The current manner of highway freight movement in Texas — for a variety of reasons — is not sustainable:
- Growing volumes of harmful truck emissions foul the air and threaten our health.
- Increasing amounts of cargo on an already-congested network mean costly delays for shippers and higher costs for consumers.
- Declining levels of transportation funding make it increasingly difficult to repair the roadway wear and tear caused by heavy trucks.
Most experts agree: the problem has become so severe that nothing short of a game-changing development can make a meaningful difference. Fortunately, that development may be on the horizon.
Picture a system in which transporters powered by electric motors carry trailers from trucks and containers from ships on an elevated track above existing highway right-of-way, safely separated from passenger traffic. Picture a system that produces less air pollution, less traffic congestion, less wear and tear on the roads, and less noise. Clearly, it’s a more sustainable scenario, one that would add an essential new link in the transport chain of a trucking industry suffering from a severe nationwide shortage of drivers.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It’s a system currently in development by Freight Shuttle International (FSI), applying technology developed at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) by Assistant Agency Director Steve Roop. Financed entirely from private sources and requiring no public funding, the system would provide low-cost, time-certain delivery of freight, and at the same time answer the state’s need for safe and efficient transportation.
The guideways carrying the freight could be built on existing right-of-way that would be leased by the state to FSI. The lease would produce new revenue for the state at a time when available public funding for highways is diminishing.
“The Freight Shuttle System is going to address three urgent needs we now have in freight movement,” Roop says. “It’s going to make it safer, cleaner and more economical.”
The system promises safety benefits by removing thousands of trucks from the highways, thereby reducing the chance of fatal crashes involving those trucks (one in nine traffic fatalities results from a collision involving a large truck). The system will also eliminate the pollution created by the exhaust from those trucks, and be more economical by sharply reducing the cost of moving goods.
“And the benefits don’t stop there,” Roop continues. “The system will create thousands of jobs, it will reduce highway congestion, and it will make millions in new revenue for the state — all without costing taxpayers a single dime.”
To become more sustainable, the freight transportation industry needs a game-changing development. And if plans in Texas come to pass, it’s a whole new game.