Freight transportation enables economic activity, and trucking is a key element of freight transportation. The condition and performance of the highway system are crucial to the efficiency and effectiveness of trucking. Recent growth in truck traffic is placing greater burdens on the highway system.
The economic vitality of the Nation relies on the U.S. transportation network. It supports local businesses, interstate commerce, and international trade. At the same time, the American public relies on freight transportation to provide access to goods and services produced by businesses both here and abroad.
Although commercial vehicles currently account for less than 10 percent of all vehicle-miles of travel, truck traffic is growing faster than passenger vehicle traffic and is having major effects on intercity highways. Trucks already account for more than 30 percent of traffic on about 20 percent of Interstate System mileage. This share is projected to significantly increase based on a projection that the demand for freight transportation will double over the next 20 years. This growth in trucking is stimulated by economic growth as well as factors such as increased demand for just-in-time deliveries, major reductions in railroad track mileage and decentralization of business establishments.
Trucking may be seen by the traveling public as an unwanted competitor for space on congested highways, but that same public depends on trucking to meet the logistics needs of businesses and households. Highway condition and performance, including congestion, have a significant effect on the costs and efficiency of trucking. The importance of freight transportation in general and trucking in particular is increasingly recognized by agencies at all levels of government and will be the subject of extensive analyses and policy considerations in the years ahead.