Traffic jams on U.S. highways keep the equivalent of 425,533 truck drivers sitting idle for a year, according to study by the American Transportation Research Institute.
Most of the delay results from bottlenecks on certain stretches of roads. Nearly 87 percent of the 1.2 billion hours of lost productivity were on just 17.2 percent of the highway system. More than 91 percent of the total congestion costs came from densely populated metropolitan areas, ATRI said.
The delays added $74.5 billion in operating costs to the trucking industry in 2016, the year in which the data was collected. That was 0.5 percent higher than in 2015.
“Perhaps no other issue has as great an impact on this nation’s supply chain as traffic congestion,” said Benjamin J. McLean, chief executive of Des Moines, Iowa-based Ruan Transportation Management Systems. “Ultimately the consumer pays the price through higher prices on the shelf.”
McLean wants to see more spending on infrastructure that reduces traffic congestion.
“Doing nothing will create a significant impediment to the growth of our economy,” he said.
The ATRI is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations. The ATA is lobbying for a 20-cent increase in the federal fuel tax over four years. That would raise $340 billion for highway infrastructure improvements.
“Sitting in traffic is not [the drivers’] fault,” Chris Spear, chief executive of the ATA, told Trucks.com. “It’s the fact that Congress won’t invest in infrastructure.”
“The fuel tax has and continues to be the most conservative, immediate and efficient way to fund infrastructure,” Spear said.
ATRI’s based its Cost of Congestion analysis on data sources – including its truck GPS database – to calculate highway delays. It also documented the most impacted states, metro areas and counties. The top 10 states combined accounted for 51.8 percent of the congestion costs nationwide.
Texas, Florida and California led the Top 10 states in congestion costs per mile, which averaged 26 cents nationally.
Metro New York and New Jersey had the highest overall costs from congestion, more than double runner-up Chicago and its suburbs. Because it has so few miles of highway, Washington, D.C. topped the per-mile cost of congestion by state. Road improvement projects in Wisconsin and Hawaii drove higher costs per mile because of construction delays.