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Policy Statement 276 - Integrated Truck and Highway Design

 

Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on February 13, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a program in which:

  • Truck vehicle characteristics and highway design are coordinated through joint research activities, such as the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. ASCE urges Congress, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, state transportation agencies, and the trucking industry to form these strong cooperative relationships.
  • New and reconstructed roadways are structurally, geometrically, and sustainably designed to support economic growth and global competitiveness while considering safety of truck drivers and passenger vehicle occupants. To ensure safe operation of the system, factors such as modern truck sizes, weights, loads, land use contracts, and expected interactions with passenger vehicles should be considered in the selection of design criteria like lane widths and turning radii.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems and emerging technologies are integrated, to the extent possible, into truck and roadway systems to ensure safe, efficient, reliable and secure trucking operations and movement of freight, to assist in monitoring trucking activities, to provide real-time information, and to enforce driver and vehicle regulations. Fewer conflicts with passenger vehicles due to fewer trucks exiting and re-entering at weigh stations through implementation of automatic vehicle identification and weigh-in-motion technologies, improved routing decisions using real-time traffic conditions, and better vehicle and load tracking via GPS monitoring are examples of improvements that can be leveraged across the system.
  • Truck designers consider the effects of vehicle design, configuration, and suspension systems on pavement and bridge performance and the effects of these factors on the safe operation of the vehicle in mixed traffic. Congress should encourage truck designers and purchasers to incorporate these benefits into the vehicle on the road.
  • Characteristics on freight movement in dense suburban and urban areas and include features to ensure the safety of people walking, biking, and driving. 
  • Urban street designers recognize freight needs for access to loading areas, especially in already developed areas where travel and loading space is constrained.
  • Industry and government should ensure that trucks operating on highways obey legal size and weight limitations and are safely maintained and operated, and that driver regulations are strictly enforced. Trucks operating in dense areas should follow efficient paths on authorized routes to minimize congestion, environmental, and infrastructure impacts and safety risk to other travelers.
  • Sufficient funding is provided to accommodate necessary infrastructure improvements for federal, state, or local roads when federal and state governments adopt changes in truck size and weight limits. 
  • Connected and autonomous freight trucks are designed and operated to ensure safety of the highway users, efficient routing, and reduced air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. Design of these trucks should be coordinated with the highway design to ensure any supportive infrastructure is designed and installed.  

Issue   

Truck sizes and weights need to be viewed in the context of increasing commerce and global competition. Continuing changes in cargo movement caused by the deregulation of the truck, railroad and aviation industries and the growth in international trade have led to changes in truck size, weight and operation. Transportation infrastructure systems need to keep pace with those changes. Thus, while the use of larger and heavier trucks improves the productivity of the trucking industry and reduces the cost of transporting commodities, such vehicles also will affect highway operation and safety, and accelerate deterioration of highway pavements and bridges unless changes to highway designs, vehicle designs, and vehicle operations also change. 

In light of the steady growth of e-commerce, highway transportation infrastructure is expected to support higher truck volumes and increased interactions with smaller passenger vehicles. Operational and safety issues as well as highway pavement and geometric design aspects of mixing large trucks and passenger vehicles will continue to be important considerations for highway administrators and designers.

State weight limits may not differ from the federal maximums on the Interstate System except where "grandfather" provisions allow heavier combinations. Realistically, these trucks must also use highways that are not a part of the Interstate System for access. Many miles on the National Highway System do not meet the geometric standards to qualify for the national network of highways designated for use by large trucks. There are many miles of state and local roads that are even more deficient in meeting the standards of geometric design and structural capability. States often balance the need for access to widely dispersed industrial and commercial sites with the need to protect structurally inadequate road segments.

Advanced technologies can be integrated into roadway and truck design and operation to enhance system security, safety, efficiency and reliability. System security, efficiency, and performance can be promoted through real-time monitoring and control of freight and truck movement. These advanced systems can also promote compliance and assist in the enforcement of truck and driver regulations to preserve safe highway operation. The use, acceptance, standardization, and funding to leverage these systems varies greatly. Their use must consider the proprietary needs of private businesses and security of the data that is collected. 

Rationale

Increases in truck sizes and weights negatively impact the structural life and geometric adequacy of the present road network as well as roadway life cycle costs and maintenance. With increased truck sizes and weights all highway users will experience reduced service levels, delays, increased vehicle wear and operation costs, and reduced safety.  These negative impacts must be balanced against productivity gains and reduced costs for commodities and goods and the full costs to highway users and system maintainers included in a benefit-cost analysis. Advanced truck fleet management, monitoring and enforcement systems should be incorporated into vehicle and highway system design.

Highways and trucks can be designed and operated to improve their interaction, protect the highway investment and enhance safety. Industry and government cooperation in research, testing and evaluation can identify ways to improve trucking efficiency and safety while protecting the public investment in the highway system. This will result in a safer system that promotes economic growth.  

ASCE Policy Statement 276   
First Approved in 1981    
 


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