FedEx CEO uses climate hearing to promote twin 33s

March 18, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The chief executive officer of FedEx is touting investment in America’s infrastructure and the approval of longer trailers as ways to combat climate change.

Frederick W. Smith, FedEx CEO, made his pitch to lawmakers during the House hearing “The Business Case for Climate Solutions” on Wednesday, March 17.

“Regarding surface transportation, we must focus on creating sound and efficient trucking policies while also investing in infrastructure,” Smith testified. “As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. trucking industry is a critical link in maintaining supply chains, accommodating rapid growth in e-9 commerce, and meeting fast-changing consumer demands.”

Smith also used the opportunity to convince lawmakers that increasing the length of trailers would benefit the climate.

“The industry remains stuck with aging infrastructure and dated federal equipment standards for twin 28-foot trailers that have not been changed since 1982,” Smith wrote. “We must continue to advocate for commonsense, environmentally friendly solutions to maximize trucking efficiency and increase environmental gains. One such commonsense approach with immediate environmental benefits would be a modest 5-foot increase to twin 28 trailers – not an increase to the weight limits. This increased capacity in our nation’s transportation system could reduce annual fuel use by 225 million gallons per year and reduce carbon emissions by 3 million tons per year, all at no cost to road safety or taxpayers.”

This is not the first time, FedEx has pushed for the allowance of twin 33s. In 2019, a coalition that includes Amazon, FedEx, UPS and XPO Logistics wrote lawmakers to advocate for the change.

OOIDA opposes allowing twin 33 trailers.

Following the FedEx coalition letter, OOIDA and a dozen other stakeholders pushed back against the effort.

“Any change overturning current federal weight laws allowing heavier or longer tractor-trailers would have detrimental impacts on our national, county and local infrastructure, costing billions of dollars in additional bridge and pavement costs,” the OOIDA coalition wrote.

More recently, OOIDA addressed the issue in a letter to the Biden administration.

“Allowing longer combination trailers, known as twin 33s, on our roads would benefit only a handful of large corporate motor carriers but would have a negative impact on safety, infrastructure and the rest of the trucking industry,” OOIDA wrote.

A move toward electric

Much of the hearing focused on a shift toward electric vehicles.

Shameek Konar, Pilot Flying J chief executive officer, testified on behalf of Natso, telling lawmakers that the best way to achieve that shift is through a market-oriented approach.

“If Congress wants to incentivize increased investment in and consumption of more environmentally friendly alternative fuels, it must keep in mind this fundamental market reality,” Konar testified. “Motorists and truck drivers do not purchase products because fuel retailers sell them. Fuel retailers sell products and services because our customers purchase them.”

Konar added that government should provide a “bridge” through incentive mechanisms in the early states when the stand-alone economics do not warrant investment. He said government should also provide a policy framework that supports the provision of electricity and a level playing field for the retailers to compete.

All of the written testimony and a video of the hearing can be found here. LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.