Innovation does not exist in silos. Good ideas can be made even better by integrating other factors. Consider the mobile moving and storage containers offered by the company PODS that have become commonplace in many places around the country in the last 20 years. The company can expand and create more jobs, but state-of-the-art shipping is elemental to our success, and trucking regulations are lagging.
Like so many of today’s product and service innovations, PODS tapped market demand for customized options and flexibility. Few moves involve consolidating a six-bedroom house into a huge truck for a cross-country haul. A single person moving to another apartment in the same area, a family that is consolidating personal items for a short-term home renovation, or parents unloading old furniture as the kids set up their own households are more common moving and storage situations. More and more, consumers dictate product and service offerings rather than select from a finite number of options. It is all about efficiency.
In this marketplace, the means of transporting cargo needs to be more flexible and efficient than ever. Technology has become invaluable in this challenge. However, Congress can take a simple and long overdue step to better align the capabilities of moving and storage companies such as PODS with trucking regulations: Allow the operation of Twin 33-foot trailers in all 50 states.
To date, 28-foot tandem trailers, or Twin 28s, can transport goods on the interstate highway network in all 50 states. Twin 33s, on the other hand, can only operate in portions of 20 states. This distinction persists not for any compelling policy reasons. In fact, it is just the opposite. The policy rationales for having Twin 33s make deliveries in all 50 states are stronger than ever. As is so often the case, policymakers simply need to respond to market dynamics already in motion, literally.
The extra five feet on each trailer could revolutionize domestic cargo transport in all industries, but moving and storage operations would be especially well served by this change. If Twin 33s could operate nationwide, an additional mobile storage container could be added to each trailer. That represents a compelling efficiency increase of 33 percent. The multiple effects would be huge. Commonsense use of trailer space would allow small loads to get where they are needed with maximum efficiency.
Companies and customers alike benefit from efficiency. It not only means better service but also reduced costs. Companies use some cost savings for capital equipment upgrades and other needs, but they pass some savings on to customers creating a virtuous cycle. PODS could more easily thrive as a 50-state operation with the use of Twin 33s.
At the same time, the case for Twin 33s transcends logistical considerations in the moving and storage sector. The nation’s roads are in worse condition and more congested than ever. This is getting more expensive every day. The American Transportation Research Institute estimates that wasted fuel, paying drivers extra to sit in traffic, and late deliveries cost the trucking industry more than $63 billion each year. While there is agreement among elected officials everywhere that the country needs a massive investment infrastructure, it will take years. In the interim, we must do all we can to reduce congestion and curtail the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Twin 33s would immediately address these issues.
Congestion is not only a costly inconvenience. Increasingly, it is a safety concern. On that score, Twin 33s represent a safer way to transports more goods. The more crowded the roadways, the greater the chances for accidents. As the population grows, we will need to ship more items to more people every day. We cannot change this. Nor should we want less economic growth. What we can do is ship these items in a way that reduces both hazards and headaches. Including Twin 33s in the truck configuration nationally could mean 4,500 fewer accidents a year.
In addition to the indirect benefits of less congestion, Twin 33s are themselves a safer and better option for shipping. We have enough data to conclude that Twin 33s are less prone to jackknifing and rolling over. Their crash rate is among the lowest in the trucking arena. In 2014, large trucks traveled 9.2 percent of all U.S. vehicle miles, while only accounting for 2.9 percent of accidents involving injury.
PODS is one of thousands of companies around the country that would benefit by opening up all of America’s highways to Twin 33s. And when manufacturers, suppliers of parts, consumer products and others can more easily and efficiently move their products, everyone benefits. The trucking sector is eager to be part of the solution of keeping up with consumer demand despite overburdened roadways. Congress should get out of the way of adopting this commonsense solution.
John B. Koch is the CEO of PODS Enterprises.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.