garcia and Reggie Ely as the award winners for November and December respectively. Each receives a $1,000 bonus and a chance to win a $10,000 Driver of the Year prize at NCI’s annual banquet in Arlington, Texas.

Garcia, hails from Lytle, Texas, and has been trucking for 40 years, the last nine of which have been with NCI. He focuses on delivering freight throughout the Southwest.

“I’ve worked with Ernie for four years, and he always keeps a pleasant attitude toward life and work,” said his driver manager, Barbara Armstrong. “He’s committed to knowing his lanes and providing on-time service to every customer.”

While Garcia keeps steady, his fellow winner, Ely, says, “Give me a challenge!” Joining the Elite Fleet in 2018, he quickly established himself as a can-do driver.

“Reggie does whatever I need him to do. He drives safe, but never shies away from a demanding delivery,” said Mike Holloway, his driver manager. “He even loves running deliveries to New York City!”

“I try to do things that challenge me and make me feel like I’ve accomplished something,” said Ely. “I wanted to be a trucker who would deliver anywhere. I was scared the first couple of times I went into New York, but it got easier and easier. I just had to face my fears.”

Of course, any driver taking on a challenge needs a great team backing him. “I think a driver is only as good as his driver manager,” said Ely. “At my last job, I went through many dispatchers. My driver manager, Mike, knows his job and has been my only dispatcher at NCI, and I’m grateful for him.

“What makes me a successful driver?  Good equipment, good freight, and a team effort. I had no idea I could be treated this great by a trucking company,” concluded Ely.

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The Nation

‘Disruptive’ major freeway project planned to begin in spring 2021 in central Phoenix

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‘disruptive’ major freeway project planned for spring 2021 in central pheonix
Interstate 10 is a travel artery corridor for commuters, shipping freight and access to Sky Harbor Airport and will undergo a major reconstruction, with most of the work on the 11-mile corridor estimated to begin in the spring 2021 and end in the of summer 2024.

PHOENIX — Transportation planners are spreading the word that the start of a multiyear project to rebuild a critical freeway corridor in the heart of the metro area is only about a year off.

The project includes adding traffic lanes and building new bridges on parts of an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 10. That stretch extends northward from the junction with the State Route 202 freeway in Chandler to where I-10 meets Interstate 17 in central Phoenix near Sky Harbor International Airport.

“This is going to be the most disruptive project we’ve had in this region from a transportation perspective,” warned Eric Anderson, executive director of Maricopa Association of Governments.

Construction work for the project is expected to begin in spring 2021 and take about four years to complete, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Primary funding for the $700 million project comes from a half-cent sales tax approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004, ADOT spokesman Tom Herrmann said Friday.

Herrmann said department officials anticipate completing the final environmental assessment and receiving a favorable finding of “no significant impact” within the next 60 days.

The heavily traveled stretch is often jammed mornings and late afternoons with commuters and long-distance travelers, though the recently opened South Mountain Freeway ringing part of metro Phoenix is expected to divert some traffic either heading across the metro area or just passing Phoenix and its sprawling suburbs.

Anderson told Phoenix City Council members recently that the project could save up to 2 million hours of travel time a year, KJZZ-FM reported.

Much of the reconstruction will center around a segment where five bridges will be built in the vicinity of State Route 143, a short north-south freeway. Its alignment east of Sky Harbor.

In the the northern part of the project area, a collector-distribution road system will be built to reduce the number of lane changes on the main portion of I-10 and improve traffic flow, the Arizona Department of Transportation says.

Other work includes expanding interchanges with SR 143 and U.S. 60, another freeway that connects with I-10.

John Bullen, MAG’s transportation program manager, said a dynamic traffic simulation model is being developed to help plan the construction work.

“So based on the real world inputs, we’ll be able to develop ‘what if’ scenarios to understand how construction might impact traffic and what tools really we have at our disposal to be able to mitigate some of those impacts, to make things smoother,” Bullen said.

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