The e-commerce boom that exploded last year is here to stay. Small businesses, out of necessity, expanded their customer base by shifting their operations to include their brick and mortar and online operations.
As a result, the cargo shipping industry saw a rapid increase in e-commerce deliveries, while simultaneously delivering critical medical supplies, PPE, and the vaccine. But decades-old regulation is preventing cargo carriers from increasing their capacity.
E-commerce in the United States topped $431.6 billion last year, and it’s expected to increase to $563.4 billion over the next five years.
To keep pace with increasing demand, Congress needs to reform regulations from the 1980s that prevent cargo carriers from modernizing their vehicles. The simple, no-cost place to start is by extending the federal limit on trailer length from 28 feet to 33 feet.
While Twin 33-foot trailer vehicles are not permitted under federal law, these freight trucks have operated in Florida since 2010. Our state saw more than a decade ago how efficient and eco-friendly they are for the transportation industry, and the results for safety, efficiency, and our infrastructure are impressive.
In over a decade of operation, there have been zero accidents in the state because of Twin 33s. That is even more impressive given that Twin 33s have driven over a million miles on the Florida Turnpike between Orlando and Miami, one of our state’s busiest highways.
John Woodrooffe, the director of commercial vehicle research at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, states that Twin 33s are safer than the 28 feet tandem trailer trucks because its extended wheelbase makes it more stable. This reduces the likelihood of the truck jackknifing on the highway.
Moreover, increasing the length of this type of essential delivery truck is also eco-friendly as fewer miles need to be driven in order to deliver the same volume of packages.
Twin 33s have driven more than 1.4 million miles and saved more than 2,400 gallons of fuel each week since they began operating in the state and if allowed to operate nationwide, they can save 225 million gallons of fuel per year. That would result in reduced carbon emissions of 3 million tons. The transportation sector is continually looking for innovative ways to become more efficient and reduce its carbon footprint and it’s incumbent upon our policymakers to help them achieve their goal.
And for our infrastructure, while it is understandable to believe that longer trucks will be harder on our roads, the opposite is true. Adding five feet to a trailer will not change the current 80,000 lb weight limit.
When it comes to e-commerce deliveries, trailers run out of space long before they come near the weight limit just because of the nature of e-commerce boxes that often contain a significant amount of lightweight but bulky protective packaging.
So, by increasing the length of the trailers used for such shipments, there will be fewer trucks on the road meaning less traffic and less wear-and-tear on our roads.
As the federal law stands, however, Florida cargo carriers cannot cross state lines with these more efficient trailers. If Congress acts to permit Twin 33s on a federal level, it will reduce delivery times, lower shipping costs for the consumer, and boost economic recovery by improving an integral component of e-commerce.
Our lawmakers in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who already know the incredible economic and safety benefits of Twin 33s, need to make this delivery truck federally legal to help Florida truck drivers cross state lines. If we want our economy to recover more quickly, our federal laws must keep up with our ever-changing economy.
Jim Maxwell is the vice chairman of Floridians for Government Accountability.