Specifically, this book identifies research needs with regard to policies and strategies relating to the use of the transportation system and to assist infrastructure owners in adapting to climate change; focuses on research programs that could provide guidance to officials at all levels responsible for policies that affect the use of surface transportation infrastructure and its operation, maintenance, and construction; and aims to help officials begin to adapt the infrastructure to climate changes that are already occurring or that are expected to occur in the next several decades.
Report Summary published in the October-September 2004 issue of the TR News.
In 1991, Congress placed a freeze on maximum truck weights and dimensions. Some safety groups were protesting against the safety implications of increased truck size and weight, and the railroads were objecting to the introduction of vehicles they deemed to have an unfair advantage. Railroads, unlike trucking firms, must pay for the capital costs of their infrastructure. The railroads contend that large trucks do not pay sufficient taxes to compensate for the highway damage they cause and the environmental costs they generate. Although Congress apparently hoped it had placed a cap on maximum truck dimensions in 1991, such has not proven to be the case.
Carriers operating under specific conditions have been able to seek and obtain special exceptions from the federal freeze by appealing directly to Congress (without any formal review of the possible consequences), thereby encouraging additional firms to seek similar exceptions. In the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, Congress requested a TRB study to review federal policies on commercial vehicle dimensions.
The committee that undertook the study that resulted in Special Report 267 found that regulatory analyses of the benefits and costs of changes in truck dimensions are hampered by a lack of information. Regulatory decisions on such matters will always entail a degree of risk and uncertainty, but the degree of uncertainty surrounding truck issues is uunusually high and unnecessary. The committee concluded that the uncertainty could be alleviated if procedures were established for carrying out a program oof basic and applied research, and if evaluation and monitoring were permanent components of the administration of trucking regulations.
The committee recommended immediate changes in federal regulations that would allow for a federally supervised permit program. The program would permit the operation of vehicles heavier than would normally be allowed, provided that the changes applied only to vehicles with a maximum weight of 90,000 pounds, double trailer configurations with each trailer up to 33 feet, and an overall weight limit governed by the federal bridge formula. Moreover, enforcement of trucks operating under such a program should be strengthened, and the permits should require that users pay the costs they occasion. States should be free to choose whether to participate in the permit program. Those that elected to do so would be required to have in place a program of bridge management, safety monitoring, enforcement, and cost recovery, overseen by the federal government.
The fundamental problem involved in evaluating proposals for changes in truck dimensions is that their effects can often only be estimated or modeled. The data available for estimating safety consequences in particular are inadequate and probably always will be. Thus, the committee that conducted this study concluded that the resulting analyses usually involve a high degree of uncertainty. What is needed is some way to evaluate potential changes through limited and carefully controlled trials, much as proposed new drugs are tested before being allowed in widespread use.
The committee recommended that a new independent entity be created to work with private industry in evaluating new concepts and recommending changes to regulatory agencies. Limited pilot tests would be required, which would need to be carefully designed to avoid undue risks and ensure proper evaluation. Special vehicles could be allowed to operate under carefully controlled circumstances, just as oversize and overweight vehicles are allowed to operate under special permits in many states. Changes in federal laws and regulations would be required to allow states to issue such permits on an expanded network of highways, under the condition that a rigorous program of monitoring and evaluation be instituted.Special Report 269 Summary
At the request of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), TRB/the Marine Board convened a committee to investigate and evaluate alternative approaches for structuring cooperative research programs in naval engineering. ONR is concerned about having both research products in "total ship design" and designers who are capable of designing complex warships according to this approach. In a fast-track study, the committee evaluated four approaches to structuring a cooperative research program and provided its assessment of these options. Each model was assessed in terms of its ability to balance the perspective of the various stakeholders (Navy, shipbuilding industry, and universities) in the development of a research agenda, the production of useful research, and the ability to attract students into the field.Special Report 266 Summary
Understanding how and why teen motor vehicle crashes happen is key to developing countermeasures to reduce their number. Applying this understanding to the development of prevention strategies holds significant promise for improving safety but many of these efforts are thwarted by a lack of evidence as to which prevention strategies are most effective. Preventing Teen Motor Crashes presents data from a multidisciplinary group that shared information on emerging technology for studying, monitoring, and controlling driving behavior. The book provides an overview of the factual information that was presented, as well as the insights that emerged about the role researchers can play in reducing and preventing teen motor crashes.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue, Long-Term Health and Highway Safety assesses the state of knowledge about the relationship of such factors as hours of driving, hours on duty, and periods of rest to the fatigue experienced by truck and bus drivers while driving and the implications for the safe operation of their vehicles. This report evaluates the relationship of these factors to driversâ€™ health over the longer term, and identifies improvements in data and research methods that can lead to better understanding in both areas.
Public investments in new, long-lived transportation infrastructure can be risky because of uncertainty about future demand and the development of new technologies and competing transportation services. Decisionmakers in interregional corridors face the added challenge of having to coordinate investments across multiple jurisdictions. The report recommends actions to reduce this uncertainty and create stronger institutional means for developing the countryâ€™s interregional corridors.
TR News 303 features an article on Interregional Travel: A New Perspective for Policy Making.
A video about the research is now available:
At the 2016 TRB Annual Meeting, January 10-14, 2016, a session entitled Interregional Travel: Policymaking from a New Perspective was webcast live. These videos provide an overview of various components of the project.
Part 1: Overview of Project Scope
Part 2: Data and Information Needs
Part 3: Intercity Bus Operations
Question and Answer Session
Presenters:Tom Deen Nancy McGuckin Joe Schweiterman
Moderated by: Martin Wachs
The committee developed a series of conclusions and recommendations in five areas--the value of the NNR-NE, the state of science and technology supporting naval engineering, the wholeness of the NNR-NE research portfolio, opportunities for enhancement of research and education, and the effectiveness of the NNR-NE initiative.
The report's recommendations are addressed to the administrators of the NNR-NE initiative and of ONR.