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Are Tractor-Trailer "Trains" The Answer?

01/02/09

Are Tractor-Trailer "Trains" The Answer?

  03:13:00 pm, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: tractor-trailer trains

Are Tractor-Trailer "Trains" the answer?

The escalated fuel prices of 2007 and 2008 sent a large number of smaller trucking companies and owner-operator entities either out of business or in to hiding behind big corporate logos.

As the economy slowed in the latter half of 2008, we saw a significant decrease in fuel prices, but we did not see a significant increase in smaller trucking companies and owner-operators. The companies that were forced out of business by the fuel prices stayed out of business.

The Associated Press reported on January 1, 2009 that the National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a federal commission to finance highway construction and repair stated:

“With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.”

This analyst fears with the current recession and an increase in government taxation, there will be more trucking shortfalls and fewer trucks to haul available freight.

As a trucking industry, how do we cope with the cost of insurance, wages, fuel, etc. and continue to make ends meet during these economically trying times?

In the 1980s, as the full force of deregulation became apparent on the common carrier side of the industry, 27-foot double and triple trailer combinations began to dot the roads, streets and byways of the US highway system. By 2000, we saw more double trailers and even more triple trailer combinations as common carriers struggled to produce a profit.

In some western states, ‘Rocky Mountain Doubles’ (48 or 53 foot trailer with a 27-foot ‘pup’ combination) are more prevalent now than ever before, and ‘turnpike doubles’ two 48 or 53 foot trailers) are also being seen. In California and other states in the US, multiple trailer combinations are not allowed off the Interstate Highway System. While in Alaska, four and five trailer combinations are permitted.

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA), although not opposed to these types of combinations, does warn that special training is required for a truck driver to be able to safely operate these vehicles on today’s highways.

A report by the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT), suggests that a study conducted by Woodrooffe and Associates and focused on comparing the safety performance of LCVs (Longer Combination Vehicles) with other vehicles in Alberta, Canada found LCVs to have the lowest collision exposure rate of all vehicle classes.

A study published by Transportation Research Board suggests that although the fatality accident rate for multi-trailers is higher than that of single-trailers, it is not significantly higher (1.66 times, or just under 10 accidents per 100,000,000 miles traveled). This may be due to the fact that multi-trailer operations are currently restricted to the safer Interstate Highway System. One of the major causes of tractor-trailer accidents is driver fatigue not the size, shape or length of equipment - an item to be addressed in at a later time.

It is the opinion of this analyst, with proper driver training and with stricter adherence to current log book and other government regulations, tractor-trailer trains are a viable option for reducing the cost of transportation while getting more goods to market.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

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