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American Transportation Research Institute report reveals cost of traffic congestion to USA’s trucking industry

According to research released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), traffic congestion on the USA’s National Highway System (NHS) added over US$49.6bn in operational costs to the country’s trucking industry in 2014.

ATRI used a variety of data sources, as well as a revised methodology, which facilitated the expansion of its previous cost of congestion research from the Interstate System to the entire NHS network. This resulted in calculated delay totaling more than 728 million hours of lost productivity, which equates to 264,500 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for a working year. ATRI’s analysis also documented the states, metropolitan areas, and counties that were most impacted by these delays and subsequent increased costs. More than a dozen states experienced increased costs of over US$1bn each due to congestion, with Florida and Texas leading with over US$4bn each. As expected, traffic congestion tended to be most severe in urban areas, with 88% of the congestion costs concentrated on only 18% of the network mileage, and 95% of the total congestion cost occurring in metropolitan areas.

This concentration of congestion has been well-documented in ongoing work by ATRI, which annually identifies the worst truck bottlenecks in the USA. The analysis also demonstrates the impact of congestion costs on a per-truck basis, with an average increased cost of US$26,625 for trucks that travel 150,000 miles (241,400km) annually. As part of this analysis, ATRI has created a congestion cost database, in order to provide granular cost information to transportation planning officials on the hours of delay and associated cost by major jurisdiction type and road level.

Four data sources were used in the analysis: commercial truck travel times from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS); commercial truck volumes from FHWA’s Freight Analysis Framework (FAF); commercial truck GPS data from ATRI’s Freight Performance Measures (FPM) database; and industry financial data from ATRI’s annual Operational Costs of Trucking report. The ever-growing nature of ATRI’s truck Global Positioning System (GPS) and truck financial data allowed the research team to expand the analysis beyond the IHS. While the National Highway System (NHS) is the primary focus of the analysis as its usage is more consistent, a high-level analysis of local road congestion was also conducted.

ATRI says that by incorporating these new procedures it will allow this 2014 report to become a benchmark of comparison for future study years, as well as allow future year-over-year comparisons. However, the organization noted that due to the changes used in standardizing the methodology for future studies, the figures presented in the new report are not directly comparable to those of ATRI’s previous Cost of Congestion study. ATRI is the USA trucking industry’s not-for-profit research organization, which is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line, commented, “Unfortunately we’ve come to expect traffic congestion as a part of our daily lives but ATRI’s latest analysis illustrates what a significant productivity drain that congestion is on our industry and the economy at large.”

April 22, 2016

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