Research and Policy
Trucks transport everything we buy -- whether it is the cargo arriving from Taiwan at the Port of Long Beach or a book ordered from Amazon or the lettuce for our salads. In fact, most goods travel trucks.
Dr. Belzer's research is about the trucking industry: the physical infrastructure needed for transportation, the safety of our highways, the working lives truck drivers, and the policy and economic conditions underlying each of these areas.
He is uniquely qualified to understand these issues. After being an over-the-road truck driver for ten years and more than 750,000 miles, he went to Cornell University for a PhD, and is now a Professor of Economics at Wayne State University. He has experienced the lived conditions of being a trucker and he understands the economics of the industry.
Problems with infrastructure, highway safety, and working conditions are interdependent and they can all be solved through a combination of government policy and market forces. Dr. Belzer is committed to making his work available to a diverse array of audiences, including government officials, academics, industry leaders, the general public, and truck drivers themselves. He is a frequent source for the news media.
Although the infrastructure, safety, working conditions, market forces, and government policy cannot truly be separated, they must be each be understood to begin to see their interconnection.
Labor standards, financial markets, and infrastructure funding are all the result of government policy. Changes in federal policy could resolve many of the supply chain crippling our nation.
The long hours and low pay dictated by current labor standards leads to truckers working beyond what their bodies and personal lives can withstand. These working conditions directly lead to the shortage in drivers which is directly tied to the supply chain issues.
Economic incentives can change both behavior both by the drivers and by the companies. When companies pay drivers a "safe rate," safety improves and retention improves.
To earn a living wage, most truckers drive far beyond the legal and safe number of hours. Highway safety can be improved with the policy changes and economic incentives that lead to better working conditions.
International and national supply chain, highway safety, and roads and bridges are fundamental aspects of infrastrucure. Each of them is both depends on and shapes the trucking industry.