May 23, 2019 - 11:30am

A Path Forward for American Infrastructure


President, UPS Freight

Of all the policy issues in the news these days, infrastructure investment is unique: Everyone agrees that it’s necessary.

Leading officials have even agreed on a $2 trillion infrastructure package for roads, bridges, highways, water, the power grid and broadband internet expansion – but the details stop there.

Debate remains swirling around where that funding would come from, exactly which projects it would be used on and whether the states or the federal government should be in the lead. As commuters, consumers, and business leaders, we need Washington to find a way forward. The cost of doing nothing is just too high.

The personal toll

When we think about failing infrastructure, we often think about long commutes, annoyingly bumpy roads, and costly vehicle damage caused by potholes and other issues.

Those thoughts are warranted; the average commuter spends 42 hours in traffic annually and experiences $599 in damage to their vehicle each year from driving on roads that need repairs.

We all know that it hurts to pay big dollars for an unexpected car repair, but what about our actual physical safety? The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that key roadway improvements could save more than 3,100 lives and prevent more than 17,000 serious injuries every year.

The economic opportunity

The collective economy would benefit from improved infrastructure funding, too. Research finds under-investment costs the U.S. 900,000 jobs, and every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates more than 21,000 jobs.

Further, every single dollar invested in infrastructure more than triples itself in economic impact.

Finally, there’s also a business and efficiency case for infrastructure investment. At UPS, if each of our vehicles is delayed an extra five minutes every day due to inadequate infrastructure, it costs us $114 million annually.

Improved investment could slash time in transit for the country’s supply chains, decrease transportation costs, and give drivers less time on the road and more time at home with their families.

This means that Americans are collectively missing out on thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact, all while losing billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of productive hours every year due to the state of our country’s infrastructure system.

The path forward

In fact, the business community has done its best to make sure the Trump administration, Congress, and other decision makers know what we need out of an infrastructure deal.

The trucking industry has focused on the importance of a safe and efficient transportation network, and we’ve emphasized three priorities that must be met by any specific solution:

  1. Infrastructure investment must increase. Current funding is simply insufficient. 
    Since 2008, Congress has taken $144 billion from general government funding to cover Highway Trust Fund shortfalls.
  2. Infrastructure needs a sustainable funding mechanism.
    The American transportation system is too big and too important to survive on a one-off pay-for.
  3. Infrastructure funding must be dedicated to the infrastructure network.
    We recognize that road users, including UPS, will be part of the funding solution. Any money collected from drivers to pay for infrastructure should be used exclusively to pay for infrastructure.

The focus shouldn’t be just on bringing the transportation network into the 21st century.

We need state officials, Congress, and the White House to work together to modernize the system so it’s interconnected, multimodal, and ready for new advancements like vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies that will further improve safety and efficiency for all road users.

At the end of the day, infrastructure is bigger than any one person, company or even industry. We all will benefit from smart investments.

While we know there’s no silver bullet to solve the country’s infrastructure crisis, sound strategy and a commitment to bipartisan solutions for the American people are a good start down the road toward a modern, competitive transportation network.

Note: This article first appeared on UPS’s thought leadership blog, Longitudes, and was republished with permission.

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About the Author

About the Author

Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight.
President, UPS Freight

Rich McArdle serves as President of UPS Freight.