Why trucking needs to turn the tide on infrastructure

By Joseph Evangelist

Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

One of the results of the COVID-19 pandemic was fewer vehicles on the road, and that meant less congestions for truck fleets.

It should come as no surprise then that the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2021 Top Bottlenecks List found that speeds through even the worst bottlenecks improved — 34% in 2020 compared to 2019.

However, the top bottlenecks remain the same with the intersection of Interstate 95 and New Jersey State Route 4 in Fort Lee, N.J. staying in the top spot for the third consecutive year.  Other key areas with bottlenecks include Cincinnati, Ohio (I-71 at I-75); Atlanta — snagging two spots — (I-285 at I-85 N and I-20 at I-285 W); Houston (I-45 at I-69/US 59). You get the idea. Chicago, Chattanooga, Tenn., St. Louis, Rye, N.Y. and San Bernardino rounded out the top 10. But if you scroll through the list you will see that bottlenecks are spread across the country.

And while I was happy to learn that truckers lost less time because of bottlenecks, I do not think any of us want another pandemic just so trucks can get around more easily.

This ATRI report simply underlines the urgent need for us to do something about the infrastructure. I know I have written about the need for infrastructure improvement on several other occasions on this blog platform, but until the problems are fixed, I guess I will have to continue talking about it.

The pandemic helped accelerate the growth of e-commerce — which was already growing at a fairly fast clip. Lots of experts are predicting that purchases via e-commerce will continue to expand as more people and businesses have begun to rely on the convenience of having goods delivered right to their doorstep.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) just came out with their infrastructure report card. This year’s grade was C-, an improvement over the 2017 grade of D+. But don’t get too excited. Eleven of the 17 categories ASCE looks at received a grade in the D range, and that included roads.

The U.S. has underfunded road maintenance for years, ASCE says, which has led to a $786 billion backlog of road and bridge improvements that need to be made.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, recently said in a City Lab 2021 interview, “Fix it first, is going to be an important mantra for us. It doesn’t always have the same sizzle as adding something new, but the truth is we’ve got to be doing both.”

I think he’s right. While I know there are areas of the country that need new roads and bridges, anyone who has driven on our nation’s roads knows there is a lot of work to be done to improve them.

I hope we finally tackle infrastructure improvement. We’ve been kicking the can down the road for way too long on this important issue. If we fix existing roads, and then improve/expand the ones in areas where the worst bottlenecks are occurring, we will improve the overall efficiency of transportation and both people and businesses will get the goods they want and need when and where they need them. Isn’t that what we all want?

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