Increasing road congestion, inadequate infrastructure, and the continued need to reduce the environmental impact of trucks means the trucking industry, policymakers, and the general public must be open to new ways of increasing highway freight transport productivity, according to Volvo Trucks North America.
One strategy that should be well understood and considered is the ability to use more productive trucks as part of the transportation mix.
New thinking and new investments are needed so truck transportation can be efficient and cost-effective now and in the future, said Scott Kress, senior vice president, Volvo sales and marketing, in a call to action for the US trucking industry and public policymakers.
Kress made the comments May 8 in Boston MA during a seminar on climate change policy hosted by Volvo Group North America.
"The challenge is to safely deliver more freight, more efficiently in support of current and future demands," Kress said.
The trucking industry currently estimates the total amount of freight tonnage in the US will increase 26% between 2006 and 2020, which would mean a similar 26% increase in truck population to keep pace, he said.
Kress also noted that statutory and regulatory limits on truck capacities haven’t changed in years. Likewise, the nation’s highway and bridge system, which freight delivery depends on, has been unchanged for decades.
Population and economic growth lead to increased demand for freight transportation, yet infrastructure investment has not kept pace and hundreds of significant freight bottlenecks can be found across the US, which cost the overall economy tens of billions of dollars each year.
Society and industry need to investigate the answers to several questions, Kress said. "Do different limits on trailer weight, size and permissible combinations offer improved efficiency while reducing road congestion? What are the advantages to using longer combination vehicles (LCVs) and under what circumstances are the benefits the greatest?"
He noted that more productive trucks would consume less fuel, contributing to less demand for foreign oil while also reducing emissions, especially greenhouse gases such as CO2. In fact, according to Kress, they have a better safety record than the corresponding tractor/single trailer combination predominant in today’s freight hauling.
Volvo Trucks’ initiative to promote more productive trucks is closely connected to the company’s role as a leader and solution provider on issues of transportation efficiency, safety, and the environment, Kress said.
Volvo’s goals for launching its initiative are to facilitate the dialogue around the use of more productive trucks as a strategy for improving truck transportation in the United States and to change public policy on truck combinations while addressing safety, environmental and infrastructure issues.
"Safety was Volvo’s first core value and is the bedrock of the company," Kress said. "We have the experience, technology and ability to produce trucks which fully meet the safety concerns of any objective participant in this discussion. Volvo will not compromise its role as the industry leader in highway safety. Volvo views highway safety as the highest priority of any enhanced productivity solution."