Modernizing America’s Shipping System: From One-Click Buy To One-Click Ship

In 2017, we hope Congress can pair infrastructure investment with regulatory reforms that will enable the industry to continue serving Americans across the country. The lack of consistent and adequate investment in the nation's infrastructure has created a system that can't keep up with demand.

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The magic of e-commerce has always been characterized by its ability to let consumers easily find the product they want, seamlessly compare competitive offerings, and quickly purchase. The result?: more time for family, friends, and the things that truly matter; and less time shopping. But the magic is increasingly found, not in the shopping experience, but in delivering the product to consumer's doorsteps as quickly as possible, even within one day. Shippers – whether by truck, train, plane, or boat – are moving more goods every day. The trend will only continue as the tons of goods transported over the next 30 years is projected to grow 40 percent and the value of those goods will increase by 92 percent.

In 2017, we hope Congress can pair infrastructure investment with regulatory reforms that will enable the industry to continue serving Americans across the country. The lack of consistent and adequate investment in the nation's infrastructure has created a system that can't keep up with demand. However, the gap can't be closed by just repaving roads, and it's critical that Congress identifies technology and policy changes that can further unlock efficiency.

The trucking sector in particular has undergone a dramatic shift in the last three decades – from an industry characterized by high barriers to entry and consequentially high prices, to a consumer-oriented, and technologically advanced industry built with an efficiency-first mindset. Through this transformation trucking has cemented itself as the workhorse shipper in America, serving virtually all domestic origins and destinations and offering shippers and receivers the best possible balance of price and service. 

Through President Trump's promise for an infrastructure investment package, Congress has the opportunity to create a truly modern transportation system – a system capable of moving products faster, saving costs, and bringing the enormous benefits of e-commerce to more American households. It will also be both sustainable and safer, saving lives and reducing emissions each year. The time is now. In order for Congress and regulators to secure long-term economic growth, they must make a strong commitment to the more efficient movement of freight through domestic supply chains. Fortunately, we know there are easy changes to deliver real benefits in the short-run and commonsense investments that will pay dividends in the long run.

In the short-run, one example of this type of policy proposal is the widespread adoption of Twin 33 trailers for transporting goods on major highways. Right now, we have Triple 28, Twin 28, and even Twin 53 trailer configurations on the road to accommodate shipping needs, but Twin 33s are only able to operate in parts of 20 states. Providing carriers with the option to deploy Twin 33s would immediately address the inefficiency derived from the new trend in shipping lightweight products directly to the home. Twin 33s would decrease the number of unnecessary trips by providing adequate truck space to accommodate the modern consumer's purchasing habits.

Fewer trips ultimately means fewer trucks on the road, which leads to a safer and more sustainable transportation system.  Based on existing analysis we know Twin-33s would be an upgrade for our roads as they perform equal to or better than current double trailers in four main measures, static rollover threshold, rearward amplification, load-transfer ratio and high-speed transient offtracking, all while reducing fuel consumption by 204 million gallons.

In the long run, common sense investments in our highways, bridges, railways, and ports and new technology will lay the groundwork for a transportation system built for the future. Strategic investments to facilitate the adoption of emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication platforms, autonomous cars, and platooning (a form of autonomous technology that allows trucks to coordinate acceleration and braking), will foster a safer and more efficient transportation network for our children.

Enabling the widespread adoption of Twin-33s while making commonsense investments in our infrastructure is a winning combination to deliver benefits today with dividends to come in the future. It's an approach that is not just about fixing our infrastructure with more spending, but modernizing it with smart policies. Rep. Bill Shuster's FAA modernization effort captures this spirit. At NASSTRAC, we are committed to working with and supporting our leaders in legislative and regulatory position to deliver strong results for a better America.

Gail Rutkowski is the ‎Executive Director at National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) – the shippers association for transportation and logistics professionals who manage freight across all modes. 


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