Statement of David C. Cook
Vice President, Swift Trucking Co.
ISTEA Reauthorization
March 22, 1977

I thank you for the opportunity which you have given me to address you, Senator. It's a real privilege to be here.

The reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 is a vital interest to us truckers. As the regional vice president of transportation, I manage the day-to-day affairs of Swift's Lewiston, Idaho, facility. Currently there are trucks that are based in Lewiston that I am directly responsible for. I am accountable for the safety and well-being of 240 drivers. I am involved daily with the dispatch of 80 trucks into Lewiston's coverage area. I know what is going on, and that's why I give you that information. I am not trying to brag, but give a little credibility to my testimony.

U.S. 95 in Idaho is a prime example of deteriorating highway that we feel is becoming hazardous and unsafe for our drivers. More specifically, as Mr. Doeringsfeld mentioned, it has been dubbed Idaho's goat trail, and yet it is the only north-south highway within Idaho's borders that connects Idaho's panhandle with the southern counterparts. It is a vital link for commerce between the two ends of the state.

Now, I do not advocate a four-lane superhighway between north and south Idaho. We enjoy that Salmon River Country. But approved wide two-lane highway with passing lanes is perfectly acceptable. They are safest when they are constructed with median barriers to replace double yellow lines. This keeps traffic from crossing over the center, avoiding head-on collisions.

The decision that we made to not allow our drivers to run U. S. Highway 95 between I-84 and U.S. 12 except for local delivery, and we do have drivers who live there, we allow them to go home, of course, but we based that on our accident frequency, totally. That was the only decision.

From June 1 of 1993 to May 31 of 1994 we had eight Department of Transportation reportable accidents in the state of Idaho. In the same period of time from June of 1994 to May 31 of 1995, we had 13. We obviously had a problem. We isolated it basically to a certain stretch of highway, and it was focused on the southern part of Highway 95, just north of Fruitland, Idaho. That decision to remove our trucks from that part of the highway was a good solid decision. For 1995 and 1996 Swift Transportation was awarded first place carrier for traveling without a DOT reportable accident. It was a good decision.

The downside to it, though, is the additional miles that are traveled by our trucks with no additional revenue and the additional time the drivers must work to reach destination, and the loss of revenue to the state. And that revenue to the state now exceeds $300,000 each year. Swift Transportation uses the latest technology available to make our trucks more efficient, more productive and more driver-friendly, which in turn reduces our costs. We have satellite communication technology in each truck. Our trucks' specifications give them optimum fuel efficiency at highway speeds. Our company speed limit of 57 miles per hour reduces potential accident and hazard reaction time. The cab interiors are designed and equipped with optimum driver comforts. All of this is designed to move America's goods safely, on time and damage-free, and at the highest revenue that our service will allow.

Inefficiencies in our highways cause us to reroute trucks in the interest of safety. The lack of funding to repair, maintain, and upgrade our highways diminishes the effects of the cost-saving measures that we have implemented.

In the last ten years the miles driven by our trucks has gone up 41 percent, but truck-involved fatalities have gone down 37 percent. And that's an interesting statistic, because we feel as a carrier that we are doing our part. Our drivers are consistently expressing their concern with us about our rapidly deteriorating highways, and they are becoming alarmed. Some bridge decks are broken up to the point where the rebar is showing through the concrete decks. And it's not heart-warming for me when they come and say Dave, what are we going to do with this. We have a situation here. And it's truly alarming. My comment to them is please, be extra cautious. There is only a $300 million backlog to get our highways up to the specs they need to be.

I am grateful to this committee for the leadership it has given in this most important endeavor. I recognize Senator Kempthorne for your hard work, and we appreciate that. Idaho needs the ISTEA funds. What America most of all needs is ISTEA to be well funded. Thank you.