Two years later, reason to celebrate trucks’ move to Maine interstates where they belong

Posted Jan. 21, 2014, at 2:24 p.m.

It’s been two years since Maine’s federal interstates, such as I-95, were opened up to all commercial truck traffic. I’m here to tell you that it has produced every single benefit that Sen. Susan Collins promised, and then some.

Has safety improved on Maine’s roads? Yes.

Has Maine’s regional competitiveness improved? Absolutely.

Has it improved the efficiency of commerce in Maine and allowed our company to grow as the Maine economy grows? You bet.

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It’s not only our trucking company that is celebrating two year after this law, authored by Collins, helped remove the heaviest trucks from our side roads and allowed them on the interstate. There are many other industries and individuals who have been positively impacted by this: Shippers have been able to utilize a more efficient supply chain; heavy industry in Maine has been able to be more competitive, with cheaper inbound and outbound freight; and municipalities are now seeing less congestion with truck traffic diverted to our highways.

Setting aside the clear safety benefits, advocating for this change two years ago seemed to me to be an obvious exercise in basic economics. Our transportation company has seen growth in the past two years between 25-30 percent, which is in response to the much-needed growth in the Maine economy that we service. In the absence of Collins’ provision, we would not be able to offer the same cost-effective and reliable service to our customers, which would likely lessen the growth Maine has seen in the industries we serve.

We hear a lot these days from people who claim to have the magic formula for creating jobs — whether they are in the public or private sector. Truth is, demand creates jobs, and with economic (and job) growth comes the need for an efficient supply chain. Thanks to Collins’ vision on transportation productivity, Maine is in a much better position to capitalize on economic improvements. Our company’s growth, in mileage and in hiring additional employees, is in direct response to a greater demand for the services we offer created by an improving economy.

Regardless of the significant economic growth this has encouraged in Maine, I can’t talk to anyone about this issue without talking about safety. When Collins was fighting for this provision in Congress, this was always a top concern. In fact, our company was asked to analyze the safety implications of a trip from Hampden to Houlton comparing travel on the interstate to using secondary roads — primarily U.S. Route 2 — and we were more than willing to oblige. As you can imagine, the comparison wasn’t even close when considering the ability on I-95 to avoid school buses (we encountered 10 on our Route 2 test run), traffic lights (30), school crossings (9), railroad tracks (4), hospitals (4) and crosswalks (86) just by allowing commercial truck traffic to use the safer road.

Since the change in December 2011, not only have large truck safety statistics improved by allowing commercial truck traffic to avoid downtowns like Bangor and Freeport, but we must also consider the intangible improvements that I have heard from our professional drivers and the people in our community.

Every single comment from our drivers who have been re-routed to the interstate has been to rave about how much their job has improved because the interstate is where their rigs belong. They are happy not to have unnecessary interactions with oncoming traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists on busy secondary roads. People who live along the routes that used to be frequented by truck traffic are also ecstatic about the noticeable changes in their neighborhoods.

I have yet to run into a single person who is not appreciative of Collins for fixing this problem with a common-sense solution.

H.O. Bouchard in Hampden is living proof that Maine’s economy can thrive by moving commerce on the safest and most efficient infrastructure available. Thank you, Sen. Collins.

Brian Bouchard is president and CEO of H.O. Bouchard Inc. in Hampden.


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