Truck crashes can snarl more than traffic

Collisions like the one on the Northeast Side on Tuesday morning between a train and an 18-wheeler can cause more than just traffic delays. They can impact when goods are shipped or delivered.

“When there’s a problem, it creates a ripple effect in that part of the supply chain, from the goods being made to being delivered to the customer, whether it’s something that’s going to Target or whether it’s something going to a hospital,” said Nicole Katsikides, a research scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

More catastrophic incidents like the massive tie-ups during the winter freeze in Texas last year or on Interstate 95 in Virginia last week can have bigger ripple effects.

“Things can get rerouted. It could take a lot of extra days for trucks to make deliveries,” Katsikides said. “They could miss shipping and delivery calls when they’re connecting to another move, like a railroad or a ship, and that can delay freight for weeks or months, depending on the shipping cycle that they have negotiated. It could cause problems with labor and people’s jobs.”

Projects like the one planned I-35 on San Antonio’s northeast side could help ease congestion by separating truck traffic that’s passing through from local traffic.

There’s also the advent of technology that can connects sensors on roads to trucks and other vehicles, which could alert drivers to avoid congestion or dangerous conditions before it’s too late. The data would also have the potential of helping transportation agencies make better investments to improve safety.

“It’s important to look at ways that we can either make the investments in the system or operate it in a smarter way to help goods move because we all need things, whether it’s medicine or clothes or any of the goods that we use. And it’s critical for our nation that we protect our supply chains,” Katsikides said.

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