American long-haul shipping is in a slow-rolling crisis. Demand for truckers is up, pay is rising, and so is the age of truckers. The average trucker is 49, compared with 42 in the general workforce.
That shouldn’t be happening, but trucking companies are being squeezed between a hot economy, which gives truckers other options that they can exercise rather than spend so much time on the road, and a host of new and invasive regulations foisted on truckers by the Department of Transportation.
These regulations sharply limit the amount of time truckers can be on the road, lower the pay of individual operators, and boost the cost per mile of trucking companies. To attract the estimated 50,000 truckers needed, these companies will have to pay them more. Their profits to do so are being squeezed by regulations and new technological enforcement requirements.
Meanwhile, things still have to get shipped. “The Internet doesn’t carry goods, only more and more orders for them,” writes Bloomberg View’s Virginia Postrel in an eye-opening column about the problems of the trucking industry. These problems are raising shipping costs for those things you buy online and also lengthening delivery times.
If you shop online much, as I do, surely you’ve noticed that you’re getting worse service for more money. Amazon, for instance, increased the price of its annual Prime subscriptions by $20 and has simply started issuing apologies when things don’t arrive when they are scheduled.
This is only going to get worse unless Congress does something to address the problem that the government is helping to create. The simplest way to do so is by passing legislation that allows for Twin 33s. Currently, freight trucks are limited to two 28-foot trailers. Allow them to be 5 feet longer apiece and you boost the freight capacity of those trucks by almost 20 percent, at very little cost.
Since the current weight limits would remain in place, and many of these trailers would have an extra axle, this could actually cut down on wear-and-tear on roads while helping with the current trucker shortage. Other things could be done as well, but Twin 33s would be a good start on this road.
Zach Almond is the former Chairman of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the founder of Uwharrie Consulting.