"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Jersey Truck Traffic

According to the federal government, by the year 2020 truck traffic in New Jersey will be 70--80% greater than it was in 1998. Experts say the damage to highways from just one large truck equals the same wear caused by 8,000 cars. (See here and here.) The fatal crash rate for large trucks is 50% greater than the rate for all other vehicles on U.S roads and crashes involving trucks result in nearly 5,000 deaths and ten’s of thousands of serious injuries each year.

To add insult to injury, large trucks fail to pay their fair share of road costs. The
2000 Federal Highway Cost Allocation Study found that heavy trucks underpay their share of highway costs by nearly $1.9 billion annually. We’ll bet New Jersey is undercharging trucks, but we have no way of knowing. As the report points out, New Jersey has not conducted a cost allocation study to determine the cost responsibility of each vehicle class on the roads in our state. This information would help law makers determine whether changes need to be made in order to charge each vehicle class its fair share of road maintenance costs.

We don’t know the answer to the truck problem, but it seems greater use of the rail system would be a start. While the
Reason Public Policy Institute proposes a new alternative – Toll Truckways. Their concept would add specialized heavy-duty toll truck lanes to existing major highways, especially long-distance Interstate routes. These lanes would be for trucks only and would be barrier-separated from general traffic to form separate “Truckways”.

By significantly increasing truck payload capacity allowing [longer combination vehicles (LCVs)], Toll Truckways would reduce the cost of shipping most U.S. freight, making better use of the nation’s extensive highway network. By separating much heavy truck traffic from automobiles, Truckways would reduce the extent of car-truck collisions, thereby improving highway safety. By hauling more freight in fewer trucks, the Truckways would produce net environmental benefits. And by making use of toll financing this important addition to the highway system could be accomplished at much less cost to highway trust funds than paying for the Truckways out of fuel tax revenues.

Let’s hope our representatives in Trenton and Washington start planning for the future, as we shudder to think of 80% more truck traffic in the Garden State.



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