The FAST Act is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, it’s just a first step.
After years of short-term fixes and uncertainty, Congress finally passed and President Obama signed into law a long-term highway bill late last year. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorizing $305 billion over five years for highway, transit and Amtrak programs. This is only about one-quarter of the $1.2 trillion needed to properly fix the U.S. infrastructure. Although our industry has been pleading for this funding for years, Congress had not passed a transportation bill of any length for over a decade.
Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness and haven’t been driving on the nation’s roads, you know that the state of our roads, highways and bridges is really deplorable. So bad, in fact, that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the U.S. infrastructure mediocre to poor grades in its “report card.” And it varies, state by state. For example, although our bridges nationwide receive a C+ from the ASCE, when you look at Pennsylvania, you see a D+ grade and a frightening statistic. Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation, with nearly one in four of the state’s more than 22,000 bridges, achieving that dubious distinction.
This has been particularly costly for our industry. These bad road conditions add to the cost of operations for trucking firms by increasing the maintenance needed due to wear and tear. Poor road and bridge conditions don’t just affect the carrier: the shipper also suffers. The fact is, if it’s a rough ride for the truck to reach a delivery, it will be a rough ride for the cargo as well. And let’s not forget the potential injuries to drivers due to being jarred as they drive on rough roads, day in and day out.
Although I hate to add a cloud around this silver lining, carriers and shippers alike will need to really be on top of their logistics game. That’s because all of these repairs, though desperately needed, will also cause considerable delays in some parts of the country, especially in metropolitan areas where traffic congestion is a constant problem. Companies will have to constantly look at fleet routing to ensure that their trucks are moving and making the best time possible. Cut times may potentially have to be changes in order to avoid congestion times when using roads that are under construction.
Although funds for the fixes to infrastructure will be coming from the federal government, it will ultimately be the responsibility of the states to ensure that they are planning road and bridge construction projects carefully and thoughtfully. They will have to take into consideration the impact on businesses due to lost hours spent in traffic and attempt to ameliorate that by more careful planning. And we will need the Congress to accept that in order to truly “fix” a $1.3 trillion infrastructure, $305 billion is just a first step. Let’s hope there is more to come.
Read our 6 Trends Impacting Trucking blog series on NationaLease.