Here’s the good news: The economy is booming. Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high. And U.S. small business confidence is at a 45-year high, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Here’s a really interesting twist on that good news: A growing and significant share of commerce in the U.S. has shifted online. That's not surprising, but that means more products are being shipped to more front porches, Mom-and-Pop businesses and small final destination storefronts across the country than ever before.
Now, here’s the bad news: America is running out of truckers.
America faces a massive shipping crunch over the next decade. Trucking companies are struggling to recruit enough truckers to keep up with current demand and utterly failing to keep pace with the growth of e-commerce. Every new Amazon order and eBay auction adds to the strain.
Fortunately, there’s a very simple fix that should give trucking companies some room to staff up to meet growing demand: longer trailers. Many states limit semi trailers to 28 feet long - but allow trucks to pull two, back-to-back. Add just 5 feet per trailer (while keeping the existing weight limit) and you can increase shipping capacity by almost 20 percent. These are known as Twin 33s.
Moreover, this wouldn’t add strain to the roads. In fact, Twin 33s would likely lessen wear and tear on our infrastructure.
You might find that hard to believe but here’s the thing: almost all freight travels under the current federal weight limits, because you can pack it in only so tight before it does damage to the product.
Keep the weight limits, add more room and you space things out a bit more (ecommerce goods are mostly smaller lighter packages). In many cases, this would mean an extra axle per trailer, which would further cut down on road wear and tear. That’s because road damage to infrastructure is caused not by weight alone, but rather by the distribution of that weight. These “Twin 33” trailers would distribute the weight more, meaning less highway damage, not more.
And at least in the short run this would mean fewer trips by heavy trucks on said roads. Wouldn’t it be nice to have fewer trucks on the roads during the day to clog up your commute?
So why not just do this thing right now? Get those longer trailers and go to work!
Would that it were so easy. Current legislation being debated in Congress would permit Twin 33 trailers in all fifty states. The argument being that nothing exemplifies interstate commerce better than shipping consumer goods to someone’s house in another state.
“Okay, simple enough,” you must be thinking. “Just pass some legislation through Congress that allows for Twin 33s and keep on trucking.”
But it turns out that the railways and a few other groups are lobbying your elected representatives furiously behind-the-scenes to keep this from happening, according toThe Wall Street Journal, because they don’t want the competition on shipping your goods. And so Congress is slow walking any fix of the problem, at the same time as the problem of shipping delays is becoming almost commonplace.
If that sounds downright un-American to you, it should. It’s corruption that furthers narrow interests at the expense of practically everybody else. It’s a restraint of trade that further hampers literally millions of customers.
Twin 33s are an easy commonsense way to address a very real problem facing us right this instant. Congress should pass legislation and allow Twin 33s now to help keep shipping costs lower, lessen delivery times, and help improve safety on our highways.
Steven Hilding is a GOP activist, former member of Senator Marco Rubio's campaign state leadership in 2016, and an alumnus of the Trump for President 2016 campaign.