NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – With a central location in the United States, and a robust manufacturing industry, Middle Tennessee is a major freight hub. About 70,000 heavy trucks travel on Middle Tennessee roads every day, and freight tonnage in the region is expected to nearly double by 2040. There’s a delicate balance between supporting this crucial part of the economy and reducing congestion on roadways. Whether you call them 18-wheelers, semis, tractor-trailers or freight trucks, you may be cursing their name while driving down the highway. “There’s not a lot of patience out there,” said Troy Jennings, a professional truck driver. “I think a lot of times, people see a truck, they think slow, don’t want to be behind it, don’t want to be beside it, they look at us as a nuisance to be honest.” Jennings is based in the Nashville area.
He said truck drivers share the same frustrations as drivers of passenger cars.“The traffic in Nashville the last couple of years has really expanded,” he said. “You used to have an hour rush hour; now we call it a two or three-hour rush hour per morning and per evening. It seems like slowly it’s getting worse and worse through time.” If you think there are a lot of trucks on area highways, you’re right. Nearly 65 percent of regional freight truck traffic passes through Middle Tennessee annually. “We have a lot of distribution centers here. We have a lot of manufacturing here in Middle Tennessee,” said Michelle Lacewell, Deputy Director of the Greater Nashville Regional Council. “We have the opportunity to serve those industries so well because of our physical location in the country. We have two major interstates that intersect right in downtown Nashville. We are well positioned within a day’s drive of a significant portion of the population of the country.” Lacewell said the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has conducted a freight study over the last 12 years. The final of three phases wrapped up in 2016 and identified strategies for improving freight movement. “Our hope is that over the next couple of years we’re able to work with the various players in the freight industry and also with the state and local jurisdictions to develop the best way to implement a freight network,” she said. One aspect of that network could be re-routing trucks around Nashville onto highways such as Interstate 840. The tough part is building truck stops and weigh stations that nearby residents would embrace. “They have to be able to do business,” Lacewell said. “So how can we make sure they have what they need to facilitate their business, while also not putting them in a place where we’re impacting the communities that are surrounding them?” No matter what changes are made, drivers of cars and trucks will still be sharing the road, and Jennings said both need to learn how to do that safely. “Stay out of the blind sides; that’s very dangerous. It’s dangerous to play around with us, to cut in and out of traffic,” Jennings said. “We’re people too, doing our job, we drive cars too when we’re not working.” Click here for more information about the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s freight studies and vision for the future.