Stepping into Twin 33 Trailers

From the June 2017 issue.

A new study found that increasing the standard length of a US twin trailer by only 1.5m could save the industry some €2.4 billion.

If you believe Dr Ronald Knipling, a 35-year safety research veteran based out of Washington DC, mainstream media have been doing the commercial road transport industry wrong for a long time – especially with view to safety technology. To prove his point, he compares the public perception of a modern-day commercial vehicle to that of the space shuttle. “Trucks and the space shuttle are opposites, but not in the way you might think,” he says. “While the space shuttle may seem futuristic, it runs on decades-old technology. Trucks, on the other hand, seem decades-old, but are powered by cutting-edge technology.”

According to Knipling, advanced safety features such as automatic braking or electronic stability control have made the US road network safer than ever before, with commercial vehicles now widely considered less accident-prone than the average passenger vehicle. “The accident rate for trucks is now one-third the rate for passenger vehicles,” he explains. “In fact, recent innovations such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning systems [now] collectively reduce thousands of crashes a year.”

To build on that hidden success story and continue to increase road safety in his home country, Knipling says the local transport industry will have to continue reducing the number of vehicles on the road, as well as overall miles driven per unit. One way to do so, he shares, is increasing the efficiency of next-generation trailing equipment – a strategy successfully put into practice in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia, where High Productivity Freight Vehicle (HPFV) design has seen a veritable boom over the past half decade. “Large truck traffic carries inherent risks, even when trucks are driven safely,” he explains. “A way to reduce that risk is to deploy fewer, higher-capacity vehicles. This would mean relatively fewer truck miles driven and less exposure to risk.”

To find out just how the HPFV trend could help reduce commercial vehicle traffic in the US, a transport lobby group asked the ex-Virginia Tech Fellow to examine how increasing the maximum length of so-called twin trailers from 28 feet (ca. 8.5m) to 33 feet (ca. 10m) would impact the local freight market.

Knipling’s 19-page analysis of the issue, aptly titled Twin 33 Foot Truck Trailers: Making US Freight Transport Safer And More Efficient, was made available for download in March and continues to stir up the North American Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) market, where the double trailer set-up is most prevalent.

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