Reinvesting in our highway systems: How our crumbling infrastructure hurts safety

Posted by Harriet Mills on Jul 2, 2016 8:21:46 AM

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Driving a fully stocked long haul is intense. Mere hazards for the everyday motorist are multiplied in cost and consequence for a truck driver. Take the humble pothole: damages amount to $300 a year for the average driver, according to AAA. What potholes cost the transportation industry is a bit harder to nail down, but clearly, bad roads deliver big consequences to the economy and public safety.

Consequences to owner-operators and fleets
Poor pavement conditions are, of course, hazardous to trucks. When a truck driver spots a pothole, he has a split second to decide if it’s safe to swerve around it, says Ross Froat, manager of engineering and IT at the American Trucking Association.

Drivers who strike the pothole could have their wheels knocked out of alignment, which speeds up tire wear, he said.

“It only takes one pothole to make your alignment go off. And that will only get worse,” Froat said.

A pothole can lead to a tire blowout. When a steer tire strikes a pothole, it comes with more destruction: fender, shocks, spindle, breaks. Repairs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of damage.

These costs are carried by independent owner-operators, who already pay for everything. Even drivers who work for small fleets can be docked or penalized for tire and truck damage, Froat said.

But there’s another problem after a truck hits a pothole: Since the driver is now unable to steer to safety, trucks can careen across lanes and even medians, crashing into other vehicles.

Drivers who instinctively steer away from the pothole to avoid these costly consequences, on the other hand, Froat said, could end up right in the path of another vehicle. Either way, the sight of a big pothole dead ahead is scary.

Long-term costs of bad roads
In December, Congress boosted highway spending when it passed a $300 billion five-year transportation bill. And in recent years, U.S. highways have been in better shape, thanks to increased maintenance spending, says the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Still, our roads and bridges are less than half-funded, with a projected $1.1 trillion shortfall between 2016-2025, according to the ASCE in its report, “Failure to Act, Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future,” which was released May 10.

In spite of better pavement quality, roads are getting more congested, especially in urban areas. This will accelerate the rate of deterioration. Overall, unless we catch up on road spending, the ASCE says we can expect:

  • Increased travel time.
  • More vehicle repairs.
  • Higher cost of goods.
  • Job growth in the service industry (including more jobs for drivers as well as those who can repair broken trucks; workers can expect stagnant wages, however).
  • Higher operating costs for businesses.

Hazards in the road affect everybody. Nothing is more important to us than making sure the driver and cargo arrive at their desired destination safely. To learn more about how Choptank Transport can help you, contact us today.

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