There were indications this summer that the federal Department of Transportation would shortly release a preliminary “technical” report of its Congressionally mandated investigation into the impacts of various configurations of productive trucks. Since there are several indications that this report will be favorable to the terms in the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (HR 612), FRA and others had hoped to have it available to build support for SETA during the final weeks of the 113thCongress. At this point, we have no new estimate for a release date, although it could be any day.
Meanwhile, the main antagonist of truck weight reform—the rail interest—has been under heavy criticism from both shippers and legislators for poor service and high prices, apart from news accounts of several disastrous train wrecks. According to the September 15 Transport Topics, “Statistics show that during 2014, freight rail hasn’t worked well. Nationwide, freight trains ran 11% slower year-over-year during a three-week period in mid-August, continuing a pattern that began in the winter”—according to information delivered to the American Association of Railroads. The general decline in efficient freight handling seems to be common to all of the major (Class One) carriers, and shippers are vocal that this decline is affecting their profitability. At a mid-September Senate Commerce Committee hearing, both Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and ranking member John Thune (R-South Dakota) criticized rail industry witnesses for the deteriorating situation.
At FRA’s recent Board meeting, several members observed that, in the meantime, rail’s shipping rates have increased dramatically, with a doubling of rates over a year’s period not uncommon and with per-ton rates approaching freight rates for trucking in some markets.
Anyone up for increasing trucking productivity?