Congress, in collaboration with the Biden Administration, is hard at work considering legislation that will shape how our economy recovers and operates in the future. Our policymakers now have the unique opportunity to rethink decades-old regulations, particularly in the shipping industry, that no longer serve their intended purpose and implement policy changes that enhance sustainability practices in private industry.
A simple and cost-free way for the federal government to make a significant impact to reduce CO2 emissions is to allow Twin 33 freight trucks to operate. It is estimated by Americans for Modern Transportation that if Twin 33s could operate in 2018, they would have saved 274 million gallons of fuel, reduced CO2 emissions by 3.12 million tons, and resulted in 3.36 billion vehicle miles traveled in the United States. Studies also revealed that Twin 33s move the same amount of goods with 18% fewer trips, which means there is less congestion on our highways.
Over 20 states, including Arizona, already recognize the positive environmental and economic impact of this type of vehicle and allow Twin 33 delivery trucks to operate. But because it’s not legal at the federal level yet, Twin 33 delivery trucks cannot cross state borders, which reduces shipping efficiency.
Twin 33s are two thirty-three-foot trailers attached to a freight truck cab. Currently, these types of trucks are only allowed to operate with two twenty-eight-foot trailers attached, even though there are other freight vehicles allowed to drive on the highway that are larger than a Twin 33. An increase in the size of a delivery vehicle doesn’t change the weight limit because operators still have to abide by the law and allow no more than 80,000 lbs of freight on the truck. Adding a conservative five feet to each trailer is incredibly beneficial to the shipping industry because not only is it more environmentally friendly, it increases cargo capacity and reduces costs for the consumer as more and more deliveries are being made across the country.
Over the past year, businesses rapidly adapted to a remote work environment and transformed their operating models to fit the growing e-commerce industry. The success of e-commerce businesses heavily depended on their shipping partners’ ability to safely and quickly deliver their products to paying customers. America’s shipping industry played one of the most important roles during the pandemic. Our cargo shippers delivered critical healthcare supplies, including medications and the coronavirus vaccine, while also keeping our economy open and operating through e-commerce.
E-commerce accounted for over 21% of all retail sales last year, which was a notable increase from 16% in 2019. In total, Americans spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants over the course of 2020, and it’s expected to continue growing. Delivery services have always been an integral part of the U.S. economy, and this fact was amplified over the past year, which is why we need to make policy changes to allow cargo shippers to operate more efficiently while also reducing carbon emissions.
Most cargo shipping companies are already striving to become more sustainable and invest in innovative operations to reduce their carbon footprint, and Congress should aid their initiative by allowing Twin 33s to operate. I encourage you to support your local congress person or senator to move to allow drivers in Arizona to cross state lines by making these delivery trucks legal at the federal level.
JP Padres is an International Trade and Logistics Consultant, and Tucson Ward 3 City Council Candidate