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Idaho truck traffic expected to grow 74 percent by 2020

Large truck travel in Idaho is projected to increase by 74 percent by the year 2020, the fourth highest rise in the country. According to a recent study conducted by The Road Information Project (TRIP), a coalition of transportation groups, 205 million tons of truck will travel through Idaho in 2020, compared to the 118 million tons that traveled through the state in 2003.

According to ITD Ports of Entry Manager Alan Frew, Idaho is a through state, not necessarily an origin or a destination for products. The state has several interstate highways that connect markets north, south, east and west.

“Freight mobility models have estimated that the freight will be coming from the Pacific Rim through seaports close to us, in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Everett, Wash., into the interior,” Frew said. “A lot of that freight will be moving by truck because trucks have more flexibility than rail.”

According to the study, commercial trucking is expected to increase nationwide by 49 percent by 2020, creating a substantial impact on highway safety, traffic congestion and economic development.

TRIP conducted the study in response to concerns about increased danger of crashes between trucks and more-vulnerable cars. Although truck-related fatalities have dropped nearly 11 percent since 1990, an average of 4,500 people die nationally each year in accidents involving trucks and passenger vehicles.

Frew, however, does not translate these increases in truck traffic into an accelerated accident and fatality rate, “largely due to the joint efforts of ITD, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Idaho State Police working together to improve roadway safety, educate drivers about cars and trucks sharing the road and an emphasis on the safety of drivers, vehicles and loads.”

Part of the reason for this increase in truck traffic, according to Frew, is the “just-in-time delivery” phenomenon. “When a company orders a product, everything goes into assembly on a just-in-time basis. Trucks have become rolling warehouses out there on our highways.”

Idaho currently ranks 35th in truck-tons traveling through the state. Its 2020 projection ranks 36th.

The four states with higher projected increases in truck travel are Montana (77 percent), Arizona (78 percent), Utah (82 percent) and Nevada (85 percent). California has the highest totals with 1.3 billion tons in 2003 and almost 2 billion tons projected for 2020.

The study also indicates that in Idaho an average of 26 non-truck occupants were killed in accidents involving trucks annually from 1998 to 2002. This ranks 38th among the 50 states. Texas ranks the highest with an average of 409 deaths.