15 Feb Punxsutawney Phil’s Shadow Returns: Forecasting the Next 20 Years of Pennsylvania Trucking
Perhaps one of the most fun parts of living in Pennsylvania is the charming culture, not the least of which is that we have the nation’s great Oracle. And by that I mean Punxsutawney Phil. The legendary groundhog of Pennsylvania has his mythic origin dating back hundreds of years, and he’s the most iconic image of the season. Sorry cupid.
Part of the tradition of Groundhog Day is forecasting the future. Last year, Blue Eagle made some predictions about the industry and in the spirit of the holiday we’re going to repeat ourselves, with the shadow of a chance that we’re in the know about what’s next for the trucking and logistics industry.
Specifically, we looked at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plans leaning into the year 2045 and assimilated data that we broke down for our audience’s convenience. In the words of Yasminn Gramian of the PennDOT, “Freight transportation is increasingly driven by highly sophisticated logistics and technology. State DOTs must be positioned to provide the infrastructure, connections, and system operations in ways that align with the dynamic ever-changing freight industry to the greatest extent feasible.”
Our three favorite takeaways from this projected plan are as follows:
- Anticipation of the adoption of EV and autonomous vehicles
- The use of a Hershey’s Bar to explain trucking logistics and its future
- The cross-state investment into the Appalachian region
Interestingly, PennDOT’s summary of future infrastructure plan notes that key decision making points were determined in correlation with the fallout surrounding the logistical challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether this driving motivation and subset of expectations proves a trustworthy foundation for spending is a question we’ll relegate to Phil, but in the meantime, highlights outlined in the PennDOT’s plan include the following:
- Electric Vehicles (EV) and Connected/ Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) Vehicle technology is also changing and will likely change at an accelerated rate over the five-year horizon established by the 2045 Freight Movement Plan.
- In the past year, vehicle manufacturers and the federal government have each taken actions to facilitate an expansion of electric vehicles available to buyers in the U.S….The role of electric vehicles for trucking is still to be determined, yet will need to be understood as federal, state, and local transportation agencies may have an early role in the establishment of charging stations, etc. CAV technology is underway and being tested in various venues and applications. This may have dramatic implications for freight transportation in response to the ongoing challenge of truck driver shortages.
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of this projective plan was the implementation of explaining projected expenditures by PennDOT through the lens of the logistics of making a candy bar. Only in the home state of the Hershey’s Bar would the DOT use the life cycle of a sweet to illustrate the complexities of the logistical structure. For our reader’s benefit the image is included below:
Another significant highlight of the projected PennDOT outline includes investment in a cross-state capacity to facilitate better highway systems for Appalachia. This region has been highly underserved historically and represents some of the most impoverished areas of t
he country. We commend the focusing of resources in aiding and supporting this region:
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) https://www.arc.gov/about-the-appalachian-regional-commission/ An economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region, ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia. The Appalachian region within Pennsylvania includes 52 of its 67 counties. ○ Early in 2022, Pennsylvania was awarded $17 million in federal Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) funding as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The ADHS is a 3,090-mile network of highways linking the region to national Interstates and has generated economic development across Appalachia.