That’s the grade our national infrastructure was given by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) this year.
While our total infrastructure includes everything from aviation to ports to wastewater, it’s the roads and bridges that truck drivers have to contend with every day.
Why are roads, bridges in such bad shape?
Quite simply, they’re old.
Most of the U.S. highway network was built during the Eisenhower administration. In Washington State, for example, 36% of bridges are over 50 years old.
Even with patches and repairs, many of these structures were not meant to last that long.
Also, we haven’t been paying for regular maintenance.
The Highway Trust Fund was set up to track regular spending on surface transportation. The money comes from a federal gas tax: 18.4 cents per gallon, 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel.
It is not tied to inflation.
It has not been raised in 23 years.
In the meantime, states have been raising their own gas taxes. As truck drivers know better than anyone, some states and cities have safer and smoother roads than others.
And we haven’t been investing in the future.
Even though the idea of improving the nation’s bridges and highways is widely popular, actually paying for these projects is famously difficult.
For decades, Congress has been stalled on the question of how to pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements. Their constituents are often interested only in the safety of their own streets: they don’t want to pay for bridges in Idaho, or guardrails in Nevada.
But truckers and motor carriers understand the importance of safe highways across the country.
Why you should care about infrastructure
This topic is important to me personally because I’ve seen the destruction and loss of life that happens on bad roads.
Truck drivers see it, too.
Potholes on interstate highways cause tractor-trailer tires to pop. Old, dangerous bridges mean last-minute route changes. City streets aren’t designed to safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and your semi-truck.
And it all leads to more traffic congestion.
Without real, consistent federal funding for infrastructure, these problems will keep getting worse.
We can’t make up for lost time in infrastructure repair.
Want to make trucking safer? Pay truck drivers by the hour.