This is not a question for the "choir". Who should pay needs to be a public discussion. After all, Illinois probably spent in the billions rebuilding roads and bridges for 80,000 lbs. Who ends up paying most for this: trucking, motorists, or the general public to subsidize trucking efficiency and competition with privately funded railroads? Do we really want to encourage less energy-efficient trucking as a national policy?
Thank you, HarveyK400 for initiating a serious discussion. I only wish it had appeared in the blogs, where more people might have seen it and responded. The most recent study by the federal government determined that 80,000 lb. 18-wheelers now underpay their allocable share of the cost of building and maintaining the highways that the public provides by some 28%. For the most part, that shortfall is made up by operators of light trucks and some by ordinary motorists. No, we do not really want to encourage less energy efficient transportation as national policy. What we do have with heavy truckers subsidized as they are, is a distortion in the logistics market place. With a 28% subsidy, a trucker can price his service to attract freight that ordinarily would not be on the highways. This is a situation of unfair (and I hate to put things in terms of fair or unfair) competition. With no requirement that a trucker cover all fixed and variable cost of moving freight, a trucker can price to operate at an operation ratio in the mid-90s and think he's died and gone to heaven. "The competing or would-be competing railroad is between a rock and a hard place. If it fights to retain traffic, it must price well below where it has been pricing and it must be willing to accept a lower operating income and significantly higher operating ratio. Truckers have so few fised costs that they can make money at a high OR. There is a technical term for a railroad that operates with an OR in the 90s. It's called "bankrupt."
You're right that this is a question for far more than the "choir." We also must recognize that most members of Congress are economic illiterates, and they are far better at pandering and posturing to various interests than they are at focusing on trying to legislate in the public interest.
Triple trailersare in use now in those states that allow them. I can assure you that no operator of triples worries one bit about helping railroads. They simply want to carry as much freight as they legall can and at as low a total cast as possible. What you don't understand is basic economics, and I don't accept the assignment of educating you. Triples - or heavier loaded trailers - only reduce the number of trips if the amount of freight carried is static. But it's not static because the unit cost of truck transportation is lowered by the use of triples and 97,000 lb. truck-trailer combinations, and that allows them to carry freight that otherwise would have been carried by rail. Net-net, it increases the effective public subsidy to truckers and damages the unsubsidized railroad.
Well, I think the issues you raise aside, most places where drayage proper -local short haul delivery- is an issue aren't all that friendly for triples, and should not be. They didn't call those beasts "turnpike doubles" for nothing; on street, their limited maneuver and even more limited acceleration plays Hell with other traffic, and the chance to damage local infrastructure goes up tremendously.
Good points and well made, Mac. While one of the advantages of intermodal used to be the ability to avoid urban congestion, this is not necessarily so any longer. In fact, the anti-rail interests might even allege that railroads are contributing to urban highway congestion because many more trailers and containers are being drayed than previously. Actually, if you look at the announced new intermodal terminals being built, most are some distance from urban centers, and that contributes to intermodal efficiency. Union Pacific sought permits to build a terminal fairly close to Chicago a few years ago, but then Republican leader Denny Hastert, an Illinois congressman, blocked it, forcing UP to put its terminal closer to Iowa than it is to Chicago. UP lucked out when it discovered that a lot of the traffic at the new terminal was headed into Wisconsin for auto plants and manufacturers in that state. Draymen are able to hop on an Interstate and avoid Chicago area congestion, and UP is able to haul the real Chicago-bound traffic into its Global I and Global II facilities. The same thing happened to BNSF and its Joliet intermodal terminal. You're right, though, when you point out that triples don't do a lot of good for traffic. With the exception of UPS, which has its entire domestic package system designed around intermodal, doubles and triples thend to be pulled by LTL carriers. Mr. Steamtrain6868 never passes on an opportunity to present railroads in their most negative light, and this is simply another of those. A real charmer, he is.
Another negative aspect of long highway vehicles is the impact on merging distances, even in moderate traffic. How many places would you have to go out and add a few hundred feet of on-ramp for two vehicles traveling near the same speed at expressway speeds?
Back to the stone age---
the highway system will be converted back into loose gravel at a faster rate with heavier monster trucks.
Finally woke up, did you? This thread goes back to April 20, and has been virtually dormant since several of us said what needed to be said on the subject. No, Railwayist, our highways will not go back to gravel. They will soak up more taxpayer money to do more maintenance and the trucking industry simply will buy a few more members of Congress to ensure a continuing and steady flow of funds.
According to Don Phillips:
Much of the trucking industry is strongly opposed to a new
weight-increase bill introduced in Congress, so much so that no one thinks it
has a whisper of a chance. Wait. The trucking industry is opposed to something
the American Trucking Association is pushing? Actually, the only truckers who
really want the bill are the private carrier fleets owned by heavy industries.
The major box truckers like J.B. Hunt want nothing to do with it. In fact, if
this bill passes, Hunt, Schneider, and the other big guys would be in a world
of hurt. They would be forced to buy entire new fleets.
Worse, the current rail intermodal fleet could not handle the new
trailers, and railroads could not replace their intermodal flatcars fast
enough. Therefore, Hunt and numerous other truckers that have come to rely on
intermodal would have to scrounge the country for drivers. It would not be
possible to find them in time to prevent a disaster. But Hunt, Schneider, and
others have remained silent. The ATA is pushing for a change that would cause
havoc in the industry.
What is going on here? It sounds like Alice in Wonderland. There
can be only one explanation. The bill doesn’t stand a chance of passing.
Therefore, the big truckers might as well remain silent, and the ATA might as
well put on a good show. That keeps peace and good will in the family. What you
see is not always what you get.
COMMENTARY for the AUGUST 2011 Trains magazine
My friend Don Phillips has it just about right on the big truck issue. If anything, he lets the truckers off too easily. Those trucking companies that have steady business under current size and weight rules will have to invest a lot of money to refleet if the rules are changed. Those who now cub out before they weight out will not see a benefit from being allowed an additional 17,000 lb gvw, so this is not a burning issue for them. The truckers who now weight out before they cube out are the ones who really want to heavier limits.
The real supporters of higher weight limits, as Don pointed out, are the private fleet operators. The big shippers also want higher weights because they know they will be able to extort lower rates from their truckers who will be able to carry more tonnage in each trip.
© 2012 Trade Press Media Group, Inc.
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