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Congested Traffic Costing Trucking Industry Over $9 Billion

by Jana Ritter - Published: 5/01/2014

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the cost of increasing traffic congestion on the trucking industry has climbed to $9.209 billion in 2013. The ATRI released their annual report,  “The Cost of Congestion to the Trucking Industry”, saying the delays are now the equivalent of about 51,293 drivers sitting idle for an entire working year. The cost to the industry has increased $131.4 million from 2012.

Congested traffic

The ATRI also said that the increase is likely due to a growing economy and increased truck-borne freight movement. “While the minor increase in cost is not alarming, total costs for the year were somewhat tempered due to relatively low costs in the first quarter, potentially the result of slower economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013,” the report said.

Averaged across the 10.7 million registered large trucks in the United States, ARTI said the cost was $864 per truck, but that in actuality, the impact of congestion on a truck varied by configuration, location and amount driven.  For example, the average cost of congestion for a truck that traveled 12,000 miles in 2013 was $408, while a truck that drove 150,000 miles in a year had an average cost of $5,094. The American Trucking Associations says that most long-haul trucks easily exceed 100,000 miles a year.

The top five list of metropolitan areas in terms of total costs was headed by Los Angeles-Long Beach, Santa Ana, Calif., with $1,081 billion, followed by New-York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. at $984.2 million, Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. at $466.9 million, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas at $406 million, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Va.-Md.-W.Va. at $379.3 million. Surprisingly, the Atlanta area, which truckers rate as one of the top two or three congested areas, ranked No. 10.

The report also illustrates how different events can impact congestion costs such as the Mount Vernon, Wash. area seeing the largest urban increase in costs (676 percent) as a result of the collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge in May 2013.  Lake Charles, La., had the greatest percent urban decrease in costs (83.4 percent), the result partly to severe delays when emergency repairs were made in early 2012 to the Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge. On a state basis, North Dakota experienced the greatest increase (40.2 percent), because of the recent growth of the oil industry. Louisiana saw the largest monetary decrease ($60.9 million), which coincided with major road construction projects that ended in 2012 and early 2013.

To obtain these numbers, ATRI analyzed average speeds on each mile of the country’s Interstate system, and then calculated the travel time delay due to congestion on each segment. It then multiplied the number of trucks on each segment by the segment’s delay. It used an average operating cost of $65.29 an hour to produce a monetary figure