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Cortes: Sustainable trucking is needed now

by | Jul 22, 2021



Bob Cortes

The e-commerce boom was building before the pandemic and exploded over the past year. For the past decade, Americans have slowly shifted from shopping on Main Street to online retailers, where they can purchase lower-cost goods with the click of a mouse. The transition to e-commerce greatly impacted the shipping industry that’s directly tied to the success of online retailers who rely on shipping and logistics companies like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon to safely and efficiently deliver their products to customers. 

Those shipping and logistics companies rely heavily on trucks to move freight, including e-commerce deliveries, around the country. Trucks are responsible for transporting 71% of all the freight in America and as bulky but lightweight e-commerce deliveries comprise more and more of that freight, outdated regulations are decreasing the efficiency of those truck fleets.  

The federal government regulates trucks that cross state lines but those regulations have not been updated in decades. There is a simple update that would significantly increase the efficiency of the country’s truck fleet, but it will take an act of Congress to implement it.  The best part is that it is a solution that has been tested and proven in the state of Florida for years.  

A “twin 33” is a freight truck with two connecting thirty-three foot trailers. These “twin 33s” have been operating on the Florida Turnpike, one of America’s busiest highways where over one million users drive each day, since 2010. In that time, twin 33s have safely driven on Florida’s highways for almost 1.5 million miles with zero accidents. As an added benefit, because of the increased capacity, there are fewer trucks on our already-crowded highways.  

For over a decade, Twin 33s are also significantly more sustainable than the current federally legal twenty-eight foot trailers. The modestly larger cargo shipping truck has saved over 2,400 gallons of fuel a week since operating in our state. That significantly reduces CO2 emissions Floridians are exposed to, and if twin 33s were permitted to cross state lines, fuel consumption would be reduced by 255 million gallons each year and 6.3 billion pounds of CO2 would be saved. 

Congress also needs to modernize this outdated regulation that was enacted before e-commerce existed to reduce prices for consumers. The increased capacity that twin 33s would generate has the potential to reduce shipping costs by $2.8 billion with quicker delivery times. 

Current federal regulation only permits two twenty-eight feet trailers, which significantly reduces the shipping industry’s carrying capacity. Online packages are unique since they are lighter, bulkier, and packaged in various materials, meaning that trucks fill to max capacity well before reaching the existing federal weight limit that would remain the same if these modestly longer trucks became federally legal. 

Our state already recognizes that Twin 33s are safer, more sustainable, and can provide e-commerce businesses with better and lower-cost delivery services. As the former Governor and current Senator, Rick Scott understands the benefits that these trucks have for our shipping industry and roads. As a former State House Speaker and current Senator, Marco Rubio also has an excellent grasp of our transportation issues.  I hope that both will help advocate for  modernizing our federal trucking laws to permit the use of twin 33s across the country. 

Bob Cortes is a former state representative who represented House District 30 and served as Vice Chair of the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure.

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