This week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released employment figures for the passenger airlines industry. While the figures are somewhat higher than the previous year, at about 385,000 employees, there is no question that the airlines are nowhere near pre-recession levels. As the trend continues, while many Americans opted to stay home (on “staycation”) as we reported this summer, many are choosing road trips again. As a USA Today article notes, drivers are finding that lower gas prices are leaving them with more cash in their pockets. Savings for consumers are in the range of 40%, and that’s substantial.
Combine low gas prices, the disincentives of “no frills” airline travel, the convenience of having your car at your destination, and, perhaps, Ebola worries, the result is lot more passenger traffic hitting the road.
For industry, lower fuel costs translate into trucking being cheaper than rail transport.
At the convergence of these trends is the presence of both passenger vehicles and heavy trucks on the road as we head towards the holiday season.
While many of us remember that retail firms started advertising for the Christmas season in early December, this is no longer the case. A quick Google search today for “Christmas gifts” turns up pages and pages of on-line retailers who are already promoting their Christmas wares—and we haven’t even gotten past Halloween! Major retailers are using more sophisticated marketing to predict which products will sell best in specific areas. Companies can jump ahead and transport goods early to regional warehouses.
Heavy pre-holiday traffic is already on the move. What does this mean for you? An investigative DOT report found that while truck drivers are, overall, more skilled than drivers of passenger vehicles, they are more likely to drive aggressively and beyond road conditions. In other words, while they are more professional, they tend to take bigger risks on the road. On the other hand, car drivers are more likely to misjudge, over-compensate and to abuse intoxicants. Again, the combination of these issues makes for a greater challenge in the upcoming months.
While Tennessee’s Department of Safety stats (current to 2013) show a decline in large truck crashes statewide over the last eight years, in 2013 Nashville is still in the red zone, and surrounding counties show little decline as well. Figures are high for Davidson (1241), Rutherford (384) and Williamson (215) counties in the Middle Tennessee area.
As always, Stillman and Friedland urges you to drive safely and review safe driving practices. We suggest you look at our information on safe passenger driving and avoiding truck accidents on this blog. We always prefer to have safer Tennesseans and fewer accidents!
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