US study finds bottlenecks costing truckers nearly $8B

WASHINGTON — Bottlenecks on highways throughout the U.S. idled trucks for more than 243 million hours in 2004, costing trucking companies $7.8 billion, according to a study prepared for the Federal Highway Administration.

The study by Cambridge Systematics Inc. in association with the Battelle Memorial Institute is an initial effort to identify and quantify highway bottlenecks that delay trucks and increase costs to businesses and consumers. It found the worst bottlenecks in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Columbus and Portland, Ore.

Congestion causes user delay cost of $32.15 per hour

The study estimates a direct user delay cost of $32.15 per hour based on four major types of truck-related delays along freight corridors, including constraints at interchanges, signalized intersections, hold ups caused by steep grades and lane reductions.

When truck deliveries are delayed by congestion, freight transportation costs increase due to unnecessary fuel consumption, lost driver time and productivity, and disruption of pick-up and delivery schedules, particularly with critical just-in-time freight.

Overall, bottlenecks account for 40 percent of vehicle delays, with the balance caused by construction work zones, crashes, breakdowns, bad weather and poor signal timing.

“Ultimately, it is the consumer who will pay the price when increasing congestion forces the cost of goods on store shelves go up,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “This should encourage all Americans to insist on highway projects that improve the mobility and reliability of freight. The Congress now has a roadmap to follow when making critical decisions about how to invest scarce transportation resources.”

Nearly 40 percent of the approximately $40 billion in annual revenue collected into the federal Highway Trust Fund comes from fuel taxes paid by trucks, highway use taxes, sales taxes and tire taxes. Billions more in state diesel and truck registration fees are collected. However, a significant amount of this revenue is diverted to projects that have little or no benefit to the truckers paying the taxes.

Increased congestion is hitting the trucking industry at a time when the economy is relying on trucks to haul more goods. Trucking is projected to haul 13 billion tonnes of freight by 2016, compared with 9.8 billion tons in 2004. By 2016, ATA projects 3.7 million tractor-trailers will be operating on U.S. highways, up from 2.7 million in 2004.

The study authors concluded that these bottlenecks are a federal concern because “they are a significant national problem for trucking and the efficient operation of the national freight transportation system.” The report recommends, therefore, that federal resources should focus on improving highway bottlenecks.

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