Possible Solution for Removing Trucks from the Highways


A recent news article discusses the idea of relieving congestion from our highways by removing tractor-trailers. This could be done by increasing the amount of maritime shipping. By shifting the freight burden from semis to boats, thousands of trucks would be taken off the highways. This is evidenced by Norfolk Tug Co., which makes tugboat runs once every week up the James River to the Port of Richmond. The owner of the company, Ed Whitmore, believes around 4,000 trucks are removed from I-64 each year because of Norfolk Tug Co.

There are several reasons why this is a good thing, and not just because it lessens the amount of pollution from the roads. According to the Department of Transportation, congestion on both roads and rails runs the cost of around 44 billion person hours and $200 billion a year. With the economy in free fall in many parts of the country, maritime shipping may seem like a way to save money. However, it also has the added benefit of taking some dangerous tractor-trailers off the roads. With longer hours worked, more stressed out truck drivers, and shorter times to reach destinations, speed, fatigue, and faulty vehicles also take their toll. Hundreds of thousands of people are maimed and killed in highway accidents every year, many of these the result of truck accidents.

However, there are some parts of a nationwide plan to revive maritime trade that may have a hard time becoming a reality. Some of these things include:

  • Lack of updated locks needed to accommodate an increase in maritime freight traffic. This will cost an estimated $125 billion.
  • While there is no tax collected on goods that move from rail and road, a harbor tax of $100 or more on international cargo containers shipped domestically may keep traffic from moving as much as it could.
  • A federal law currently limits shipping between domestic ports to ships built in the US and who have crews who are at least three-quarters American. This has kept the number of ships down in many areas.

Beyond the price of fuel and how the tractor-trailer fleet in the US contributes to global warming, using the rivers, canals, bays and coastal waters to ship many of the goods currently shipped along the already busy highways can also reduce the number of truck accidents in this country. Though there was no money given to maritime shipping in the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, the next funding debate of 2010 may see some of these maritime shipping obstacles disappear and freeing the roads from some of the most dangerous vehicles.