E-Commerce means more truck traffic in NEPA
In the past decade, Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) has rapidly become a hub for e-commerce distribution. E-commerce, or the ability to buy and sell items online, is quickly becoming one of the most popular and easiest ways for people to shop. As a result, more tractor trailers carrying online purchases are on the road than ever before. For this area especially, tractor trailer traffic has increased exponentially. Distribution and fulfillment centers continue to pop up throughout the region—across Lackawanna, Luzerne Monroe, Wayne and Schuylkill Counties, there are over 30 industrial centers, each with their own small community of businesses. Twenty-two industrial centers are located in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties alone.
Companies with distribution and fulfillment centers located in this area include Walmart, Amazon, Gatorade, PepsiCo, ABF Freight, Quaker Oats, and Hershey. Currently, Chewy.com, Patagonia, and Adidas are working on building their own fulfillment and distribution centers in the area. These companies alone have generated more than $15 million a year in revenue for the counties, townships, and school districts. Furthermore, there is approximately $7 million worth of industrial park development planned for 2019.
But with all of this development comes more tractor trailer traffic on our roadways. This in turn significantly increases the risk for tractor trailer accidents on a daily basis, especially busy highways like Interstate 81, a road which runs directly through Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2015, there were a total of 6,916 tractor trailer accidents in Pennsylvania, a number that has been on the rise since 2012, when there were 5,891 heavy truck crashes. Research from 2015 shows that there were 130 fatalities caused by heavy truck accidents on our roadways. Data from recent years shows that accidents and fatalities related to tractor trailers has not slowed. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recorded 145 fatalities caused by tractor trailer crashes in PA.
All of this truck traffic is not healthy for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s roadways, either. The northeastern part of Pennsylvania has more miles of interstate highways than any other part of the state. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has stated that roads and bridges across the country are beginning to reach their retirement age, and Northeastern PA is no exception. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is working on trying to find the best solutions to combat the increase in heavy tractor-trailer-related traffic in the area. A scheduled reconstruction of Interstate 81 is expected to help improve road conditions. This plan would include much of Lackawanna County getting a third lane in either direction. However, this massive project is not slated to begin until 2028, almost a decade away. With easy access to major United States’ cities and a whopping one third of the entire American population, the level of tractor trailer traffic throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania will only continue to rise.
Here are a few quick tips to help you safely share the road with tractor trailer drivers:
- Avoid a tractor trailer’s blind spots. Large trucks have many, and they are larger than a typical car. These blind spots include the space directly behind the truck, just behind the side mirrors on both sides of the truck, and directly in front of the truck. Always make sure you leave plenty of space between yourself and any part of a tractor trailer.
- When driving, make sure the truck driver can see you. It is always a good idea to drive with your headlights on, especially during any inclement weather and at dusk or dawn.
- Give the driver plenty of time to stop. Tractor trailers typically weigh between 35,000 and 40,000 pounds, but some can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Heavy trucks require more distance than cars to come to a complete stop at a traffic light, stop sign, or in traffic.
- Keep an eye out for turning trucks. Turning commercial trucks safely takes time and lots of space. Remain cautious of a turning truck, and always leave enough space between you and the truck.
- Most importantly, use common sense. All drivers and commercial truck operators are supposed to follow the same rules of the road. However, not all do. Remain alert at all times, check your mirrors consistently, and avoid distractions while driving such as texting or talking on the phone.
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