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Transplace: Bringing Shippers and Carriers Together in Lasting Relationships

As Congress considers how to spend the Highway Trust Fund by May 31 and what language to put into a renewed spending bill, the trucking and the railroad industries are at odds. Trucking wants language to allow for bigger trucks; the rail industry doesn’t because that could divert business. Meanwhile there is the ongoing problem of decaying infrastructure on which all transportation depends. So here we go again, as President Reagan would say, listening to bickering about which mode of transportation is greener and safer. Indeed, the railroad industry and the trucking industry have waged a love-hate relationship since rubber-tired vehicles began hauling freight and competing with the railroads.

The real problem at hand is that the transportation business is segmented into modal silos. For both trucking and rail, operating and capital costs have continually risen while, until recently, excess capacity has kept rates and profit margins low. Each industry has had to constantly find ways to improve productivity. All low-hanging fruit has been harvested so the battle intensifies. Complicating matters is that not only is the transportation business segmented, so is its regulation, which is divided among a variety of Federal, State, and local agencies. And Congressional committees have their own parochial interests.

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April 22, 2015