ATRI Cost of Congestion to the Trucking Industry

The Heavy Toll of Traffic Congestion on the Trucking Industry

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Matthew Schore

Traffic congestion is a perennial problem in the United States, affecting not only our daily commutes but also the trucking industry. According to the latest Cost of Congestion study published by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the trucking industry incurred a staggering $94.6 billion in costs due to traffic congestion in 2021. This figure represents the highest level recorded in the ongoing research initiative and is a matter of significant concern. In this blog, we will delve into the key findings of this study and discuss its implications for the industry and the broader economy.

The Soaring Costs of Congestion

ATRI's study paints a stark picture of the toll that congestion takes on the trucking industry. In 2021, there was a total of 1.27 billion hours of lost productivity, equivalent to over 460,000 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for an entire work year. While congestion costs decreased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they surged in 2021, reflecting the rapid post-COVID economic recovery. This increase in costs outpaces the rate of inflation, making it a concerning trend for the industry.

State and Metropolitan Impact

The report not only provides a national overview but also highlights the state and metropolitan areas most affected by congestion. The top 10 states each experienced costs of more than $3 billion, with California, Texas, and Florida leading the way. These states account for more than half (53%) of the nation's total congestion costs. In metropolitan areas, New York City takes the top spot, with costs nearing $5.5 billion annually.

Implications for the Trucking Industry

The trucking industry, already grappling with rising operating costs, including fuel, labor, and equipment expenses, is hit hard by traffic congestion. Michael Lasko, Vice President of EHS and Quality at Boyle Transportation, emphasized the ripple effect of these costs, which are ultimately passed down to consumers, resulting in higher prices for goods and services across the economy. Therefore, addressing congestion is not just a concern for trucking companies but also for the general public.

Environmental Impact

Congestion doesn't just hit the industry's bottom line; it also has significant environmental repercussions. In 2021, the trucking industry wasted over 6.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel due to congestion, incurring more than $22.3 billion in additional fuel costs. These extra emissions contribute to air pollution and climate change, making it essential to find ways to reduce congestion and its associated environmental impact.

The Role of Infrastructure Investment

The report also highlights the potential relief that could come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which could provide as much as $350 billion in funding to address congestion. This investment presents a significant opportunity to alleviate the burden on the trucking industry and improve overall transportation infrastructure.

Traffic congestion remains a severe challenge for the trucking industry, with a significant financial and environmental toll. As we look to the future, it's clear that addressing congestion is not only a matter of industry concern but a broader societal issue. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could provide much-needed relief and pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable transportation system. Reducing congestion is not just a matter of convenience; it's a vital step towards a more resilient and prosperous economy.


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