Logistics/trucking: New survey pinpoints top 100 freight bottlenecks

By Jeff Berman · May 28, 2010

Earlier this week, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released the findings of a new survey, which assesses the level of truck-oriented congestion at 100 locations on the U.S. national highway system.

The survey, entitled “2009 Bottleneck Analysis of 100 Freight Significant Highway Locations,” is based on ATRI-developed analysis, methods, customized software tools and terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a severity rating for each location, according to ATRI and FHWA officials.

They added that research in this survey utilizes GPS technology and truck-specific information, as well as sophisticated software applications, to assess the level at which truck-based freight was affected by traffic congestion throughout 2009. 

“While the general impact of congestion on freight is most significant during AM and PM peak travel times at a majority of the locations, there are several areas included in the study that experience slower than free flow speeds (which is set at 55 mph for this research) 24 hours per day,” they said. “There are also locations that, when averaged annually, have little or no congestion.”

This report currently has the top 100 bottlenecks listed, but it has come a long way from an initial list of 30, said ATRI Vice President of Research Dan Murray, who added that he hopes the list grows to 200 or more in the coming years.

“When the list grows you may see smaller areas like Pittsburgh or Syracuse, for example, start to have critical bottlenecks as well,” said Murray. “We may have one of the largest databased in the world of truck position data and in many instances we might discover that some of the worst traffic bottlenecks are not at the top of the list, because people avoid them and that could be the case with certain regions.”

Murray pointed out that last year the top bottleneck was Chicago’s I-80 at I-94 (Chicago has three of the top 10 bottlenecks in this report), but that particular Chicago bottleneck is now number 85 due to construction over the years, which he said shows how infrastructure investments can have a powerful, long-term benefit for the trucking industry.

“The more utility this has for government, the more benefits it will have for the trucking industry,” explained Murray. “And so the more data mining we do, the more industry benefits we are discovering.”

With three of the top 10 bottlenecks in Chicago, other cities in the top 10 include: Fort Lee, N.J.; Austin, TX; Atlanta, Ga.; St. Louis; Los Angeles; Dallas; and Philadelphia.

“The continued monitoring of freight-significant highways by ATRI and FHWA provides both the private and public sectors with the ability to identify and address deficiencies in the freight system,” said Chad England, President of C.R. England North America, in a statement.  “As this research moves forward, the myriad system performance measures that FPM generates will allow decision makers to prioritize highway investment in a way that targets critical needs.  Additionally, the private sector can use this research to identify opportunities for routing through congested areas.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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