In the past, I have advocated the use of public warehousing to stage freight around major metropolitan areas. We are seeing significant growth in this effort and it will eventually have three major benefits, among others. We should be able to agree upon the economic benefits derived from a reduction in air pollution, less congested roads and a probable source for linehaul drivers.
Is it possible to virtually eliminate air pollution in urban areas? The goal is to provide a solution that is cost neutral, environmentally friendly, does not disrupt other industries and provides jobs. As an economist, I can provide solutions that have choices. I'm sure there is data to show that more energy is used in densely populated areas.
As you read this, note that alternative fuels are part of the solution as well. Many know that the use of combustible materials along with gasoline and diesel fuel does reduce pollution, but there are more aggressive reduction technologies available.
The key to the reduction in pollution is the use of equipment that relies less upon fossil fuels and more upon alternative fuels such as hydrogen and electricity. Equipment manufacturers are making progress in providing hybrid-electric vehicles as well as hydrogen-powered vehicles. In addition, the broader commercial sale of all-electric vehicles with an operating range of 300 to 400 mi. is very near.
The use of electric-powered vehicles in urban areas will require the use of lighter GVW commercial vehicles and the use of automobiles that are passenger-oriented, not trip-oriented. That means there will need to be a source for overnight charging of these vehicles that is not replacing one form of pollution with another. My suggestion is to provide nuclear power. Other countries have led the way, but we are woefully lacking in this effort.
Not only would electric power be used by individuals, but electric or hydrogen power would be required for commercial vehicles operating within designated areas. Where necessary, Federal permits could be granted for larger GVW vehicles using fossil fuels.
To accomplish this, freight has to be broken down into shipment sizes and routings that utilize the lower GVW equipment. Staging freight at the outskirts of the affected areas is a real solution and is being utilized today. I suggest you look at what is happening in Carlisle, PA, as a prime example.
Through the use of more efficient routing algorithms that take into account a need to minimize the number of stops, retain freight compatibility and fully utilize hours available for receiver access and delivery personnel, the system can significantly reduce the number of vehicles in congested areas. This is an assumption since I have no pre nor post data to analyze; however, I am confident of my assessment.
The final opportunity is to provide jobs. Urban areas usually have a supply of college students and other labor-force entrants who need to supplement income. I know firsthand from working for McLean Trucking as a casual in my college days. For me, that was a plum job that paid for my education. There's no reason to expect the times have changed in that respect. At the same time, the industry is training and attracting personnel to the profession of freight handling and driving. Now we have more potential linehaul drivers.
This requires a task force of city planners, trucking companies, distributors and legislators to develop guidelines for implementation. As with the development of additional sources for fossil fuels, it will take 10 years to see major change. If we do nothing, it will take much longer.