May 17, 2017 Vol. 14 No. 10

Here’s one from the coulda-told-you-so vault: the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) says that traffic congestion on the U.S. National Highway System (NHS) costs a lot. Like really a lot.

That much we knew. Ask any driver, any dispatcher.

What none of us could have known without the research capabilities of ATRI is the actual value of the time wasted and the miles not run.

Using several data sources, including its own truck GPS database, the Institute calculated that delays on the NHS total more than 996 million hours of lost productivity in a working year, which equates to 362,243 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for that stretch. Extraordinary.

And those lost hours added over US$63.4 billion in operational costs to the trucking industry in 2015. 

ATRI’s analysis also documented the states, metropolitan areas, and counties that were most affected by these delays and subsequent cost increases.  The top 10 states experienced costs of over US$2 billion each, with Florida and Texas leading with over $5 billion each.

Unsurprisingly, traffic congestion tended to be most severe in urban areas, with 88% of the congestion costs concentrated on only 17% of NHS mileage, and 91% of those costs occurring in metropolitan areas.

Making things worse, some of the 2015 congestion causes included what the study calls “a dramatic increase in traffic incidents, including a 3.8% increase in police-reported crashes and a 7.2% increase in fatalities from motor vehicle crashes, the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years.”

The analysis demonstrates the impact of congestion costs on a per-truck basis, with an average increased annual cost of US$22,676 for trucks that travel 100,000 mile or more.

“Congestion-related costs continue to rise and impact our supply chains,” said Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight, commenting on the report. “A five-minute delay for each UPS vehicle, every day, costs UPS US$105 million annually in additional operating costs. ATRI’s report quantifies this drain on the economy which must be addressed through targeted infrastructure investments,”.

Download the full report at no cost from ATRI’s website here

ELECTRIC TRUCKS ARE HERE TO STAY, and to prosper, I’d guess. But maybe not Tesla Motor’s ‘electric semi’, as company CEO Elon Musk calls it. While we don’t have a real picture of it — just a teaser outline shot — it’s pretty clearly an over-the-road sleeper truck. And that, as my colleague Jim Park suggests, “is exactly the wrong application for a fully electric drivetrain.”