Traffic congestion is costing America's trucking industry billions of dollars every year. With experts suggesting China will have as many cars in 2050 as the whole planet did just a few years ago, it's clear the industry must find solutions to this problem now to improve its efficiency and bottom line today and in the future.
The Real Cost of Congestion
According to May 2017 research from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), traffic congestion on the United States National Highway System cost the nation's trucking industry more than $63.4 million in operational costs in 2015. It arrived at this figure after comparing various data sources including information from its own truck GPS database.
These high costs came from delays of more than 996 million hours on the nation's roads. That's the equivalent of 362,243 commercial truck drivers stuck in traffic for the entire working year.
ATRI averaged its figures and found that the congestion cost for each truck traveling 100,000 miles or more each year increased by an average of $22,676 in 2015.
ATRI's research is particularly concerning to businesses that rely on a large fleet of trucks to service their customers on a daily basis, like UPS.
"Congestion-related costs continue to rise and impact our supply chains," Rich McArdle, the president of UPS Freight, confirmed in an ATRI press release. "A five-minute delay for each UPS vehicle, every day, costs UPS $105 million annually in additional operating costs. ATRI's report quantifies this drain on the economy which must be addressed through targeted infrastructure investments."
Traffic Congestion Black Spots
According to ATRI's research, the trucking sectors in 10 states experienced losses of more than $2 billion each through traffic congestion. Florida and Texas were the most severely impacted states, losing $5 billion each over the 12-month period.
Results varied not just from state to state, but also area to area. As predicted, traffic congestion took the greatest toll on trucking companies' financial results in urban areas. Eighty-eight percent of the congestion costs occurred in 17 percent of the trucking network's mileage. A substantial 91 percent of total congestion occurred in metropolitan regions.
ATRI also recently released its 2017 Top Truck Bottleneck List. This report found traffic congestion for trucks was worst where Interstates 285 and 85 North meet outside Atlanta, Georgia. The location not so affectionately known as "Spaghetti Junction" topped the report for the second consecutive year.
Financial Solutions for the Trucking Industry
With traffic congestion taking such a financial toll on the trucking industry, trucking organizations and their employees must work to find solutions.
A simple fix is planning alternative routes to avoid well-known congestion spots. GPS technology makes it possible to learn of heavy traffic congestion in real-time before you reach it, giving drivers ample time to plan another route which may be more time efficient. Studies show that providing this kind of information to drivers can decrease urban traffic congestion by 10 percent in a typical city. Sometimes driving farther can represent significant time savings which offset the cost of extra gas. Drivers should be free to use their own judgment rather than sticking strictly to planned routes.
Trucking companies may also have success lobbying governments for better infrastructure that helps them operate more efficiently. For example, bypasses for trucks in larger cities could help commercial vehicles travel around traffic unimpeded, especially during rush hour.
Another possible solution is increasing road tolls during peak periods. This will likely discourage people from using major roads when they are busiest and ease congestion for necessary transport like trucks.
With the traffic congestion taking such a financial toll on America's trucking industry, it's vital that the trucking sector learns to use available technology as a solution quickly to improve its operations.