America needs a more efficient trucking industry

    Last month, a honking motorcade of trucks drove around the U.S. Capitol flashing signs that declared, "When Trucks Stop, America Stops." They were driving home the point that commercial traffic is vital to the American economy, and no industry is more affected by rising energy costs.

    As costs rise for the trucking industry, our costs rise. The additional price of the truckers’ fuel raises the price of our food, health care, manufacturing, retail, waste removal and other goods and services.

    The answer is not to burden these businesses with additional taxes for the carbon dioxide they release. Technological advances can mitigate the fuel crisis just as effectively as tax increases. Congress should encourage the development and introduction of technologies that will reduce fuel costs and consumption.
    In this case, the technologies we need already exist. We just need research to adapt them to the trucking industry. Everyone has seen hybrid cars, which combine gas and electric motors for a powerful and efficient engine. Hybrid technology can be even more effective in trucks, because trucks consume so much more fuel.

    A hybrid engine in a tractor-trailer, for example, will reduce its fuel consumption by 10 percent. While that may not sound impressive, the fuel savings from one hybrid tractor-trailer is equal to 250 hybrid cars. Utility trucks typically drive short distances to and from a work site, but sit idle for hours while onsite. A plug-in hybrid truck could save 60 percent of a utility truck’s fuel by reducing the fuel needed to get to and from the site and eliminating the need for fuel onsite.

    Moreover, waste removal vehicles currently get between three to five miles per gallon.  By relying on hybrid technologies, these trucks can more than double their efficiency.

    In addition, developing these technologies will have benefits beyond fuel savings. By making America’s trucks more efficient, we will make our goods and services more affordable and become leaders in these new technologies. Like the U.S., the world is struggling with rising fuel costs. Their trucking fleets, like ours, are currently powered by combustion engines. If American companies are the first to commercialize these products, they can export their technologies worldwide.

    This is why I am introducing legislation to advance research into, and encourage the development of, plug-in hybrid trucks. The House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment has already scheduled a hearing to discuss my bill on Tuesday, June 10.

    I expect testimonies from experts in related fields to discuss the merits of the legislation and other ways to pull together existing technology and bring fuel efficient products to market. Unlike a tax, my bill will reduce fuel consumption and encourage advancements to allow our economy to grow.

    The trucking industry is one example of how technology, not taxes, can solve our energy crisis. We have to focus on our economy while we battle climate change. If we over-regulate our businesses, we will cripple our economic development, and watch as China and India race past us – sputtering greenhouse gases along the way. Conversely, Congress can create incentives that encourage the development of new technologies to reduce our emissions, foster economic development, and reduce emissions in the developing world – all while American manufacturers export their innovative and energy-saving technologies worldwide.


    Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) represents Wisconsin’s Fifth District and lives in Menomonee Falls.

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