Ignoring congestion on U.S. highways won’t make it go away

Research issued by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in its most recent “Cost of Congestion” analysis shows that congestion added roughly $74.5 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

By ·

Regardless of market conditions at any given time, there are always a few constants in play. That especially rings true in the trucking sector. 

Think about it. The “constants” I am referring to include the usual staples such as the driver shortage, or lack of qualified drivers, rate pressures on both sides between shippers, carriers, and 3PL brokerages, and related capacity spikes, whether they trend up or down. 

Another issue, which is always there, or constant, if you will, has to do with congestion. And guess what? It has always been a factor in the past, in the present, and, unfortunately, in the future, too. What’s more, congestion continues to wreak havoc on trucking’s operational costs, though that should really not come as a big surprise. 

That was made very clear in research issued today by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in its most recent “Cost of Congestion” analysis. 

The key metric in this analysis is pretty jarring, when it comes to truly gauging the (negative) impact of congestion of the United States National Highway System, with ATRI reporting that congestion added roughly $74.5 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. 

This figure marks a 0.5% annual increase over 2015, with ATRI explaining that this dollar figure is based on various data sources, which includes its proprietary GPS database that calculates delay on the National Highway System, a figure it said represents almost 1.2 billion hours in lost productivity, or being stuck in traffic really. What’s more, ATRI noted that that amount of lost productivity is the equivalent of 425,533 commercial truck drivers off the road for an entire year. 

But those are not the only convincing metrics offered up by ATRI in its report, consider these as well: 

  • congestion costs are increasingly concentrated on a relatively small proportion of the NHS at 86.7% of total nationwide congestion costs occurred on just 17.2% of NHS segment miles;
  • these NHS segments are characterized as having above-average costs in excess of $155,000 per mile during 2016, and are predominantly located in densely populated urban areas;
  • traffic congestion tended to be most severe in urban areas, with more than 91% of the total congestion costs generating from metropolitan areas; and
  • the top 10 states experienced costs of more than $2.4 billion each, paced by Texas and Florida with more $5.5 billion respectively, with the top ten states combined account for 51.8% national congestion costs 

In a statement accompanying the report, Benjamin J. McLean, Ruan Transportation Management Systems Chief Executive Officer, laid out the state of U.S. congestion in stark terms: "Perhaps no other issue has as great an impact on this nation's supply chain as traffic congestion.  In the face of growing and pervasive congestion, not only does the trucking industry lose billions annually but ultimately the consumer pays the price through higher prices on the shelf. Doing nothing to address the state of our nation's infrastructure will create a significant impediment to the growth of our economy." 

And given the urgency on things like last-mile logistics and same- and next-day delivery, this makes a difficult situation all the more challenging. Fixing our national infrastructure issues to help alleviate congestion would obviously go a long way towards making a bad situation better. But, as is the case with separate challenges, there remains a long way to go. That is something we are continuously reminded of whenever we sit in traffic, which happens far more often than it should. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
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

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

ATRI · Congestion · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Intelligent Vision-based Sortation & Tracking Systems
Download this new "Making the Case" guide to learn how using intelligent, vision-based readers and sensors can capture the information you need to help address both external customer service expectations, and internal marching orders for efficiency.
Download Today!
From the January 2019 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
Seaports on West, East, and Gulf coasts are all poised to compete on one major imperative: investment in transformational technologies.
2019 Rate Outlook: Pressure Builds
Lift Trucks join the connected enterprise
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2019 Rate Outlook: Will this be the year rates skyrocket?
Join Logistics Management's Patrick Burnson as he hosts a panel of fuel, trade and logistics experts who share their insights on rate patterns across all major transport modes to help shippers prepare their freight transportation budget for the coming year.
Register Today!
2019 Rate Outlook: Pressure Builds
In 2019, the world economy will enter a third straight year of broad-based growth, but many...
2019 Transportation Management Systems (TMS) Market Update: Keeping pace with the times
The transportation management systems market is growing right along with the number of challenges...

The Logistics News that Shaped 2018
Every year at this time, group news editor Jeff Berman combs through the mountain of news that was...
Land O’Lakes lock in Texas-based capacity
Faced with the challenge of securing capacity in specific lanes, the iconic company broke with...