I don’t have to tell you American roads and bridges have been falling apart for years now. All you have to do is get in your car or a truck and take a drive to see for yourself what I’m talking about: our infrastructure is in a sad state of deterioration and long overdue for improvements.
Our current highway system and infrastructure were laid down after World War II and built to 1950s specs and estimates as to what traffic density and freight patterns would be like in the coming decades. Those engineers did their best. But they were woefully short when it came to predicting the traffic volumes the roads they were building would have to handle 50 or 60 years in the future.
America in the 1950s was a very forward-looking, dynamic place. I’m quite sure they had every expectation that the infrastructure they were building would be systemically upgraded and improved and expanded in the decades to come. But that didn’t happen.
It did in other countries around the world.
In places such as Europe, Japan, and even Russia and China (unthinkable developments in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War), new, modern roadways are being built to handle not just today’s massive amounts of global freight, but the even more massive volumes of freight predicted to come in the decades ahead. We’re talking new, modern infrastructure that includes dedicated lanes for electric trucks and electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as “smart” roads, bridges and traffic systems.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., we’ve still got lead pipes we need to dig up and get rid of.
How can trucking technology, such as electric trucks and autonomous technology, advance on the backs of an infrastructure system designed in the Cold War era?
It's not a pretty picture. But thanks to the new infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, there’s help on the way. The bill is massive — which isn’t surprising given the state of disrepair our roads and bridges are in. Some highlights include:
- $110 billion for roads, bridges and “major projects
- $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
- $65 billion for power and electric grid upgrades
- $55 billion for water and sewer upgrades
- $39 billion for public transit
- $25 billion for airports
- $16.5 billion for ports and waterways.
- $11 billion for road safety
- $7.5 billion for green school buses and ferries
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure
All told, we’re looking at $402.5 billion dollars in selected investments. Each and each and every one has massive positive implications for the U.S. trucking industry.
First off, it’s obviously going to take a huge number of new vocational trucks to build all of these new projects. On top of that, the government is now firmly putting money behind the large-scale development and deployment of electric vehicles. So, right there, we’ve got two huge boosts to the North America trucking industry. Look for sales of both electric vehicles and vocational trucks to get white-hot really fast. And one of the challenges to widespread electric-truck adoption is charging and electrical infrastructure, which also will benefit from this new law.
As infrastructure projects start to be completed, truckers can look forward to better, safer, less-congested roads for long-haul and regional-haul truckers, as well as improved freight efficiencies as roads, bridges, ports and rail assets are improved. Better efficiency can help fleets serve their customers with fewer drivers — plus it's likely that autonomous technology will be an option in some areas by the time these projects are being completed. Not to mention, better highways make it easier and safer for autonomous technology to operate.
Regardless of where you stand on our current political spectrum, this infrastructure bill was long overdue. I’m glad it finally got done. And I’m very excited about the positive implications it has for the trucking industry. Boom times are ahead for trucking. Of that, I am certain.