America Deserves a Modern Transportation System

Here are five ways to improve transportation and infrastructure in the e-commerce era.

Tom Jensen | UPS

At UPS, we see the impacts of lagging infrastructure investment in real time, as 85,000 UPS drivers hit the roads every day.

Congestion comes with costs  —  if our fleet is delayed by an extra five minutes every day, it costs us more than $100 million annually.

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Infrastructure is one of the few issues that policymakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on.

And the impact is seen in more than just our pocketbooks  —  it’s in the time our drivers don’t get to spend at home with their families and in the increased congestion that comes as we deploy more vehicles to deliver the same volume, which further compounds the problem.

We know that infrastructure is one of the few issues that policymakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on. We need better, smarter investment to help keep people, and the economy, moving. In the age of e-commerce and growing urban populations, inaction is not an option.

In the United States, 9.1 percent of bridges are structurally deficient and in need of repair, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

There is no silver-bullet solution to our infrastructure problems  —  instead, we need a broad approach and bold action from both the private sector and our government.

As lawmakers in Congress and the White House hammer out solutions for our transportation systems, UPS will be a vocal proponent of common-sense proposals that help keep people and goods moving quickly and safely.

We will be the first to admit that we don’t have all of the answers, but with more than 8 million miles driven by our drivers every day, we have the first-hand experience necessary to identify problems, offer new ideas and bring America’s transportation network into the 21st century.

Here are five ways to improve transportation and infrastructure in the e-commerce era:

Focus on chokepoints

A 2017 report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that the top 100 bottlenecks for trucking in the United States cost the industry $49.6 billion annually and generate 728 million hours of lost productivity. With modern GPS and tracking technologies, we can identify with unparalleled precision the parts of our highway system that create the most delays and focus our efforts where they are needed most.

Don’t neglect maintenance

Though building new roads and bridges is exciting —  and at times critical to address changing freight flows and population growth  —  we must also remember to invest in maintaining our existing infrastructure. The ASCE reports that America’s surface-transportation funding gap tops $1.1 trillion. With more than 56,000 bridges in need of repair around the country, we cannot afford to neglect maintenance.

Promote advanced trucking technologies

The trucking industry has made big advancements in technology and safety in recent decades, but some federal rules stand in the way of best practices. If Twin-33s (double trailer combinations that are five feet longer than the current “Twin 28s”) were allowed to operate across the country, rather than in patchwork pilot projects in a few states, it would reduce 3.1 billion vehicle miles traveled, result in 4,500 fewer accidents and remove 2.9 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Additionally, platooning technology could further boost trucking’s safety on the roads while reducing emissions.

Advance alternative delivery solutions

As cities grapple with rising populations and growing concerns about air pollution, many are looking for ways to restrict vehicle traffic, particularly in highly dense downtown areas. Rather than implement knee-jerk restrictions, cities must partner with stakeholders  —  including service providers like UPS  —  to find alternative transportation models that reduce congestion and protect the environment without impeding the flow of goods.

Pass common-sense funding policies

Infrastructure investment comes at a cost, and while some creative solutions can minimize the amount of federal dollars that have to be spent, at some point legislators must contend with a depleting Highway Trust Fund. Increasing the gas tax, which hasn’t been done since 1993, is one way we can ensure our infrastructure has the financial support it needs. The tax is not tied to inflation, so the purchasing power has been significantly diluted in the nearly 25 years since it was last increased. A higher gas tax would ensure that those who use the system the most are paying their fair share.

Transportation issues are at the heart of UPS’s operations, and we will continue to be a voice for a better transportation system that is capable of meeting the e-commerce economy’s demands.

That’s why we’ve recently partnered with Americans for Modern Transportation, a coalition of transportation and safety advocates who are working together to promote a better transportation network. And that’s why we will continue to tell the story, in Washington and around the world, of all UPSers, who understand the importance of addressing transportation issues.

The infrastructure challenges we face are not new, nor are they small  —  but they must be tackled now.

This article first appeared on Medium and was republished with permission.

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The New World Order in Transportation

Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure

Smart Roads Pave Way to Future Cities

Tom Jensen is vice president for transportation policy at UPS Global Public Affairs.

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