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Trucking industry affected by poor road conditions

Funding for highways may soon run out.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

As debate continues on how to fund the Highway Trust Fund, the trucking industry is seeing the economic side-effects of poor infrastructure. In late July, a portion of Interstate 10 collapsed. According to Fleet Owner, this section of the bridge served eastbound traffic traveling between Southern California and Phoenix, Arizona. The California Department of Transportation said that an approximate 3,100 truck drivers use I-10 to move between Phoenix and Coachella every day.

Standard motorists were not the only drivers affected by the bridge's collapse. Furthermore, of the 27,000 vehicles that use the freeway, roughly 11.5 percent are trucks according to Caltrans.

"It's a hugely important corridor for commerce," said Tony Bradley in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Bradley is president and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association.

Impacts on shipping
Trucking companies, including those based out of Texas, will probably run into delays if taking I-10. Time is of the essence to truck drivers, and this detour will likely cause hours of lost productivity. Due to existing federal regulations, drivers are only able to drive a certain number of hours. Longer routes may mean drivers drive a shorter distance than they normally would.

Financially, the trucking industry is adding an approximately $2.5 million per day because of the closing and the subsequent repairs. The financial loss was calculated by the American Transportation Research Institute and the extra costs may be the result of a few factors according to Fleet Owner. For instance, truck drivers are paid by the mile. The detour therefore forces drivers to take a longer route than logistics management companies would prefer.

"This detour will likely cause hours of lost productivity."

The bridge is scheduled to open before the end of the month, however, traffic will be diverted to the westbound bridge. If the closing had remained in place for one month, ATRI estimated the industry would spend an additional $75 million on the transportation of goods to the area.

Funding deadline looms
The collapse of the bridge has been under the spotlight even more because funding for the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire July 31, unless politicians pass legislation. Pressure is mounting on both chambers of Congress to reach an agreement.

According to Bloomberg Politics, the Senate reached an agreement to secure funding for three years. The House of Representatives will have to also reach an agreement on the Senate's plan. The issue is being examined because of the current state of the country's infrastructure. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a "D" infrastructure rating.

Roads were also given a "D" rating. In its report, ASCE said 42 percent of streets and highways are congested, down from 45 percent in 2008. Financially, this costs the economy $101 billion in lost hours of productivity and wasted fuel. It would take annual investments of $170 billion to greatly improve the road conditions.

"42 percent of streets and highways are congested."

Further breakdown of the study revealed 32 percent of roads are listed in poor to mediocre conditions. There was a spike in short term investment shortly after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed. However, roads still present hazardous conditions. Poor pavement, particularly in urban areas, leads to detours and lost productivity.

Any delay in funding or reduction may prove harmful to the trucking industry. It remains to be seen if the funding will pass by the July 31 deadline. However, the collapsed bridge in California poses a significant reminder that roads should have constant maintenance. The economy heavily relies on the trucking industry for the transportation of goods. If roads are in consistently poor conditions, there is no telling what the side-effects will be.